There’s never been a better time to become a pilot. A remote pilot, that is.
According to the FAA, drones could create 100,000 U.S. jobs in the next 10 years and generate up to $9 billion in net social benefit. The FAA estimates more than 2.8 million drones will be purchased in 2016 alone, amounting to over 7 million drones in the U.S. by 2020. In fact, the number of drones registered with the FAA is already more than double that of manned aircraft.
In response to this unprecedented demand and rapid industry growth, this summer the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the final Small UAS Rule. The new rule, Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, provides the first national, uniform regulations for the commercial operation of drones under 55 pounds.
In layman’s terms, the FAA and DOT just made it a whole lot easier for you to fly drones for your business. Before, entrepreneurs and companies wanting to operate drones for commercial purposes had to get permission from the FAA via a Section 333 exemption, which took an estimated 4–6 months to obtain. Now, Part 107 extends blanket approval for commercial operations who pass a knowledge test, pass a TSA background check, and follow standard safety and operational procedures like flying during daytime hours and within visual line-of-sight and getting permission from Air Traffic Control when operating in controlled airspace.
Part 107 and the availability of affordable, prosumer drones means that many companies that could never afford an aircraft can now access the airspace at a significantly lower price point with a drone. By opening American airspace for safe, responsible use of small unmanned aircraft, Part 107 is an exciting milestone encouraging the rapid acceleration of the drone economy.
We are already seeing drones being used for aerial photography, precision agriculture, and limited package delivery. Soon, we’ll see more and more drones being utilized for jobs that fall into one of the three Ds: dirty, dull, or dangerous. Imagine using drones in areas where manned flight is risky and generally not permitted (close to buildings, towers, or bridges), or in high-risk areas for humans like a burning building or earthquake rubble. Such operations for industrial inspection and crisis response have the potential to save lives.
Of course, the business applications for drones are endless, and many have yet to be thought up.
For companies and entrepreneurs wondering where to start, study up! Knowing the education and language of aviation is critical to safe drone flight. This includes classes of airspace, sectional charts, radio frequencies, weather conditions, etc. AirMap can help with real-time data for safe drone flight. Download our app for iOS or Android to get started.
In the future, companies managing fleets of drones at scale will operate them autonomously and beyond visual line-of-sight. With robust, accurate, and reliable airspace services, drones will soon be able to make data-driven decisions in real time and to fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of their operators — or without an operator at all.
A version of this article originally appeared in the AirMap Logbook at airmap.com/blog.