Drone Operators Could Outnumber Private Aviation Pilots In Just One Year

Image courtesy of Northwest dad

Two months after the Federal Aviation Administration released regulations governing the use of drones, thousands of would-be pilots have lined up to take the test to get licensed to fly on the first day it became available. The rush to fly the unmanned aircraft isn’t just for the novelty, it’s opening the door for new business possibilities for companies and entrepreneurs alike.  

Bloomberg reports that with more than 3,300 people have singed up to take the test on Monday, the FAA estimate that drone pilots could outnumber the 171,000 private pilots currently licensed to fly in the U.S. within a year.

Under the FAA regulations, which take effect on Monday, drone operators must be at least 16 years old, register their drones online, and pass an aviation knowledge exam at an 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.

Prior to the new rules, prospective drone operators had to have a pilot’s license, limiting the number of people allowed to legally fly the unmanned aircraft.

But that’s all changing, and it could create a boon of sorts for commercial drone operations, including aerial photography, telecom companies, delivery services, farming, and other industries.

One man tells Bloomberg that he hopes to pursue a career in aerial photography once he passes the drone test.

“Now that the FAA has changed the rules as far as commercial flying, it looks like there could very well be a big potential for change in my career direction,” the former court reporter said.

California-based Autodesk Inc., which sells computer tools to engineers, plans to expand services into construction, agricultural, and other industries with drones equipped with special sensors.

“We’re obviously very excited to make sure we go through this new process because it’s going to open up a lot of new opportunities for our firm,” an executive with the company tells Bloomberg.

Other companies like AT&T and Amazon have already announced future plans to use drone for things like providing a flying LTE antennae or delivering packages, respectively.

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Drone Pilots are Lining Up to Get Licensed by the U.S. [Bloomberg]