The FAA’s commercial rules for drones titled, “Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations” took affect on Monday, August 29th. Operators are now able to fly their drones commercially by obtaining a remote pilot’s certificate. Previously commercial drone companies had to go through a laborious process of obtaining a S333 exemption through the FAA. The regulations also outline specific operation rules for commercial use of drones. These rules are fairly similar to what Drone operators experienced with their S333 exemption, but with additional “wiggle room” for key regulations to be waivable.
The ability to waive key drone regulations allow for drones to cause an even bigger impact in many industries. Some of the regulations that can be waived are: daylight operation, operation over people, operating multiple drones simultaneously, operation from a moving vehicle, and outside of visual line of sight aircraft operation. Before this point, drone operators were not allowed to pilot their drones outside of their own, unaided, line of sight. This rule allows for drones to scan larger areas then ever before.
Here are 5 key industries that have capitalized on these regulations:
Agriculture is currently one of the largest industries for commercial drones. According to WinterGreen Research’s report, the market for agricultural drones is $494 million, and is anticipated to reach $3.69 billion by 2022. Farmers are sure to capitalize on the new remote pilot’s certificate, allowing for smaller farms to utilize drones in surveying their acres of crops. Large farms can also waiver the current visual line-of-site (VLOS) requirements, and scan their entire property through the use of visual headsets and cameras. Without the waiver a drone pilot must maintain VLOS with their drone throughout the entirety of their flight.
- Long Distance Surveying
Drone operators can also waive the rule restricting them from piloting a drone from a moving vehicle. This method would be used to get around the VLOS requirement, especially when surveying long stretches of land or property. Power line surveying can be very dangerous for a worker to do, so instead drones have been utilized as an alternative. Now pilots can operate the drone while driving alongside the power line, slashing the time it would normally take them to complete the job. This same logic can be applied to pipelines, land surveys, and even environmental research.
- Security and Patrolling Services
By waiving the rule about daylight operation, drones could now be used as patrolling services for businesses requiring an extra level of security. Drones equipped with thermal cameras are much more effective at locating trespassers and criminals than your standard night shift security guard.
- News Reporting and Event Filming
By waiving the rule against flying over people, videography teams can now utilize drones in all areas of news reporting and event filming. Drones are superior to helicopters as they allow for easily coordinating multiple aerial shots, and they are vastly cheaper to fly and maintain.
- Search and Rescue Operations
Time is in limited supply when conducting a search and rescue operation. Drones are able to scan huge areas of land quickly, and methodologically. By waiving the rule against flying multiple drones at once, a single pilot can control a fleet of search and rescue drones. The drones would be programmed to scan a specific area of land, and the pilot would only need to intervene if something malfunctioned. The police could also apply this same system to criminal manhunts.
Unfortunately I was not able to add package delivery to my list of industries as the FAA has made it clear that these rules will not be waived for the use of delivery of another person’s property. Our CEO MacCallister Higgins commented on what he thought of the limited rules, “Long range piloted drone delivery brings multiple safety issues that need to be addressed like avoiding restricted airspace, avoiding other delivery drones, and human error when piloting a drone over a residential area. Additionally NASA’s UTM (UAS Traffic Management) system will allow for drones to communicate between one another, and multiple startups like my own are attempting to use this system in autonomous flight path planning and control. Unlike human pilots, autonomous drones are much less likely to break rules or make mistakes.”