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Drones occupy a unique place in our society—and our skies. Our airways are already host to a slew of manned airplanes and helicopters, but drones have a different form and function than the types of aircraft that typically soar overhead. That's why it makes a lot of sense that the FAA has proposed a set of regulations specifically targeting small commercial drones.
These rules don’t affect recreational users, who are still free to pilot their model planes around their backyards, so long as they follow the guidelines already in place. But what if you’re a working photographer looking to capture aerial shots?
Well, here's some good news: The rules proposed by the FAA will actually make your life a whole lot easier.
Up until now, it's been illegal to fly commercial drones without a special certificate or exemption. If approved, the FAA’s new regulations would instead require that operators complete a certification process, not unlike getting a learner's permit at the DMV. This would make the use of small commercial drones—defined as unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds—more accessible to professional photographers looking to stay on the right side of the law.
The FAA’s proposed regulations also include a list of operational limitations, including operator age (17 or older), altitude (500 feet or lower), and distance (line of sight). Larger commercial drones are still largely off limits, but if adopted, these new rules will mean commercial drone photography is a viable option for photographers all over the country.
The new rules could take a few years to be implemented, and need to go through a public comment phase before being officially ratified. Still, it’s a huge step toward the broad legalization of commercial drone flight.