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Drone Regulation and Licensing Evolve, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

In August 2016, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a set of regulations and requirements for business use of small, unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.  The rules, referred to as “Part 107,” require certification of drone pilots (who must pass a test on aeronautical knowledge) and general safety guidelines for flying drones during daylight hours or with anti-collision lighting during twilight hours, keeping below altitudes of 400 feet and staying below a maximum speed of 100 mph.  Pilots must keep the drone in sight, are not allowed to fly more than one unit at a time and are not allowed to fly drones over people who are not involved in operating the drone.
The establishment of Part 107 is expected to be the first in a long list of rules governing the use of drones.  Additional rules are expected that will extend the line-of-sight requirement (considered by some people to be a must for drones to be allowed to make deliveries) and allow drones to be flown over people.
There are some in the drone community who believe the federal safety rules are unnecessarily strict.  A 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended comprehensive changes, which would rewrite drone rules to resemble those for certain limited-use private planes or on-road vehicles.
In January 2021, the FAA approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights.  The approval does have limits, which include drone operation only in rural areas at altitudes of under 400 feet.  In late 2020, the FAA established requirements for remote identification of drones and new safeguards for flights overpopulated areas and at night.
A number of U.S. firms including,, General Electric Co., Boeing Co. and Alphabet, Inc. in conjunction with NASA, are working to establish a privately funded and operated air-traffic control system (separate from the FAA) for drones.  Called UAS Traffic Management (UTM), the system would be based on digital sharing of each user’s planned flight details.  Supporters of the idea hope to have a system to track and prevent collisions accessed via cellular and web applications.
In other countries, the rules for drones differ.  France and Switzerland, for example, allow some flight beyond the visual line of sight.  Starting in 2018, Japan allowed delivery drones to operate. 

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