Over a month ago, the FAA dropped its new commercial drone regulations (Part 107) and we jumped in to discuss what they could mean for both SMBs and large enterprises. However, Part 107 is set to go into effect on August 29, 2016 and it’s time to take a closer look.

If you’re starting to think about how you can apply drone technology to your business, it is important to read the entire 600+ page FAA publication. But to make things a little easier, we’ve compiled a cheat sheet with the 6 key takeaways from Part 107.

6 Key Takeaways from the Part 107 Drone Regulation Update

  1. The Remote Pilot Certificate : Rather than spending $10,000 for an employee to get a full pilot’s license, your commercial drone operators can become certified for $150. All you have to do is pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge exam and you’re ready to fly drones commercially.
  2. Educators Rejoice: Despite the demand for drone education at universities and training centers, educators are often hamstrung by legal departments that have never been able to determine liability in the case of a student drone crash. With Part 107, only the instructor has to have a Remote Pilot Certificate to allow students to fly. The caveat is that the instructor must be able to take control immediately in case of emergency.
  3. Forget NOTAM Headaches: When we worked on our recent project with UberEATS, we had mountains of paperwork to file before our drones could take flight. Many of the headaches came from filing Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). While these notices have typically been reserved for potential hazards or special events (Air Force One) in a particular area, the FAA was being flooded by small drone operation requests. You no longer have to worry about NOTAMs for flights covered by Part 107.
  4. Fly Up to 400 feet—with a Caveat: While most drone flights are still limited to a maximum altitude of 400 feet , Part 107 introduces an exception. Now, you can fly above this limit if you’re within 400 feet of a permanent structure, in which case your maximum altitude is limited to 400 feet above that structure. For example, commercial drones can now inspect the top of a skyscraper, even if it is over 400 feet tall.
  5. Newfound Flexibility for Drone Projects: In the past, the FAA was reluctant to consider exceptions for any projects that strayed from the strict drone regulations. With Part 107, operators can submit applications for waivers (through an automated system) for things not specifically covered by part 107.
  6. Transportation for Compensation: While operators still can’t exceed the 55lb-limit for drone weight, the FAA has specifically enabled transportation of property for compensation. An operator who is compliant with the rest of the safety requirements (for example, maintaining visual line of sight), can now deliver packages for money.

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Despite the groundbreaking updates to Part 107, the following FAA drone restrictions are staying in effect:

  • Drones still must be under 55 lbs for commercial use
  • Drone operators still must maintain a visual line of sight on the aircraft
  • Drones may only be operated during daylight hours in the absence of a waiver
  • Flights in controlled airspace still require approval by air traffic control
  • Limitations still apply to flying over crowds and other mission non-participants

When you look beyond these mainstays, the Part 107 rule changes are set to bring us closer to the drone future we all expect:

Making FAA’s Part 107 Work for You

Part 107 goes a long way towards the regulatory change that the commercial drone industry has been waiting for. While doesn’t have an effect on the hobbyist market, Part 107 brings significant changes that will allow commercial use cases to catch up to available technology.

For example, the revised height guidelines will have a profound (and immediate) impact on commercial building inspections. Rather than putting human lives in danger, massive towers and industrial facilities can be inspected by a drone despite the fact that they are over 400ft tall. All manner of commercial/industrial safety inspectors and engineers will have new tools at their disposal.

Following the safety idea, search and rescue teams dealing with a skyscraper or hotel fires over 400ft high will be able to better target their relief efforts before committing assets to the fight. Real time drone surveillance assets on station during emergencies can provide critical information in fast changing situations. This kind of flexibility in the FAA drone regulations is what will push drones further into commercial markets.

In the education sector, new regulations regarding drone lessons will feed back into the maturity of the drone market. As we start using drones in STEM education, we can transform how information and products are delivered in the future.

Another major initiative that Part 107 will help facilitate is Amazon’s future of drone delivery. We’re still a long way from inter-state, mass-scale drone delivery, but seeing the FAA open regulations up to transportation for compensation is a significant step forward. And with about 85% of Amazon deliveries weighing in at less than 5lbs, the use case under Part 107 is an obvious one.

At Dialexa, we’re committed to exploring emerging technologies so we can help businesses get ahead of applications before they go mainstream. We’re doing it for virtual/augmented reality, and we’re doing it for drones as well.

If you’re ready to start thinking about applying drone technology to your business, contact us today and see how our drone experts can help.

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