New FAA Rules on Drone Use Could Help Local Businesses
SALT LAKE CITY — Local businesses Tuesday had generally positive responses to new federal regulations regarding the use of unmanned aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday announced its rules controlling the use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds by commercial operators. The new rules are designed to provide a framework for the use of unmanned aircraft, with an emphasis on safety.
Jordan Overman, owner of Salt Lake City-based Override Films, said his company uses drones in film and video production for various commercial applications, including marketing for real estate, carmakers, products, tourism, as well as feature filmmaking.
He said the use of unmanned aircraft was essentially unregulated for years. But in late 2014, the FAA implemented rules that made the process of using drones commercially tedious and cumbersome. Hobbyists have been allowed to fly drones under some basic guidelines, but commercial operators could only use drones if they went through a complex and costly permit process.
“If someone was writing you a check to do a job, you were really limited in what you could do,” he said. “Right now, we have an actual pilot — someone who flies aircraft — to be the drone operator.”
The company is also required to submit a flight plan, aircraft specifications and request airspace clearance. The new rules will alleviate much of the regulation.
“It frees things up a fair amount,” Overman said. “It makes the process so much easier for us to operate.”
The FAA has published a best practices guide with more details.
As technology advances, the next step in the regulation process may involve commercial operators in various industries working with the FAA to expand the rules to allow flights beyond line of sight, night flying and other uses.
"Now commercial operators can build business models around the new rules. The defining of an (unmanned aircraft systems) pilot is very important," said Marshall Wright with the Mountain West Unmanned Systems Alliance — an organization that in partnership with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development advocates for increased drone use for statewide economic growth.
"The FAA certification of a UAS pilot is important when satisfying issues of risk for an operator. Having FAA certification is now analogous to having a ‘business license,’” he said
Meanwhile, under rules currently under consideration by the FAA, higher altitude flights may be possible in the future, and the the agency is also developing regulations to allow flights over people by drones weighing 2.5 pounds or less.
“It’s great to have rules that are accessible,” Overman said. “It’s the first step for the FAA to create something that makes sense for the public and for small companies. It didn’t make sense for someone to have to get a pilot’s license to use a small drone to take promotional video or real estate pictures.”
The new rules take effect 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register, which means enhanced operations are expected to begin by late August.
Photo: FILE — Jeff Flowers, right, and Lance Stoddard fly a drone at Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. Ravell Call, Deseret News