The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has officially announced its final rule, effective this August, governing commercial uses of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones.
“We’re pleased that the FAA recognizes the important commercial applications for UAS technology, and has created rules that will put the technology in farmers’ hands,” said Maryland farmer Chip Bowling, President of National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
“As with any technology, unmanned aerial systems can make farms safer, more efficient, and more sustainable. That’s good for farmers, consumers, and the environment. That’s why NCGA has taken a leadership role on this issue from the beginning, working with the UAS industry, federal regulators, and others to create reasonable rules and regulations for this technology.”
The rule simplifies the process for the commercial use of drones, which were previously authorized by the FAA on a case-by-case basis only. The new rule states that drones weighing less than 55 pounds can fly at altitudes of up to 400 feet and up to 100 miles per hour during the day, and that drones must stay within the operator’s visual line of sight.
The rule also bans nighttime operation without an FAA waiver, operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft, and the carrying of any hazardous materials. Commercial drone pilots must be at least 16 years of age, and must either obtain a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under direct supervision of someone who holds one.
To qualify for the certificate, pilots must pass an aeronautical knowledge test and undergo a vetting process with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Recreational drone operators are still required to register their hobby drones.
“These are common-sense rules that create a culture of safety and responsibility, while ensuring farmers have the access, tools, and training to take full advantage of UAS technology,” said Bowling.