FAA powers up an invisible hand, groping the skies for rule-busting biz drones

Top tip: Keep flying cams away from Robert Duvall's house

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun enforcement of new rules covering the commercial use of drones.

The FAA says that the "Part 107" [PDF] requirements have been designed to allow businesses to fly small drones for light operations such as recording video or aerial photography.

Announced in June of this year and going into effect at 12:01AM Monday, the Part 107 rules require those who fly small drones (under 55 lbs) to pass a basic certification test covering the safe operation of drone craft.

The Part 107 rule is designed to bridge a gap between the FAA's recreational and commercial flying rules by giving businesses an easier way to legally fly small drones for business use without having to go through a long and expensive licensing process.

The FAA says that pilots will be able to take the certification test at one of a national network of testing centers, and then fill out an application form through its website.

Once the pilot has the license, he or she will be allowed to fly a drone during daylight hours in open Class G airspace. The craft can be operated in more restricted areas with permission from local air traffic controllers.

In addition, pilots will only be allowed to pilot drones that stay within their direct line of sight and not operate the craft at speeds over 100mph or altitudes higher than 400 feet from the ground or the top of the structure being filmed.

Flying drones over 55lbs will still require the business to apply with the FAA for a special Section 333 commercial flight exemption. The rules will be different from those on hobbyist drone pilots, who are instead subject to recreational drone rules.

Among those supporting the rules is drone-maker 3DR, who called Part 107 a step in the right direction for the FAA.

"The Part 107 Rule is a major advancement in the liberalization of the skies for small, autonomous vehicles, and it sets an excellent foundation for future regulations as well," 3DR said.

"With Part 107, the FAA is encouraging the commercial drone operation at scale and anticipating huge economic impact."

Meanwhile, drones across the US are still finding themselves facing the lingering threat of ground fire. A report from local news station NBC4 reports that a drone flying near the Virginia home of actor Robert Duvall was shot down by a shotgun-wielding neighbor when the craft veered onto her property and scared cattle.

The two men who were piloting the downed drone fled the scene and were not identified. ®

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