A decade ago, remotely operated quadcopters (drones) were relatively unknown outside of the aviation community. Today, they are ubiquitous. Drones are commonly used for both recreational and commercial purposes such as photography, emergency response coordination, and land surveying. Some of the largest companies in the word are also working on more ambitious plans for autonomous air taxis and large-scale retail delivery projects.
To put it mildly, federal regulators and been struggling to keep up with the technology and demands from politicians and the general public. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the FAA to “develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace”. Included in this mandate was a requirement for the FAA to develop a set of commercial drone laws by 2015. In the meantime, however, the FAA allowed commercial drone flights on a case-by-case basis.
In 2016, the FAA’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations—more commonly known as Part 107—went into effect. Part 107 instituted a broad set of requirements applying to commercial drones under 55 pounds. Included in Part 107 are various requirements related to operations, registration, and licensing. Approximately two years later, the FAA announced that it had issued over 100,000 Remote Pilot Certificates.
What does Part 107 mean for the future of commercial drone operations? Primarily that there are many more issues to be addressed in the future. As the technology continues to advance and more economically viable uses for drones emerge, the FAA will undoubtedly be forced to adapt. Specific regulations and issues will be addressed in more detail in future blog posts.
Nate Bingham is an Attorney with Krutch Lindell Bingham Jones, representing victims of aviation accidents and other aviation related incidents.