The FAA Chills Out About Drones But Drone Delivery Is Still a Ways Off

Image: Amazon
Image: Amazon

Today, the Federal Aviation Administration finally unveiled Part 107, the rules that cap off its long-running efforts to regulate commercial drone use.


The regulations, a preview of which apparently leaked online yesterday, make it easier for business and government groups to use drones. The new rules now mean that commercial drone operators no longer need to obtain the complicated Section 333 exemption from the FAA and can now simply fly their vehicles as long as they meet the restrictions of Part 107, which aren’t quite as odious.

The rule will take effect in late August. Among other restrictions, the drones must:

  • Weigh less than 55 pounds
  • Remain within the pilot’s visual line of sight
  • Not fly over anyone not participating in the flight, not under a “covered structure,” and not inside a covered, non-moving vehicle
  • Fly during the day, or during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lighting
  • Adhere to a maximum groundspeed of 100 miles per hour

Waivers are available for some of the restrictions, provided the pilot can prove his or her operation could be done safely, FAA spokesman Les Dorr told Gizmodo in a phone call.

In addition to the drone-specific requirements, operators themselves must now hold a remote pilot airman certificate which involves passing a knowledge test. They also have to be at least 16 years old. Sorry, young teens!

But if you thought these new rules would pave the way for companies like Amazon to use drones to deliver your toothpaste, prepare to be disappointed. The “visual line of sight” aspect still makes that pretty tough. Dorr told Gizmodo that drone delivery “is still a ways off,” and the agency wasn’t prepared to speculate on a specific timeline. The FAA is still conducting research to ensure that that kind of activity “could be done safely.”


Indeed, as Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, told MarketWatch, “It’s a good first step and a good early precedent for what a balanced approach looks like... but there is still a lot of work to be done on other types of operations and other categories.”

For now, however, other commercial operators—like construction companies, surveyors, or photographers—will have a little bit of an easier time flying their gadgets around. Just be sure to fly safe, dronies.




The “covered structure” and “covered vehicle” restrictions seem odd to me. A lot of the universities researching drones do so in enclosed spaces, partly for safely excluding non-involved people from the flight, (as well as to eliminate wind and other variables from the experiment.)