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What the New Drone Laws Mean for Consumers and Businesses

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

As of August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration's new regulations on privately operated drones as well as model aircrafts went into effect. The new regulations are actually good news for model airplane aviation hobbyists and businesses that want to utilize drones. Unfortunately, drone hobbyists will not be happy about the new regulations.

Basically, prior to these new regulations, businesses were unable to utilize drones for commercial purposes because the framework to regulate their operation did not exist. With the implementation of FAR 107, this has changed.

What This Means for Business

While the new regulations present a high hurdle for businesses that seek to utilize drones, the FAA's new regulations provide the framework for businesses to start the process. Also, it is a positive sign that the FAA is, at very least, attempting to keep up with technology. The new regulations are tailored to ensure that drones are operated safely in public in order to minimize the risk of injury to persons and damage to property.

The new safety measures include prohibitions against:

  • Flying out of the controller's (or the visual observer's) line of sight
  • Flying directly over people's heads
  • Flying faster than a groundspeed of 100 mph
  • Flying above an altitude of 400 feet, relative to any structures
  • Flying without a remote pilot certification with an endorsement for small UAS (unmanned aircraft system)
  • Flying at night without specific authorization and nighttime lighting
  • Flying if flight visibility is less than 3 miles from the control station

These regulations will likely cause businesses difficulty in offering drone delivery services. However, many other commercial uses are now achievable within the current regulations. Construction companies, researchers, geographers, and many other professionals and businesses will be able to utilize drones legally.

What About the Hobbyists?

Prior to the new law, non-commercial drone operators in most states enjoyed the same freedom as model airplane hobbyists, at the expense of model airplane hobbyists. When the first set of drone laws were introduced, it severely hindered model airplane hobbyists as they were grouped together with drone operators and all but grounded due to the public's concern over drone operations. Now that the FAA has carved out separate regulations for model aircraft operators and drone operators, the model airplane hobbyists are freer to fly.

Unfortunately, the new regulations do not draw a distinction between operating a drone as a hobbyist and for commercial purposes. So drone hobbyists will now have to register the same way as commercial drone operators before they can legally take flight.

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