Drone Laws – Part I

In our ever-evolving world, there are always new technologies and new opportunities.  Why invest in a person when a machine can do the work for its useful life? Why hire a taxi driver when the car can drive itself? How could you pay for a helicopter or carrier fees when a drone can deliver the goods on its own?  However, as with all things, life is not that easy. If you plan on using drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), then there are some facts you need to know, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set forth restrictions. So, what do you need to fly? How do you register a drone? Who can fly a drone?

Who can fly a drone?

In order to fly for commercial purposes it is required that the business have: (1) a Section 333 grant of exemption; (2) a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization; (3) a registered drone; and (4) a pilot with an FAA airman certification. This is a unique qualification for businesses only and hobbyists or recreational drone use would be allowed without having to jump through these requirements.

Due to the above-listed requirements, the only individuals capable of flying a drone for business would be those already accredited as pilots. This is because of pre-existing rules, but essentially for any commercial use of the drone (e.g., filming, delivery) an FAA airman certificate would still be needed for any drone use in the National Airspace System. So, when considering the use of a drone, it is important to realize the cost would include the drone, registration, and salary of a qualified individual to operate the drone.

How can you register a drone?

First, you need to register the drone. A drone must be registered with the FAA if it is above 0.55 pounds and below 55 pounds. The drone can be registered online. Second, after registration, the drone must then have some way of displaying the license number that is provided to it. The FAA states that “any method” may be used, including, hand-writing it, engraving it, or attaching a label, so long as it is readable and legible on close visual inspection.

Furthermore, while UASs would usually be required to abide by all other rules applicable to manned aircraft, these can be “excused” through the Section 333 grant of exemption, as it is a process for drones to be certified as “safe.” Furthermore, for the convenience of the consumers and businesses, some drones have been “pre-approved” so a request for certain off-the-shelf models may be processed faster than a custom-made drone. Relating to that, the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization allows certain uses of a drone to go forward. Thus, it may allow the use of the drone in a courier system, such as Amazon’s proposed plans.

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