Where were things standing in the summer?

Updated #8 September 20, 2016

Back in June, we anxiously covered exactly what was happening with regulations in the drone industry Many were watching, as the granting of permissions for commercial users had taken place for around 5000 individuals before the announcement regarding the rules imposed came out.
drone regulations update

At that point, users found out with the announcement that commercial drones need to be operated during daylight hours, and those who are piloting them go through certification every two years.

The aircraft needs to remain within sight of the one who is operating it, and the height limit is 400 ft. in the air. An individual who is operating the drone needs to be at least 16 years old, and have successfully completed a background check courtesy of the TSA.

The daylight restrictions at that point were defined as 30 minutes before official sunrise, to 30 minutes after official sunset.

For the most part, commercial drone operators saw this as positive, and a sign that the FAA did not want to squash or deter the rapidly growing array of things that drones could be used for. Some pilots were slightly leery of the future, as they wondered what would happen as more and more ratifications were presented.

What are the updates as far as the United States are concerned?

Effective August 29th 2016, there were two new sections of the Federal Aviation Regulations that directly applied to those piloting drones.

The definition of a model aircraft means an unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft, and flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

According to the FAA, you do not need to be a member of a CBO to comply with part 101, which is for model aircraft only. As far as the new legal regulations for commercial drone pilots in the US, they cover unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, that are being flown for “routine non-hobbyist use”.

Many in the community are generally relieved, because at this point, there are not any enormous surprises.

Drones are mandated to still have to remain in visual line of sight of the pilot: enabling the use of first-person cameras is not allowed.

Pilots need to be at least 16 years old, and operation is only allowed during daylight hours. Operation during twilight hours needs to be completed with appropriate lighting.

The maximum groundspeed of a drone shall now be 100 MPH, and the drone needs to fly at a maximum altitude of 400 feet. All pilots must also hold a “remote pilot airman certificate” issued by the FAA.

The operations that companies such as Amazon and Google are planning for delivery are not covered under these rules: what has been listed here is for tasks such as surveying, real estate photography, and inspection of sites.

What is the reaction from everyday hobbyists?

When it comes to those who are flying drones on a recreational level, they are a bit confused, but not really upset. In the very near future regulations could become more strict, but for now, you just have to adhere to some fairly common-sense guidelines. Just over the next year alone, the FAA predicts nearly 600,000 commercial drones will hit the skies, and many of these will be in the real estate/inspection sector.

The growth of those wanting to fly drones for hobby is going to continue at a fairly breakneck pace. Estimated value of the industry as a whole is around $3.3 billion, and as of this January, there were around 300,000 drones registered with the FAA. Over the next ten years, the value of the industry is expected to grow to around $90 billion, and with this explosive of a rate projected, it will be very interesting to see if the restrictions on commercial use may become extremely rigid, or stay as they are currently.

The rules are out: The Future For Commercial Drone Flights

Updated # 7 June 27, 2016

Current Issues facing all drone users

Many pilots, those who own businesses using drones, and hobbyists have closely been watching issues in the United States legal climate regarding commercial use. Many different lawmakers across various states have been attempting to impose higher fees on those using drones for agriculture, crack down on those filming a person without consent, and other issues regarding police crime scenes.

The FAA announced Tuesday the finer details on what everyone was wondering about in regards to specifics, and the announcement is generally positive. Previously, it was mandated that anyone who was out there flying a drone for profit had to have a pilot’s license, and this is what everyone was watching very closely.

The Fine Points of Part 107

As of late, the FAA has been pretty open and understanding about the use of drones, and has been fairly proactive about the use of them for profit, realizing how revolutionary and game-changing they are. But the reason why many have been watching very intently what the rules will look like is that the FAA had already granted around 5000 drone permissions for commercial users before the announcement. Because of this, many had believed that the rules imposed where going to be favorable for companies doing business, but some were still uneasy.

What it really boils down to is that commercial drones need to be operated during daylight hours, and those who are operating them get certified every two years in their skill. The 624-page rule book just released outlines another important element: The aircraft needs to remain within sight of the one who is operating it, or a known observer that is in constant contact with said operator.

To be operating a drone for commercial use, the operator has to be at least 16 years old, and have also completed a background check courtesy of the TSA. The limit of 400 Feet up in the air seems pretty fair, because for real estate and surveying businesses, you’re going to be able to capture a lot of useful and rich footage.

Operating Requirements for 2016

Neither the pilot or the observer can be operating and fully responsible for more than one unmanned aircraft at a time, and the daylight restrictions are defined as 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. The maximum speed allowed for drones under these provisions in 100 MPH, and you are not allowed to film from a moving vehicle unless you are in a low-population area.

As far as the certification, you can pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, or if you already have a part 62 pilot certificate, you must complete a flight review in the previous two years. Also, you must take a small UAS online training course that is written by the FAA, and you will be eligible to fly for commercial use.

Other Requirements With the New Guidelines

You also have to make the drone available to the FAA for inspection or testing if they ever request, and be able to provide and records that are required to be kept regarding its commercial use. If you are unfortunate enough to have an operation take place that results in a serious injury or property damage, you must report to the FAA within ten days of said incident.

The pilot is responsible for making sure that a drone is 100% safe before flying, but the FAA at this time does not need small UAS to obtain the important aircraft certification. The pilot simply has to perform an in-depth check of the aircraft to ensure that all of the safety systems are functioning properly, and a check of the communications link between the UAS and respectable control station.

What This Really Means for Businesses

This is a true milestone, that makes way for innovation while attempting to keep the skies as safe as possible. There is a 60-day comment and ratification period, and so there may be a few things added, dropped, or otherwise changed. The Airline Pilots Association was very happy about the flight requirements, and thought that a 400-ft sight line would definitely be sensible and a wise choice.

Overall, many in the industry are seeing this as a sign that the FAA does not want to squash or deter the rapidly growing possibilities that drones can be used for, and that all types of businesses will be able to benefit. However, some remain leery of the future, just because all it could take is one wrong move from a business on the consumer level to potentially really make things worse for everyone else.

What do the FAA Regulations Mean for Delivery Companies such as Amazon?

Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Google all have plans over the next year to use drones for delivery, and they are very eager to get the ball rolling. Imagine if you were running a shipping or order-fulfillment business: you could cut costs, deal with weather issues, and improve accuracy immediately.

The reason why this is simply not going to work for these plans is because of the visual line of sight restriction. For drone delivery to truly profit, thrive, and work nationwide, a single operator would more than likely have to manage much more than just two drones at once. So in this aspect, many big-business entities are a bit disappointed: there still is a long way to go, and many details to be ironed out with the FAA.

Issues on the Near Horizon

The future is definitely here, and Drone technology itself is amazing. Those who are in surveying and photography are going to sleep a bit easier after this announcement from the FAA about drones, but there is literally miles of “middle ground” that has not been worked out yet.

When agreements are reached and delivery services do begin to use drones, it’s going to change the face of the world: the fuel and oil markets, trucking industries, and many others will be forced to adapt in the absolute most futuristic of ways.

Read the NBC NEWS article here.

Louisiana Lawmakers Attempt To Pass Strict Drone Trespassing Regulations

Updated # 6 April 27, 2016

Lawmakers in the state of Louisiana are hoping to create new regulations for drones that attempt to solve drone privacy concerns, but to many seem to go too far.

The considered proposals are being reviewed in the House and Senate and will attempt to criminalize drone trespassing, as well as go over surveillance and privacy laws and create licensing and registration guidelines.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said drones are “showing up on people’s radar better now” as the technology has become cheaper and more accessible. Some hobbyists fly the unmanned aircraft, but people also use them in a number of industries from movie production to utility inspection.

Backers of the legislative proposals say creation of statewide drone regulations will secure public and private property. Most of the measures have met little resistance so far, though none have reached final passage.

Criminal Trespassing

A few years ago this same senator Claitor tried to step on drone freedoms and he’s getting started again this year.

One of his bills, approved by the Senate, would regulate drones under criminal trespassing law, making it illegal to fly a drone over someone else’s property without permission. The measure awaits a House committee hearing.

Claitor’s second proposal would ban flying drones over another person’s property without permission, but it would also classify illegal drone trespassing or surveillance under criminal harassment, stalking, assault or battery definitions. That measure is scheduled for Senate committee debate Tuesday. This would make it extremely difficult to fly your drone in a city, since you’re going to be crossing a different property every few hundred feet.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, wants to make it illegal for drones to intentionally pass police tape or other law enforcement partitions, including the airspace around each. The Senate unanimously approved the measure, which awaits a House committee hearing. This regulation makes a little more sense in that police tape is usually used to cordon off crime scenes where drones could disrupt evidence.

Drone Survelliance and Privacy

A proposal by Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, would make using a drone with an attached camera or video recording device to watch, photograph or film a person without consent illegal under Louisiana’s invasion of privacy — or “peeping Tom” law. The bill sailed through the House and heads next to a Senate committee.

Rep. Stephen Dwight, R-Lake Charles, is taking a narrower approach. His proposal would ban drone use near schools, school property or correctional facilities. The proposal makes exceptions for police and situations where the landowner grants permission, such as recording football games at schools or universities that use the aircraft for promotional purposes. The House-approved bill also awaits a Senate committee hearing.


Lawmakers have outlined criminal penalties for prohibited drone use.

Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, has filed a proposal that would penalize illegal drone surveillance with a fine up to $500, a jail sentence up to six months or a combination of both.


The Federal Aviation Administration already requires drone users to register their aircraft, keep the systems in sight and avoid flying near airports. If lawmakers pass a bill from Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, people will have to pay registration and licensing fees when using the aircraft for agricultural work. The House approved the proposal Monday, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

These drone regulation proposals in Louisiana are set to go to vote reasonably soon and could set a precedent for other states to attempt to pass similar legislation. Hopefully the US Federal Government will get their act together and put up a national drone regulation policy that will trump all state laws or we’re going to have to watch and learn 50 different sets of drone regulations as each state passes their own laws.

Find more about the bills here.

Senate Approves Aviation Bill with Drone Regulation Updated #5 – April 20 – 2016

Tuesday April 19th, 2016, the Senate passed a large aviation policy bill, that will give the FAA more authority.

The bill will reinforce the Federal control over drone laws for the future. Giving the national government more control and taking it out of the hands of states and cities. Recently there have been a spate of regulations created in municipalities and states throughout the nation, giving drone enthusiasts a mashed up mix of laws in which they need to abide by. Having a regulatory environment like this is bad for hobbyists and commercial businesses alike.

The FAA came back and said that it alone is the controller of national airspace. The Senate has now stated that no states can create laws about the “design, manufacture, testing, licensing, registration, certification, operation or maintenance of an unmanned aircraft system, including airspace, altitude, flight paths, equipment or technology requirements, purpose of operations, and pilot, operator, and observer qualifications, training, and certification.”

There was some opposition, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California proposed to change the language and allow states to create their own standards, but her changes were not kept in the bill.

Sen Feinstein is quoted as saying “The federal government simply cannot set commonsense rules for every city, county, park or school in the country.” And has stated she will continue to fight for states being allowed to set their own local regulations.

Alltogether the UAV community has generally fought for a more federal control over regulations in order to get rid of the messy mix of current laws that change from one town to the next. The FAA fact sheet on state and local UAS regulations warns that a mix of different regulations throughout the nation could limit the flexibility the FAA has in controlling the airspace of the United States as a whole.

The FAA is still working to complete a set of rules for unmanned aerial vehicles up to 55 pounds, and I for one am awaiting anxiously the outcome to see how the regulations will look for drone enthusiasts and business owners for the future.

Read the USA Today article here.

Drone Regulation Updated #4, April 11, 2016.

The FAA has released their most recent recommendations of the Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems Aviation Rulemaking Committee. This committee is tasked with releasing performance-based regulations that would let certain unmanned aircraft operate over people.

The rulemaking committee, began workin on this March 8th, 2016 and finished under their deadline by April 1. You can read the full report here (it’s pretty long and complex)

The committee was a collaboration between industry and government so hopefully we’ll see some good standardized rules come out of these recommendations that will help the drone world advance forward under United States law.

The ARC’s report recommends establishing four small UAS categories. They will define these primarily through their chance for risk or injury to people below the flight path. The committee recommends assigning a risk potential for each category linked to weight of the drone or impact energy.

What we can take from the report is that drones larger than 250g will not be allowed to fly over people, while those under 250g will. This is just a recommendation at this point, but it seems as though the government will take these recommendations into consideration when creating new laws around the drone community.

It’s also possible there will be exceptions for drones up to 4-5 pounds in order to allow them to fly over people as well. There will be some rules about this, making sure they keep at least 20 feet above the crowd or 10 feet away laterally. However this seems to me a little less likely to be made into a law. We all have seen what a propeller can do to (see video)

It seems like it would be awfully dangerous to have drones with these types of propellers flying only 20 feet above a crowd of people. However this is just my speculation, we’ll see what the FAA and the US Legislature does with these recommendations.

Read about our new post on the top drone universities

Drone Regulation Update #3, March 31, 2016faa streamlines commercial drone registration

Welcome back Drone Friends!

We have another update for you here from the FAA, they’ve been busy lately. Thank goodness what they’re doing is making all of our lives easier and not more difficult!

This morning they released details of a new process that they have just setup that’s going to make your life a bit simpler if you were worried about how to navigate that section 333 exemption for commercial drone registration.  Prior to this you needed to both obtain a 333 exemption as well as register your aircraft at the FAA’s Legacy aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, OK.

The part about registering in Oklahoma City is now a piece of history. You can simply register at the FAA web based registration site, for the easy on the wallet fee of $5.00. Same as all those hobby drone users paid to register their drones!

Register here –  To summarize the information provided by the FAA:

  • Everyone who already registered does NOT have to re-register.
  • New Owners who are registering for the first time are encouraged to use the web system.
  • You can access registration records for all of your aircraft through your online account after registering.
  • If you previously registered as a hobby user, but are now going to use as a commercial user, you will need to re register your aircraft.

This is excellent news folks. You won’t need to be filling out the 8050-1 anymore and waiting while it goes off to OKC and waiting while it comes back. You can register instantly online! Not only is this a solid move forward for the FAA, but this along with the blanket altitude increase we wrote about a few days ago really encourages me to think the FAA is on the right path when it comes to drone legislation and regulations going forward!

Read the entire press release from the FAA here.


Drone Regulation Update #2, March 29, 2016
FAA Drone regulations

From the FAA News And Updates

After finishing a comprehensive risk analysis, the FAA (federal aviation administration) is raising the unmanned aircraft (UAS) “blanket” altitude authorization for Section 333 exemption certificate holders to 400 feet.

This blanket altitude cap was previously set at 200 feet.

This new policy for COA (Certificate of Waiver Authorization) holders allows small UAVs used in commercial uses to be flown up to 400 feet anywhere in the country except restricted airspace, which includes around major cities and airports.

“This is another milestone in our effort to change the traditional speed of government,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Expanding the authorized airspace for these operations means government and industry can carry out unmanned aircraft missions more quickly and with less red tape.”

The FAA expects the move will reduce the workload for COA applications for industry UAS operators, government agencies and the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. The agency also estimates the move will lessen the need for individual COAs by 30 to 40 percent. Other provisions of an FAA authorization, such as registering the UAS and making sure pilots have the proper certification, still apply.

Under the blanket COA, the FAA will permit flights at or below 400 feet for UAS operators with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and for government UAS operations. Operators must fly under daytime Visual Flight Rules, keep the UAS within visual line of sight of the pilot and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports:

-Five nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or

-Three NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or

-Two NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or

-Two NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure.


Drone Regulation Update #1, March 16, 2016

drone regulation update march 16 2016

This article will hopefully be a continuous running series of curated news whenever the United States decides to work on a piece of drone regulation law. There seem to be a lot of articles about this stuff floating around with bits and pieces of information from different legislative sessions. I want to try to curate each piece of news as it comes out into one big article so it’ll be easier to see the developments in a timeline as they appear.

Let’s get started with an update as to what happened in the Senate on Wednesday, 3/16/16.

A Senate Panel approved on Wednesday, legislation that will have the Transportation Department develop regulations within two years for commercial drone delivers. This is going to be a big deal for companies like Amazon and Wal Mart who are looking into the technology necessary to make drone delivery a reality.

This will also have an effect on commercial drone pilots throughout the country, because it’s mandating the Governments ability to put a framework on drone regulations. The problem with the US Government legislation having their hands in the drone industry is that people like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.VA are opposed to drone deliveries because he claims it will cost people their jobs. He quotes: “I don’t want to lose another job,” and “There’s no demand for this anyway”

I strongly disagree with both ideas in his statement. Drone deliveries and drone technology in general is going to create jobs even as it destroys them. This is the nature of disruptive technology.

However at the same time as we struggle with people like Sen. Joe Manchin, there are supporters such as Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev, who added the delivery provision to the bill that will require the Government to get provisions into place in the next 2 years so that they can be ready for drone delivery companies. He is quoted as saying: “I think this is an opportunity for technology to advance in this country,” and “I’d hate to think we’re in cave-man mode here.” This kind of future proactive planning by a senator is what I like to see when it comes to Drone technology.

The government needs to stay one step ahead of advancing technology in order to regulate the industry so we don’t get a lot of cowboys out here flying drones around like it’s the wild west and ending up hurting someone. That would set the entire industry back. Drone technology advances quickly and I hope the government can keep up.

That’s why we’re going to be bringing you these articles updating you on new legislation on drones from the Government, FAA and Department of Transportation.

Bookmark this page and come back to check for updates!

There are 4 comments:

  • Glenn Edgar at 4:39 am

    The remark in this sensationalist BS video about “catch landing” being “cool but reckless” is retarded, and the idiot has little real world experience. Plus their grammar is terrible. Where did you find these morons? Drones, or RC quad-copters are very popular on relatively small fishing, recreational, and research boats. Landing one in a rolling and pitching boat can quickly become infeasible. They hover VERY reliably however, and once you grab a gear leg, the thing is immobilized and you kill the motors. VERY little physical risk. A quad damaged internally by a rough landing might be a hazard later.

    Also in gusty wind conditions that will occur regular on the beach (say), landing entails a very large probability of a tip over, with sand damage. “Catching” eliminates all that stress. I’ve heard experienced people say “well they don’t always hover perfectly steadily”. Well, “almost always”, but you look and if it’s not you come up with another plan.

    Their statistics are misleading so they can get someone to show their dumb video. < 5m distance entails a 1% risk from an "uncontrolled" (known to English speakers as "out of control") Copter?!! The risk of a quad going "out of control" during hovering for a landing is SURELY way less than 1 in a 1,000. It's implied that being within 5m of a quad gives you a 1% chance of injury. Throw in "a quad that suddenly goes randomly out of control", and you get <0.0001%! NIL! "At 10m there are [sic] only a 0.25% chance of injury." As before the danger of being within 10 m of one < 0.00025. NIL again.

    Also would you rather be 10' under a "Copter" or beside one? Duh… Gravity! I cut myself once — NOT landing. It made some ugly cuts on my arm that healed in a couple weeks. No stitches. Very minor, but bloody. No scars.

    • Justin F. at 4:33 pm

      Hi Glenn, I chose that video simply to show the power of the propellers. I guess I didn’t listen that closely to the actual dialog in the video. The simple fact remains that if a moving propeller of a drone hits skin it doesnt stop, it cuts through the skin.

      Pilots that have any sort of skill and safety knowledge should be able to avoid having this happen, but I just don’t trust everyone to have the same safety conciousness that I have and wouldn’t necessarily want someone I don’t know, or have never met, and can’t even see, flying a drone with propellers that are going to cut through my skin, 10 or 20 feet above my head without me having any choice in the matter.

      I think it’s important to take all perspectives into account when going forward with drone legislation. What we don’t want to happen is have someone seriously injured by someone stupid due to lax regulations and then have the government come down hard on operators who are actually doing it safely due to the stupidity of a small minority.

      But all comments are welcome and discussion of all sides of the topic are encouraged!


  • Glenn Edgar at 4:43 am

    Your web sight is great! Very informative with interesting articles that I’ve learned a lot from in a day. Thank you!

  • Vishnu Kadamatt at 7:54 am

    Wow Mike, great article. It is hard to find an article that keeps track of the changes in drone regulations. I hope you continue to update this as new changes roll in. I think it’ll be awesome if you could add a table of contents to this.

    Definitely share worthy!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *