First commercial rules to be drafted for commercial drones in the US

25 Nov 2014

After six years of wrangling, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the US is soon to release legal rules for commercial drone use in the country, which will include a ban on flights more than 400 metres in altitude.

With the rapid growth in the technology and the number of drones in private use, companies, and Amazon in particular, are looking to bring a fleet of commercial drones to deliver goods to homes in the US, but have been unable to given the lack of clarity on whether flying these craft is legal or not.

From initial findings of what the new rules entail, the FAA has been more cautious in its approach than had previously been expected and will affect not just delivery companies, but any organisation looking to fly drones for commercial use.

A factor which may hinder commercial operators’ plans for wider use could be the requirement that drones must be in visual sight of their operators at all times which would limit its use in long-distance operations and can only be flown in daylight hours.

Drone use had been highly contested earlier this year after their commercial use was only given the go-ahead on a temporary measure after a photographer evaded a potential US$10,000 fine from the FAA.

Will require a pilot licence

There are even plans to force drone operators to obtain a pilot’s licence which would require the operator to undergo training in a manned plane which has unsurprisingly caused concern among drone proponents.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the FAA released a statement on the matter saying, “Integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace system in the world—and to do so while we maintain our mission—protecting the safety of the American people in the air and on the ground. That is why we are taking a staged approach to the integration of these new airspace users.”

One of largest drone lobby groups in the US, the Small UAV Coalition, has come out against the proposed regulations with Michael Drobac the coalition’s executive director, warning there will be a “colossal mess coming”.

Smaller drones weighing less than 25kg will also be given their own set of regulations whose own proponents feel should not see them included in the same category as the larger drones that will be used for commercial use.

Drone image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic