After a number of delays, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today officially announced its proposed rules for small commercial drones. Most of the proposed rules already leaked earlier this weekend. Overall, the proposed rules are pretty straightforward and more lenient than expected, but while they open up a number of use cases, they are still strict enough to make it impractical to operate the kind of delivery drones Amazon and others have envisioned. Here are the basics of the rules, which will apply to drones weighing fewer than 55 pounds: pilots will have to pass a knowledge test (but not a practical test) to get a newly developed drone operator license and will have to be vetted by the TSA. They will have to take a recurrent test every 24 months and be at least 17 years old. Pilots will only be allowed to fly during daytime hours and must be able to see the drone at all times (though they can also use a second operator as an observer). Once an operator has this license, it will apply to all small drones. Thankfully, it turns out that the FAA will not require drone pilots to get a private or commercial pilots license, and operators will not have to pass a medical exam. As expected, commercial drones will only be allowed to fly under 500 feet and no faster than 100 mph. Drones will have to be registered with the FAA. Flights over people are prohibited and visibility has to be over 3 miles. The FAA is also considering to create a separate category for very small drones under 4.4 pounds that may allow operators to fly over people. You can find a more detailed summary of the proposed rules here and our analysis of the leaked document — which turned out to be correct — is here . It’s worth noting that these rules do not apply to hobbyists and model airplanes
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