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A Big Boost for Drones in Business (Micah Goodwin Expert Advice)

2 min read

If you’ve ever thought about using drones for your business, now is the time to start. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued its final rule for commercial drone operations, which will allow most businesses to begin flying drones in late August without a formal review by the agency.

Currently, commercial users are required to petition the FAA for approval of non-recreational drone uses on a case-by-case basis. When the new rule takes effect, it will eliminate the need for most businesses to petition the FAA, making commercial drone operations both cheaper and easier to perform.

Generally, legal drone flights by businesses will require: drones to weigh less than 55 pounds; operators to maintain a visual line-of-sight; drones to not fly over people; daylight-only operations; the ability of the operators to see and avoid other aircraft or objects; a maximum speed of 100 mph; a maximum altitude of 400 feet or within 400 feet of a structure; a one person per drone limit; no operations from a moving vehicle; no careless or reckless operations; pre-flight inspections; no transportation of hazardous materials; and operations only in appropriate airspace. 

While many of these requirements mirror those imposed on recreational drone users, this announcement comes as a great relief to the thousands of commercial drone operators who have previously operated under the radar of FAA enforcement. 

In addition to freeing up a lot of red tape, one of the most important points of this final rule is that the FAA will only require operators to hold a remote pilot drone certification, which is a far cry from the FAA’s current requirement of a full-blown pilot’s license. It will now cost far less money to operate commercial drones, and businesses can relatively quickly have employees certified at various locations throughout Arkansas.

For those interested in operating outside of these requirements, you can still petition the FAA for an exemption if you’re able to demonstrate that your operations properly account for public safety. The FAA still refuses to approve automated drone systems at this point in time, so don’t expect to see packages flying to your doorstep anytime soon. 

Easier access to commercial drones will generate new streams of revenue, but it will also create additional possibilities for both criminal and civil liability. Outside of the FAA’s regulations, there are state and federal laws that could impact your future drone practices.

Don’t expect this to dampen the enthusiasm surrounding drones though. It’s very likely we’ll begin to see the number of drones in Arkansas dramatically increase this fall. 

Micah Goodwin is an attorney with PPGMR Law of Little Rock and El Dorado. He previously wrote about drone use in Arkansas here. Email him at Micah@PPGMRLaw.
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