Posts Tagged ‘FAA regulations’

As drones continue to get less expensive, construction companies may find it increasingly practical to use them for anything from roof inspections to aerial photographs of jobsite progress. Until recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has only permitted such commercial use of drones on a case by case basis, granting exceptions only if the drone operator had a pilot’s license. Thankfully for businesses looking to take advantage of this emerging technology, the FAA recently passed new, much less restrictive regulations for the commercial use of drones that will go into effect on August 29th of this year.

Most significantly, the new FAA drone regulations no longer require a pilot’s license for commercial operation. Instead, for an estimated cost of $150—a relative bargain compared to the time and expense of acquiring a pilot’s license—drone operators will need to pass an “aeronautical knowledge test” at an FAA exam site or operate the drone under the direct supervision of someone that has. In addition to passing that test, a prospective drone operator will need to be at least 16 years old and receive vetting by the Transportation Security Administration. Those who already have a pilot’s license (not including a student pilot’s certificate) and have completed a flight review within the last two years will only need to pass an online test to receive commercial drone operation certification.

Beyond the certification process, the new regulations also include several rules for safe flying. The good news is that none of these requirements should place any real burden on a construction company’s most common uses of a drone.

The rules require that the drone weigh less than 55 lbs., which is a weight that nearly every commercially available drone is well under. As for the scope of operations, the rules require drone operators to fly their aircraft only during daylight hours, under 400 feet above ground level or 400 feet above a building, while not travelling more than 100 miles per hour. Additionally, the drone cannot operate over top of any person not directly participating in the flight that is not inside a structure or vehicle. The drone must also always remain within the visual line of sight of either the operator or a single visual observer. None of those restrictions should at all inhibit aerial photography—the most common use of drones in the construction industry.

Those eager to begin studying for the commercial drone operator exam, which will become available soon after the new rules take effect, can do so by taking the online test made for people who already have a pilot’s license. Though passing the exam without a pilot’s license will not certify you as a drone operator, the FAA does recommend it as a “self-study” resource for the exam that will.

This article is intended to provide general information, not a specific legal opinion or advice. Any particular questions should be directed to your legal counsel. If you do not have legal counsel, please feel free to contact Harmon & Davies, P.C.

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