PhotoNew rules for commercial and government drone flights go into effect today (Monday), setting the stage for what's expected to be rapid deployment of unmanned flights operated by certified "remote pilots."

The new rules, which were adopted earlier this year, apply to drones under 55 pounds that are being operated for non-hobbyist purposes. Previous rules allow hobbyists to operate drones, but under tighter restrictions.

“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.”

According to industry estimates, the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

“Monday is a big day. I’ve consistently urged the FAA to move forward with regulations to make safe operation of unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace a reality, and implementation of this new rule is a major step forward," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). "This will allow many small businesses ... to more cheaply, safely and efficiently harness some of the enormous potential promised by this technology.”

Commercial drones are currently being used in industries as diverse as real estate, agriculture, insurance, energy, and cinematography. The new drone rule makes it less onerous for companies to use drones to advance their business, as they will no longer need to be granted an exemption from the FAA in order to operate a UAS (unmanned aircraft system) lawfully under federal guidelines.

What to do

Want to be a commercial drone pilot?

You will need a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate.

To qualify for the certificate, you must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate.

The Transportation Security Administration will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuing a certificate.

More information is available on the FAA website.

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