FAA clears the way for commercial drone use

Eric Jones, the director of business development for Expert Drones, shows off the company's...
Eric Jones, the director of business development for Expert Drones, shows off the company's latest and greatest unmanned aircraft inside the new store in Alexandria on August 16, 2016. (GRAYDC)
Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 1:21 PM CDT
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Major changes in flight rules for commercial drones are headed our way, including lifting the special permission drone owners once needed to fly.

Our skies may be buzzing with drones after new Federal Aviation Administration regulations go into place at the end of the month, allowing companies to fly them for commercial use for the first time.

"There's a lot to get ready for in order to operate a drone legally and safely within the United States," said Eric Jones, the Director of Business Development at Expert Drones.

Expert Drones, a company that sells and repairs the unmanned aircraft is set to open a new location in Alexandria, VA next month. Jones says instead of the long and costly process it takes to earn a professional pilot's license, drone operators will be able to take a book-based test.

"It's complicated, it's detailed, but it's not difficult," Jones explained. "Right now, I'm finding that the weather component of the training to be the most challenging piece to it."

The regulations state a commercial drone operator has to be at least 16 years old, can only fly from sun up to sundown, must stay under 400 feet and keep visual contact with the drone.

“Right now, I think we're in a good place and as we go forward, they'll refine the requirements and the regulations," Jones said.

New rules create a new category for drones that weigh under 55 pounds, but some say those rules are too restrictive.

“I think right now, what the drone industry needs most is for regulators to back off and let them actually develop the technology," said Jason Snead with the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C.

Snead says the FAA's 624 pages of rules will encourage companies to take their business elsewhere.

“There's something sadly ironic I think about that these technologies are being built by American companies and yet Americans are not going to be the first to enjoy the benefits," Snead explained.

For now, new drone operators can submit proposals to the FAA in an attempt to waive some of the rule's limitations.

The written drone test will be available starting on August 29. It cost $150.