Will Lovett, managing director of unmanned systems at Phoenix Air, in the company’s new drone facility. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

New commercial drone rule takes effect

Long-awaited federal drone regulations took effect Monday, making it easier for businesses to use drones for commercial purposes and driving potential growth of Georgia’s drone industry.

The new Federal Aviation Administration rule allows drones to legally be used for commercial purposes without going through a special approval process, if the drones are operated by a certified remote pilot in compliance with safety requirements. The rule does not apply to recreational users.

The Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace has said the new rule will open “new opportunities for businesses to use this technology.”

Under the rule, known as Part 107, FAA-approved testing centers can now start administering aeronautical knowledge tests required for drone operators.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group, forecasts that the unmanned aircraft industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and drive $82 billion in economic impact over a decade.

Until now, businesses had to apply for exemptions from the FAA in order to operate drones commercially. According to AUVSI, the most popular use has been aerial photography, with more than 4,500 applications for exemptions, followed by real estate and aerial inspection.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta during a press conference Monday said the new rule deals with “what we believe are the vast majority of commercial operations that are out there,” but added, “you should expect that this will continue to evolve.”

The Air Line Pilots Association issued a statement Monday saying it has urged the FAA to “take a stronger stance” to require both a written test and a flight test of remote pilots, “just as pilots of manned aircraft operated for commercial purposes do.”

Numerous instances of airline pilots seeing drones have raised concerns about the potential for collisions.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit challenging the lack of privacy guidelines in the FAA rules. The FAA has said it does not regulate how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) gather data, but it “strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.”


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