SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Federal Aviation Administration approved routine commercial use of small drones Tuesday.
Drone pilots such as Beto Lopez, a filmmaker with Mooncricket Films, have been waiting for years for the approval.
“My first reaction was, finally, about time,” Lopez said. “This new rule is going to help a lot with a lot of people’s business.”
Lopez said, until now, everyone from realtors to wedding and news photographers were required to go to flight school and get an actual pilots license, or apply for a special waiver that could be time-consuming and expensive.
New rules create a new category for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. Operators can now register their drones and pass an aviation knowledge exam to be granted a two-year drone pilot certification.
Lopez said it “makes more sense for us that are doing something much smaller than a full-sized aircraft.”
The rules limit drone flights to daylight hours, and they must be within sight of the operator.
They also can’t fly over people or crowds which means the new rules don’t open the door for drone delivery.
Companies like Amazon, Google and Domino’s Pizza have been not so quietly working on drone deliveries. But FAA rules aside, seasoned drone pilots have long questioned the logistics.
“I don’t know how they would be able to make a delivery and get away real quick without a dog or a person trying to grab them,” Lopez said.
For now, drones must stay at least 20 feet overhead and 10 feet away from people.
Not a problem for most amateur pilots, who are now one test away from a commercial career.
“I can actually make 100 percent living just with this right here,” Lopez said, holding his drone.
For now they do prohibit drone flights at night – a point of contention for Lopez and others who argue drones are actually easier to track at night – as opposed to during the day, when they can get lost in the sun’s glare or bright sky.
The rules will go into effect as early as mid-August.