The FAA has announced that its new rules addressing small (under 55 pounds) commercially operated drones go into effect on Monday. The new section of the FARs (Part 107) is far from a tweaking of the interim rules the agency came up with late last year. They represent a complete about-face and a near-deregulation of the segment.
The regs cover small drones that are being operated for commercial purposes and don’t affect hobby flights (model airplanes or fun flying, for instance). The rules have ditched the FAA’s probably unworkable and unenforceable plan to certify small drones. It does, however, continue to require operators to register and mark their craft. The regs also do away with the requirement for drone pilots to have at least a Recreational or Sport Pilot license. Instead, commercial drone flyers will have to take a written test with the FAA to show they know their stuff and will then be granted a Remote Pilot certificate with a Small UAS rating. Sixteen is the minimum age for the certificate. Pilots of manned aircraft who are current (a biennial, say the Feds) can also fly drones commercially. They’ll just need to pass an online written test.
In our upcoming October issue, Plane & Pilot has a full report on the fascinating story of why the FAA has chosen to essentially deregulate this new industry, what the effects of that will be on safety and how flying drones might have an impact on your manned aircraft privileges.