FAA Drone Regulations for Commercial Drone Use
New Drone Laws for Commercial Drone Use
Current Commercial Drone Laws
Whenever a sUAS is being launched for commercial drone use, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that the operator possess a specific authorization, most commonly in the form of a Part 107 Certificate. The FAA first published new drone laws, known as the FAA drone regulations, in June 2016. The new drone laws are also known as Part 107. These Federal Aviation Regulations, or FARs, were the FAA’s first official rules governing commercial drone use. In addition to outlining the operational limitations of sUAS, Part 107 provided requirements for the issuance of a commercial Remote Pilot Certificate with a sUAS rating for commercial drone pilots. A commercial Remote Pilot Certificate, or “drone license” allows a person to get paid for flying a drone. The purpose of the drone license is to ensure that the pilot is familiar with and safely abides by the established FAA drone regulations for commercial drone use.
Since 2016, drone operation has grown exponentially and it was apparent that new rules needed to be established to regulate the expanding industry. In 2020, new drone laws were published in the 2020 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and most sUAS flights for commercial drone use are covered by Part 107. These flights include daylight and the recently amended night flight operations, flying under 55 lbs, less than 100 mph, below 400 ft, maintaining visual line of sight, and within authorized airspace.
Recognizing the importance of accommodating and regulating certain drone operations, the FAA has issued a final rule amending operations over people (107.39), night operations (107.29), and operations over moving vehicles (107.25). This rule will remove the need to apply for and receive waivers to partake in these commercial drone operations if the required training is completed.
If your flights meet those FAA drone regulations under Part 107 and you have a Remote Pilot Certificate with a sUAS rating for commercial drone use, then you are ready to launch your drone!
Old Commercial Drone Laws
Before the new drone laws, any pilot flying for commercial drone use had to first complete a long process through the FAA. Anyone wanting to conduct a commercial flight had to file with the FAA for a 333 Exemption. Commercial pilots paid anywhere from $500 – $5,000 to have a 333 Exemption filed for them. This process usually took anywhere from 4 – 7 months. Once you were finally granted your 333 Exemption, the only people that were actually allowed to fly for commercial drone use were manned aircraft pilots. So, not only did you have to get an exemption from the FAA, but you also had to be a helicopter or airplane pilot.
Once the new FAA drone rules were launched, our UAV Pilot Training School couldn’t wait to teach students how to take and pass the Part 107 exam and how to fly sUAS for commercial drone use. We have put together this guide to FAA drone regulations that will give you a comprehensive understanding of the new drone laws.
Part 107 FAA Drone Regulations for Commercial Drone Use
FAA Drone Regulation: Registration (107.13)
- Any person operating a civil sUAS greater than 0.55 lbs, for whatever reason, must register their aircraft in accordance with Part 47 (Aircraft Registration) or Part 48 (Registration and Marking Requirements for sUAS)
- Registration markings are required to be displayed on the aircraft prior to flight and must be a unique identifier number, legible and durable, and visible or accessible
- If the owner is younger than 13 years old, the sUAS must be registered by a person 13 years of age or older
- To register: registermyuas.faa.gov
FAA Drone Regulation: Safe Operation (107.15)
- No person may operate a civil small unmanned aircraft system unless it is in a condition for safe operation. Prior to each flight, the remote pilot in command must check the sUAS to determine whether it is in a condition for safe operation
- No person may continue flight of the sUA when he or she knows or has reason to know that the sUAS is no longer in a condition for safe operation
FAA Drone Regulation: Medical Conditions (107.17)
- No person may manipulate the flight controls of a sUAS or act as a remote pilot in command, visual observer, or direct participant in the operation of the sUAS if he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of the sUAS
- Physical or Mental Incapabilities: Obvious examples of physical or mental incapabilities that could render a remote PIC, person manipulating the controls, or VO incapable of performing their sUAS operational duties include, but are not limited to, such things as:
- The temporary or permanent loss of the dexterity necessary to operate the CS to safely control the sUA.
- The inability to maintain the required “see and avoid” vigilance due to blurred vision.
- The inability to maintain proper situational awareness of the small UA operations due to illness and/or medication(s), such as after taking medications with cautions not to drive or operate heavy machinery.
- A debilitating physical condition, such as a migraine headache or moderate or severe body ache(s) or pain(s) that would render the remote PIC, person manipulating the controls, or VO unable to perform sUAS operational duties.
- A hearing or speaking impairment that would inhibit the remote PIC, person manipulating the controls, and VO from effectively communicating with each other.
FAA Drone Regulation: Remote Pilot in Command (107.19)
- A remote PIC must be designated before or during the flight of the small unmanned aircraft
- The remote PIC is directly responsible for and is the final authority as to the operation of the sUAS
- The remote PIC must ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other people, other aircraft, or other property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason
- The remote PIC must ensure that the sUAS operation complies with all applicable regulations of Part 107
- the remote PIC must have the ability to direct the small unmanned aircraft to ensure compliance with the applicable provisions of Part 107
FAA Drone Regulation: In-Flight Emergency (107.21)
- In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the remote pilot in command may deviate from any rule of Part 107 to the extent necessary to meet that emergency
- Each remote pilot in command who deviates from a rule under Part 107 must, upon request of the FAA, send a written report of that deviation to the FAA
FAA Drone Regulation: Hazardous Operations (107.23)
No person may:
- Operate a sUAS in a careless or reckless manner as to endanger the life or property of another
- Allow an object to be dropped from a sUAS in a manner that creates an undue hazard to persons or property
FAA Drone Regulation: Moving Operations (107.25)
No persons may operate a sUAS:
- From a moving aircraft or
- For a moving vehicle or waterborne vehicle unless the sUAS is flown over a sparsely populated area and is not transporting another person’s property for compensation or hire
- As per the 2020 FAA Executive Summary Final rule to fly over a moving vehicle the operator:
- Must be Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3, eligible to operate over people, may not maintain sustained flight over moving vehicles; transit operations only.
- For an operation under Category 1, Category 2, or Category 3, the small unmanned aircraft, throughout the operation:
- Must remain within or over a closed- or restricted-access site, and all human beings located inside a moving vehicle within the closed- or restricted-access site must be on notice that a small unmanned aircraft may fly over them; or
- Must not maintain sustained flight over moving vehicles
- For a Category 4 operation, the small unmanned aircraft must:
- Have an airworthiness certificate issued under part 21 of this chapter.
- Be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator. The operating limitations must not prohibit operations over human beings located inside moving vehicles
- For an operation under Category 1, Category 2, or Category 3, the small unmanned aircraft, throughout the operation:
FAA Drone Regulation: Daylight Operations (107.29)
- No person may operate a sUAS at night unless:
- As per 2020 FAA Executive Summary Final rule to be eligible to operate at night:
- Remote pilots in command who wish to conduct sUAS operations at night must complete either the updated initial test or the updated recurrent online training prior to conducting such operations
- Prior to conducting sUAS operations at night, the sUAS must be equipped with anti-collision lights that can be see for 3 statute miles and have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. These anti-collision lights must be operational
- As per 2020 FAA Executive Summary Final rule to be eligible to operate at night:
- No person may operate a sUAS during periods of civil twilight unless the sUAS has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.
- For purposes of the above bullet of daylight operations, civil twilight refers to the following:
- A period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise (except for Alaska)
- A period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset (except for Alaska)
- In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac. The Air Almanac provides tables that are used to determine sunrise and sunset at various latitudes. These tables can also be downloaded from the Naval Observatory and customized for your location here.
FAA Drone Regulation: Visual Line of Sight (107.31)
- With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the operator or visual observer must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to:
- Know the unmanned aircraft’s location
- Determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction of flight
- Observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards
- Determine that the unmanned aircraft does not endanger the life or property of another
- Throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, this ability must be exercised by either:
- The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the sUAS
- A visual observer
FAA Drone Regulation: Visual Observer (107.33)
If a visual observer is used during the aircraft operation, all of the following requirements must be met:
- The remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the sUAS, and the visual observer must maintain effective communication with each other at all times
- The remote pilot in command must ensure that the visual observer is able to see the unmanned aircraft in the manner specified in 107.31
- The remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the sUAS, and the visual observer must coordinate to do the following:
- Scan the aircraft where the small unmanned aircraft is operating for any potential collision hazard; and
- Maintain awareness of the position of the small unmanned aircraft through direct visual observation
FAA Drone Regulation: Multiple sUAS Operations (107.35)
- A person may not operate or act as a remote pilot in command or visual observer in the operation of more than one unmanned aircraft at the same time
FAA Drone Regulation: Hazardous Material (107.36)
A small unmanned aircraft may not carry hazardous material. For purposes of this rules, the term hazardous material is defined as:
- A substance or material determined to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce
FAA Drone Regulation: Right of Way Rules (107.37)
- Each small unmanned aircraft must yield the right of way to all aircraft, airborne vehicle, and launch and reentry vehicles. Yielding the right of way means that the small unmanned aircraft must give way to the aircraft or vehicle and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear
- No person may operate a sUAS so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard
FAA Drone Regulation: Operation Over People (107.39)
No person may operate a sUAS over a human being unless that human being is:
- Directly participating in the operation of the sUAS
- Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable coverage from a failing small unmanned aircraft
- Or the operator is deemed eligible for the following:
- As per the 2020 FAA Executive Summary Final rule to operate over people:
- Category 1 eligible aircraft:
- Small unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 0.55, including everything on board or otherwise attached, and contain no exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin. Remote pilots are prohibited from operating a small unmanned aircraft as a Category 1 operation in sustained flight over open-air assemblies unless the operation meets the requirements for standard remote identification or remote identification broadcast modules established in the Remote ID Final Rule. •
- Category 2 eligible aircraft:
- Remote pilots are prohibited from operating a small unmanned aircraft as a Category 2 operation in sustained flight over open-air assemblies unless the operation meets the requirements for standard remote identification or remote identification broadcast modules established in the Remote ID Final Rule. o Requires means of compliance and declaration of compliance by applicant.
- Category 3 eligible aircraft:
- Must not operate the small unmanned aircraft over open-air assemblies of human beings. o
- May only operate the small unmanned aircraft above any human being if operation meets one of the following conditions:
- The operation is within or over a closed- or restricted-access site and all human beings located within the closed- or restricted-access site must be on notice that a small unmanned aircraft may fly over them
- The small unmanned aircraft does not maintain sustained flight over any human being unless that human being is directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.
- Category 4 eligible aircraft:
- Must have an airworthiness certificate issued under part 21.
- Must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator. The operating limitations must not prohibit operations over human beings.
- Must have maintenance, preventive maintenance, alterations, or inspections performed in accordance with specific maintenance requirements detailed in the final rule.
- Remote pilots are prohibited from operating a small unmanned aircraft as a Category 4 operation in sustained flight over open-air assemblies unless the operation meets the requirements of standard remote identification or remote identification broadcast modules established in the Remote ID Final Rule.
FAA Drone Regulation: Operation in Certain Airspaces (107.41)
- No person may operate a sUAS in Class B, Class, C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from ATC
FAA Drone Regulation: Operation in the vicinity of airports (107.43)
- No person may operate a sUAS in a manner that interferes with operations and traffic patterns at any airport, heliport, or seaplane base
FAA Drone Regulation: Operation in prohibited or restricted areas (107.45
- No person may operate a sUAS in prohibited or restricted areas unless that person has permission from the using or controlling agency
FAA Drone Regulation: Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen (107.47)
- Each person operating an aircraft in an ADIZ or Defense Area must comply with special security instructions issued by the FAA in the interest of national security pursuant to the agreement between the FAA and the Department of Defense (99.7)
FAA Drone Regulation: Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operation (107.49)
An operator must assess the following conditions prior to flight:
- The local weather conditions
- Local airspace and flight restrictions
- Location of people and property on the ground
- Any other ground hazards
The operator must ensure the following prior to flight:
- All persons involved in sUAS operations are informed of operating conditions, emergency proceedures, contingency proceedures, roles and responsibilities, and potential hazards
- Ensure the control links on the sUAS and controller are functioning properly
- Ensure there is enough power to operate for the intended amount of time
- Ensure any object carried by the sUAS does not adversely affect the controllability of the aircraft
FAA Drone Regulation: Operating Limitations (107.51)
An operator must comply with all of the following operating limitations when operating a small unmanned aircraft system:
- The airspeed of the sUAS may not exceed 87 knots (100 miles per hour)
- The altitude of the sUAS cannot be higher than 400 feet above ground level, unless the sUAS:
- Is flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure; and
- Does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structures immediate uppermost limit
- The minimum flight visibility, as observed from the location of the ground control station must be no less than 3 statute miles. Flight visibility means the average slant distance from the control station at which prominent unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be seen and identified by night
- The minimum distance of the sUAS from clouds must be no less than 500 feet below clouds and 2,000 feet horizontally away from clouds
Recreational vs Commercial Drone Use Under New Drone Laws
What is Commercial Drone Use?
The Federal Aviation Administration considers any sUAS flight that promotes a business in any way to be a commercial drone flight (also known as non-recreational). Under FAA drone rules, all commercial drone flights must be conducted by a pilot with Part 107 certification.
Commercial Drone Use Examples:
- Real Estate Photography
- Aerial Mapping
- Inspections (roof, tower, structural)
- Surveying Land
- Emergency Management
- Filming videography for a business
Recreational Drone Use
Flying for fun, known as recreational flying,now called “The Exception for Limited Operation of Unmanned Aircraft (USC 44809), does not require a Part 107 certification since these flights are not for commercial drone use. The only requirements for recreational users are that the drone must be under 55 pounds and that FAA safety guidelines are followed at all times.
Recreational Use Examples:
- Taking photos for your own personal use
- Flying in your backyard (remember: you must register your drone if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs even if you are just flying in your backyard)
- Capturing footage at a family reunion
- Operations for personal interests and enjoyment
Waivable Part 107 FAA Drone Rules for Commercial Drone Use
The drone operations listed below are not legal under the new drone laws. These operations are not covered under Part 107 and would need FAA authorization via Certificate of Waiver (CoW) in order to legally fly.
- 100 mph or faster
- Flying higher than 400 ft
- sUAS weighing more than 55 lbs
- Flying beyond visual line of sight
It’s important to understand that even with a Part 107 certificate or professional UAV pilot training, the above flights can not be performed without a proper waiver authorized by the FAA.
DARTdrones UAV Pilot Training
The information needed to pass the Part 107 exam to legally fly drones for business purposes can be overwhelming. The FAA drone regulations not only have to be understood, but you must also know how to apply the new drone laws into real-life situations. DARTdrones UAV Pilot Training School offers courses to help understand the FAA drone rules, pass the Part 107 exam, and get you launched in the drone industry!
Take a look at our UAV Pilot Training Courses
DARTdrones UAV Pilot Training School has an elite team of instructors who are not only Part 107 certified, but are also manned aircraft pilots and have the knowledge to teach from an aviation perspective. We offer UAV Pilot Training courses in 40+ cities across the country and have trained thousands of pilots. In our Part 107 test prep course, we will teach you everything you need to know to pass the Part 107 exam including all FAA drone regulations, hands-on chart study, and how to actual take the Part 107 test.
FAQ's About Part 107 FAA Drone Rules
What is considered a sUAS?
A small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) is an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 lbs on takeoff, including everything that is attached to the aircraft. The term also includes the small UA’s associated elements that are required for safe and efficient flight.
How can I fly a drone for business?
Study the FAA drone rules and pass the Part 107 exam. After receiving your certification, you can legally fly for commercial drone use.
I work for a federal, state, or local government office. How can I legally fly?
You can fly under the new drone laws (obtaining a Part 107 certification) or apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for specific sUAS operations.
Do the new drone laws apply to hobbyists?
No. The FAA drone rules do not apply if the drone is being flown strictly for fun or recreational use.
Can I fly a drone to cover breaking news?
Yes, as long as the flight is covered under the Part 107 rules. However, if capturing the breaking news requires flight over people, flying at night, or any other non Part 107 operation, you must request a Part 107 waiver. You can apply for a waiver here.
How can I tell which class of airspace I’m in?
Under the FAA drone regulations, you will need to pass the Part 107 exam which will test you on aeronautical charts and how to determine which class of airspace you’re in. Click here for reference.
How exactly do I mark my sUAS with the registration number?
You must have a unique registration number for your sUAS for commercial drone use and recreational use if the sUAS weighs more than 0.55 lbs. You may use a permanent marker, label, or engraving as long as the number remains attached and visible on the aircraft during all operations.
Under the Part 107 FAA Drone Rules, do I need to report accidents while flying?
If the accident results in serious injury, loss of consciousness, or causes damage to a property with repair costs greater than $500, the remote PIC must report the accident to the FAA within 10 days from when it occurred.
Where can I find TFRs?
Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) can be found here.