FAA’s New Rules For Commercial Drones Require Aviation Exam, Ban Night Flights

Image courtesy of Northwest dad

After years of waiting, it looks like the Federal Aviation Administration is finally ready to release a new category of rules governing the use of commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds.

UPDATE: The FAA has issued the rules [PDF] as expected, confirming what was contained in the leaked documents.

The FAA could release the rules as early as today, but a summary of the new requirements was inadvertently posted online by the agency on Monday before being taken down again after aviation bloggers caught on, the Associated Press reports.

According to that summary, operators will have to register their drones online (no surprise, since the FAA has already implemented this)and then pass an aviation knowledge exam for drone pilots — who must be at least 16 years old — at an FAA-approved testing center.

A passing grade gives operators drone pilot certification that lasts for 24 months. They’ll also have to provide identification for a security vetting process akin to those general aviation pilots undergo.

Other rules are a lot like those for model aircraft hobbyists: the drone must be within sight at all times, night flights are banned, no flying over people, and no going higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 mph. Want to cruise the skies near the airport? You’ll have to ask for special permission.

Operators must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned, and any accidents involved with operating the drones that result in serious injury or property damage have to be reported to the FAA within 10 days.

No operating a drone from the passenger seat of a convertible speeding down the highway, either: operations from a moving vehicle or aircraft, except from a watercraft on the water, are prohibited.

Delivery drones would be prohibited from flying across cities and suburbs holding packages, because that would mean flying over people. Could be tough for Google and Amazon, who have both said in the past that they’re developing drone delivery systems. Google officials predicted they’d be up and running those drone deliveries in 2017.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.