FAA Sets New Rules for Commercial use of Drones

New FAA Regulations will create opportunities for businesses to Offer commercial Drone Services in the U.S.

June 21, 2016, The FAA  announced the U. S. Commercial Drone Operation Rules, also known as Part 107. These new rules will implement a new drone certification process allowing businesses that use Drones weighing less than 55 pounds to offer commercial drone services in the United States.

It’s great news for the commercial drone industry, which is expected to grow into a $20.6 billion global market over the next five years, according to a March 2016 report from Goldman Sachs. The rule could also generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years, according to industry estimates. The U.S. market has long been hampered by restrictive rules that have left many drone operators confused about how they can legally make money in the drone industry.

How will this help the commercial drone industry?

One of the biggest changes in the regulations, which will go into effect in late August of 2016, is that commercial drone pilots will no longer need special permission (Section 333 exemption) from the FAA. It will also address one of the primary barriers to starting a drone business today, the need to have a licensed pilot on your payroll, This change alone, will help the drone industry to expand more rapidly.

In its latest announcement, The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, commercial drone pilots can become certified to fly for 24 months by simply registering their drones online and passing an aviation exam at an FAA-approved testing center. Pilots will need to get re-certified every two years and the TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate.

The full set of rules governing commercial drone spans 624 pages, but the FAA has provided a summary and a fact sheet.


Fact Sheet – Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107)

commercial drone

FAQ about the New (Part 107) Rules:

Does this apply to Hobby Drones ?

No, Part 107 does not apply to drone pilots that use their drones for recreation purposes.

As a Hobbyist Do I still have to Register my Drone?

YES, in December 2015 the FAA launched mandatory drone registration for anyone who owns a drone weighing more than 0.55 ozs. but less than 55 lbs. flying outdoors for hobby or recreation . Failure to register a drone can result in civil penalties up to $27,500, and criminal penalties for failure to register can include fines of up to $250,000.

NOTE: If your curious, The FAA recently released its (Download) database that shows how many drones owners are registered in each city, state, or zip code. At the time the database was released, there were 461,433 registered hobbyist drone owners in 39,471 zip codes.

What About Delivery By Drones ?

Drone Delivery in still on the back burner for now, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said

Research is continuing for automated programming over congested areas that would be required for deliveries and that the department is working cooperatively with industry, We certainly see the benefit of this. What we need to see is that it can be done safely.

But he did not set a time frame for approving those sorts of flights.

Do I still need to be a licensed pilot to provide commercial drone services?

Currently yes, but as the new rules become a reality, everyone over the age of 14 will be qualified to take the FAA written test. This means you won’t have to be a licensed private pilot. Operators will need to pass either an “aeronautical knowledge test” at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. Operators with a Part 61 certificate must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and pass the FAA’s online training course.

Getting Certified as a Commercial Drone Pilot

Under the new rules, all commercial operators of drones must pass an aeronautical knowledge. The test is focused on knowledge of airspace safety and rules, not on piloting skills. The test is intended to be simple, with a bias towards allowing operations. Because there are no hands-on skills based tests, most business operators will pass with relative ease. In addition to pilot certification, the drone itself must be registered with the FAA. The online registration process is takes only 10 minutes and costs $5 per aircraft.

When and where will I be able to take the “Aeronautical Knowledge Test” ?

To operate the controls of a small UAS under Part 107, you need a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate.

A) WHEN: The knowledge exam will be released by the FAA in late-August 2016 when the new rules take effect.

You must be at least 14 years old, you’ll need to register and then pass to qualify for the remote pilot airman certificate.

B) WHERE: The Aeronautical Knowledge Test can be taken at any of the  FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States.

When will the test be available? 

The FAA says the full Unmanned Aircraft General (UAG) test will comprise of 60 questions and will be available to take when the final rule making for commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), goes into effect on Aug. 29.

In the meantime, the agency is offering 40 questions that will not necessarily appear on the UAG test but can be used as Study Guide.

What if you already have a Section 333 Exemption, or you applied for one and are still waiting to receive yours?

You can read the FAA’s full position on Page 81 of the Part 107 ruling here for more information.

Anything about Privacy Issues in the New Rules?

Although the new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property, the FAA is acting to address privacy considerations in this area. The FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.

Can a Commercial Drone Fly over people?

NO, The most substantial limitation on commercial operations is the prohibition against flying over people not involved in the drone operation. This means that an operator cannot fly over members of the public. Fortunately, Part 107 includes a straightforward process for efficiently requesting a waiver from this rule if necessary.

What about FFA Rules and State Laws?

Despite the new rules, conflict remains between the federal government and the states. While the FAA rule-making process lagged, states adopted dozens of local laws that restrict drones, such as prohibiting drones with weapons and barring flights over private property. At least 29 states have adopted laws governing drones and 41 states have debated legislation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


I realize the complexity and scale of the issues facing the FAA, However the delay in using  small commercial drones is only hurting Americas bottom line. In such industries as farming, infrastructure inspections and journalism, were there danger to people or property is low and when used by a qualified professional, the benefits, at least to me, out weigh the risk. When the new rules go into effect in late-August, commercial operations will be legal for most businesses and public agencies. The introduction of Part 107 means that companies operating in the U.S. can now be more competitive with companies operating in other countries. I hope the public as a whole will be able to see the full potential of this technology as a good thing going forward.

If you are ready to get your drone business started, check out our post on How To Profit From The Air Drone Craze.

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