By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
After years of study, meetings and hearings, the FAA today approved routine commercial use of small drones, including those used for news coverage. Flights can begin as early as mid-August, 60 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register. From the beginning, RTDNA has been on the front lines of this issue and we applaud the Obama administration for finally allowing the technology to take flight without special permission.
There are limitations: the drones must weigh no more than 55 pounds; must be operated only during daylight hours and within sight of the operator; and they may fly no higher than 400 feet.
But even with those considerations in place, the ability of a journalistic organization to fly an unmanned craft opens up an entirely new aspect of newsgathering.
Safety remains of paramount concern. That’s why flights over people or near airports won’t be permitted. And operators, while not needing a pilot’s license, will still have to pass a basic aviation knowledge test and register their drones.
Many other issues still need to be addressed, but today’s announcement represents a big step forward for news organizations and other commercial applications. Be assured RTDNA will continue to be your advocate in the days ahead as the FAA and other agencies continue to develop and expand the regulations for unmanned aircraft.