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FAA Releases Long-Awaited Rules For Commercial Drones

Toby Talbot
A drone flies over the Vermont Statehouse in this file photo. The FAA says new, long-awaited rules on the use of commercial drones are the first step toward fully integrating drones into U.S. airspace.

The Obama Administration on Tuesday released long-awaited rules on the use of commercial drones.

The new rules are the first operational regulations for unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, and in a press release the Federal Aviation Administration says they represent the first step toward fully integrating drones into U.S. airspace.

“We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

The rules cover drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, and generally regulate commercial operation.

Steve Mermelstein owns Vermont Drone, an aerial photography business, and he says the former rules made it much harder to run a company using unmanned aircraft.

"The regulations had so much red tape that it was impossible to comply with," he says. "So now, under the new system you don't have to do any of that. You just follow these common sense rules. And basically Class G airspace, which is like most of Vermont, you can just operate without having to jump through hoops and red tape and file paperwork that was really unnecessary."

Under the new federal rules, the drones must be kept within site, so companies like Amazon can't yet use drones for deliveries.

Commercial operators must be at least 16 years old, and pilots have to pass a test before receiving a license.

The FAA will register all drones before receiving a certificate to operate.

The FAA rule didn't address the privacy concerns that some Vermont lawmakers and town officials raised concerning the emerging technology.

The new rules will take effect in August. Regulations for hobbyists are expected to come out at a later date.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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