June 23, 2016

Commercial Droners: Button Up Big Time for These Strict New Drone Laws

The FAA's new drone regulations limit night flying and place a heavy emphasis on sightlines. 

Gone are the days of drone piloting with abandon, of honeymooning with your drone into the wee hours of the night. Yesterday, the FAA announced new regulations that are significantly less lax than those that preceded it. If you operate a drone, you're going to want to listen carefully.

The FAA's new 624-page rulebook dictates that most small commercial drones may only fly during daylight hours. Additionally, operators are required to get certified every two years—a process that includes passing an aeronautics test and a background check by the TSA.

Some of the new rules have interesting caveats. Although drones must remain within sight of operators, the FAA states that it is also acceptable for the aircraft to remain within sight of an observer who is in communication with the actual operator. And drones cannot fly higher than 400 feet—unless you fly them within 400 feet of a tall building or tower.

USA Today drew up some useful infographics to help make sense of the rules: 

Credit: USA Today
Credit: USA Today
Credit: USA Today

Check out all the best drone shots from 2016 in one video    

Top photo credit: / Shutterstock

Your Comment

25 Comments

Ridiculous. I really hope that people who use multicopters in rural areas just straight up ignore most of this crap.

June 23, 2016 at 11:45PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1006

Oh totally! The dozens of cropduster helicopters and airplanes that fly over the family farm every day during the summer months are only flown by old hick farmers, nobody cares about them.

June 24, 2016 at 12:43PM

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Another wonderful invention for US THE NORMAL AND AVERAGE PEOPLE who are finally able to make KICK ASS production are going to be flushed down the drain...

Unbelievable that we let them do this actually.

Look there ARE stupid people and they are everywhere; doing things with very harmful devices (like guns. . . ) and they won't regulate that. Not they try to regulate the creative community...

I hope we are creative enough to bypass these "idiocracy", once and for all.

June 24, 2016 at 5:16PM

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Arnold Veeman
Music Composer | Film Editor
134

I'm glad you're opposed to these ridiculous regulations as well, but the philosophically and morally consistent position here is oppose both the FAA's "drone" regulations AND increased levels of gun control. If your actions aren't hurting anyone, the government shouldn't be threatening you with violent reprisal, period. We need to oppose ALL laws against victimless crimes.

June 25, 2016 at 2:21PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1006

I completely agree it's incomprehensible that plastic drones are more heavily regulated than firearms.

June 26, 2016 at 3:46PM

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Sam M
249

624-page rulebook?
Could we even TRY to be more efficient?
600 of those better read "Intentionally Left Blank."

June 24, 2016 at 1:58AM, Edited June 24, 2:20AM

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Dave
Director, DP, Videographer, CLVS, Actor
74

These rules are for commercial drone use, not hobby use. Honeymooners may still fly with (easily registered) abandon. If you are a hobbyist flying and filming for fun then the new rules don't change anything.

What this does do is make it infinitely easier to use drones for commercial purposes. Up until now any drone filming done for profit in the United States has been illegal unless you have a commercial pilots license and an FAA exemption. Things that could take years and thousands of dollars to obtain.

Some aspects of the official rules are even less restrictive then the previous proposals. See here:
http://nofilmschool.com/2015/02/faa-just-unveiled-its-proposed-drone-reg...

If anything this is a massive win for aerial photography.

June 24, 2016 at 3:18AM, Edited June 24, 3:27AM

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Sam M
249

"What this does do is make it infinitely easier to use drones for commercial purposes. Up until now any drone filming done for profit in the United States has been illegal unless you have a commercial pilots license and an FAA exemption. Things that could take years and thousands of dollars to obtain."

Stockholm syndrome much? It was only more difficult before because of unjust restrictions foisted upon people by the FAA. Sure, it may now be a bit easier than it was under the previous status quo, but that status quo was wrong to begin with.

June 25, 2016 at 2:25PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1006

But there was no status quo before. It's only really in the past 10 years that quadcopters have come into frequent use, and have even needed to be regulated. My only complaint is that they took so ridiculously long to make it official :)

I am big proponent of drone use and making it as open and unrestrictive as possible. IMO these rules are completely reasonable. We have to keep in mind that these devices have a great potential to be dangerous. No system is fail proof. These are heavy objects that could drop out of the sky at any moment and land on someone's head. In California private drones have repeatedly prevented emergency responders from fighting fires. This is about a restrictive as getting a driver's license, which seems to be an appropriate response.

June 26, 2016 at 3:36PM

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Sam M
249

I think you are missing the point.... In future weddings or events that I shoot and want to use drone footage I will need to get a UAV pilots license before I can use it in the video... I think it is rediculous and an over reach by the government. I dont understand how Casey Neistat is allowed to do this without getting fined.

December 21, 2016 at 3:14PM, Edited December 21, 3:14PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1140

Part 107 is, as Sam M said, MUCH more forgiving for commercial drone pilots than the previous Section 333 exemption process.

The new FAA regulations will much easier allow a huge group of drone photographers to use their skills for commercial purposes.

And if you want to fly at night or BVLOS, there will be a waiver process in place for those operations. Part 107 is something to be celebrated, not bemoaned!

June 24, 2016 at 10:00AM, Edited June 24, 10:00AM

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Leah F
81

I think the bigger story is the mega flood of new commercial droners allowed into the market via Part 107. Section 333 was ridiculous and the major obstacle for manufacturers to want to make filming options. I'll happily take these new rules (lets see if the FAA fines someone for flying between sunset and nautical twilight) for the ability to legally fly a drone commercially.

June 24, 2016 at 12:34PM

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I was under the impression these new regulations were way more lenient than the previous laws for commercial use. I was surprised to see that this article sees them as more strict than before. I'm pretty sure you had to basically get a pilot's license to fly commercially!

June 24, 2016 at 1:43PM, Edited June 24, 1:43PM

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Michael Schmucker
Producer, Cinematographer, Animator
236

You are right Mike and Leah, currently you have a to obtain a Pilots license of some kind (Sport,Ballon, private/comm air or copter) and a FAA exemption that takes 6-12months to get.

I think people are misunderstanding this announcement... this is huge for indie, commercial and corporate cinematography.

June 24, 2016 at 3:14PM, Edited June 24, 3:15PM

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It's especially strange since this article appears to even be ignorant of other articles posted on no film school.

June 26, 2016 at 3:39PM

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Sam M
249

...WRONG: night flights are NOT allowed - it is civil twilight that is OK with the new laws - 1/2 hour before sunrise and half hour after sunset, WITH a beacon visible at 3 miles...

June 24, 2016 at 4:30PM

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zander lane
Director of Photography
1

But, the info graphic says that night time flights (as well as flights without line of sight or over people not associated with your production) can be approved by waiver. So you can do it, you just have to call someone and get a permit.
Here in Germany, commercial pilots with a drone above a certain weight (I think it is 5 pounds) have to get a written permission for EVERY flight. I am told it is easy to get this, but still, you need have it for every single take-off.

June 24, 2016 at 9:56PM, Edited June 24, 9:59PM

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BAM, a huge pound in the face for all the creative people out there who could finaly beef up their productions.

Back to the old days... when we hunted with stick and stones; hiring a licensed pilot to shoot your multiK aerial establishing shot . . . sigh . . .

Stupidity tried, and succeeded . . .

I hope there are developers that are able to make stealth drones in order to bypass these idiotic law-hugging typo's.

June 24, 2016 at 5:21PM

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Arnold Veeman
Music Composer | Film Editor
134

This is false. It's actually easier for commercial pilots as before you had to get a pilots license to do commercial work. Now you don't. If you are a hobbyist, rules at still the same.
The article is very misleading because the rules are more lenient now for commercial drone pilots.

June 24, 2016 at 5:36PM

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what an ignorant point of view. The rules are common sense. Those that fly drones should have an understanding of what else might be flying up there. How do you propose to avoid low flying aircraft if your drone is on an autonomous flight path? And don't try and tell me there aren't low flying aircraft. In some areas it's pretty common.

June 24, 2016 at 6:49PM

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I don't know why everyone is complaining - now you only need to pass an aeronautical test to obtain your 'Remote Pilot Certificate'. Previously you needed a pilot's license which costs a lot of money and requires a lot of time.

I for one am incredibly happy, I waited 8 months for my 333 exemption and am now thrilled I don't need to spend more time and money to obtain my pilot's license. If anything the FAA made it MUCH easier to fly commercially. The 400ft rule has been around awhile, nothing new.

June 26, 2016 at 11:54AM, Edited June 26, 11:54AM

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Alex Bolen
Cinematographer
144

Because people shouldn't need to jump through any of these bureaucratic hoops to begin with; THAT is why we're complaining.

June 26, 2016 at 10:37PM

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David West
Filmmaker
1006

"bureaucratic hoops " exist because idiot people exist. If you honestly believe you should fly your drone whenever and wherever you want with no thought of what else is up there, you're one of them. Do you drive at night while blindfolded? From an actual pilot's perspective, that's basically what you're saying is OK.

June 27, 2016 at 1:34PM

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"bureaucratic hoops" Really? Are you kidding? You do know drones could potentially hurt or kill someone? The requirements by the FAA seem fair to me.

June 28, 2016 at 4:14AM

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The FAA is ridiculous. Government mess up our lives more will you? And don't tell me this is better than section 333, I know it is, but why the heck did section 333 come up? Get out of my small business FAA.

June 29, 2016 at 1:38PM, Edited June 29, 1:38PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1774