Sunday, March 18, 2012

FAA Grants Commercial Drone Flight Exceptions

DJI Phantom Quadcopter Drone

In yet another victory for drone enthusiasts, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently approved four companies to use commercial drones for various reasons including research, construction and data collection. The companies that gained approval include Trimble Navigation, VDOS Global, Clayco Inc and Woolpert Inc. In addition to the approvals granted earlier this year to six film and photography companies and two Alaskan oil projects, it is starting to look like commercial drone use might actually become a reality sooner than you’d think.

A couple of years ago, the US Congress ordered the FAA to create and submit laws for drone use in both commercial and private sectors by September of 2015. Unsurprisingly, the Washington Post reported earlier this week that the FAA said they might need more time and that rules might be delayed until as late as 2017. However, that doesn’t seem to be stopping companies like Amazon from testing and working on their own drone programs, and the pressure is on to allow commercial drone usage sooner rather than later. I’ll keep an eye on it and update you if I hear anything else.

On an only mildly related note as far as non commercial drone use goes, the waters are quite a bit muddier and tend to vary by state (as we’re all still waiting on the FAA to come up with specific rules). A couple of states have laws regarding drones, but generally as long as the drone is less than 400 feet in the air and is within line of sight, you’re covered. If drone use is something you’re interested in or you want to double check regulations and give input, check the FAA’s website on UAS regulations.

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