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Rules & Regulations

What Part 107 Means for You

New commercial drone regulations have finally been passed, but what does it all mean?

June 21, 2016

The home screen of the anticipated online sUAS operator certification test — only an option for those already holding a Part 61 certificate (known as a pilot's license). Those without this certificate must take an in-person knowledge test at an FAA-approved facility.

Updated on Jan. 11, 2017

Part 107, the new legislative FAA requirements for commercial drone use in the U.S., was released this morning. The changes have been awaited by the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) community for years, and make entry into the commercial drone market substantially easier.

It is important to note that these rules went into effect on Aug. 29, and do not apply to hobby or recreational sUAS.

So what does Part 107 mean for you? Read below for a short summary.

Who can fly
  • Anyone 16 years old and up
  • Those who speak, write, and understand the English language
  • Those in physical and mental condition that does not interfere with safe flight practices
  • Those who have been vetted by the Transportation Security Administration

What you have to do
  • Register your aircraft with the FAA and mark the aircraft appropriately
  • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test through an “FAA-approved knowledge testing center” OR if you already hold a Part 61 certificate (often referred to as a pilot’s license), pass an online course (Part 107 training is expected to launch today at www.faasafety.gov)
  • Apply for and receive a remote pilot airman certificate with an sUAS rating
  • Pass a recurring knowledge test every two years
  • Conduct preflight checks to ensure that UAS are in safe operational condition
  • Fly during daylight or civil twilight, within visual line-of-sight (VLOS), under 100 mph, and under 400 feet (generally, fly safely and use common sense)
  • Upon request, supply your sUAS to the FAA for inspection and testing
  • Report to the FAA within 10 days of any incident resulting in serious injury or property damage exceeding $500 (not including damage to your aircraft)

What you can do
  • Operate sUAS that weigh less than 55 lbs. (including payloads) for commercial purposes
  • Fly without a visual observer (unless you are breaking VLOS with the drone, as in use of FPV devices — then a visual observer is required)
  • Operate without an FAA airworthiness certification, pilot’s license, or Section 333 exemption
  • Save a significant amount of money and time compared to the Section 333 exemption process
  • File waivers for FAA exemptions to many of the requirements, if needed (similar to the 333 exemption filing process)
"These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives."
In a press release, the FAA said, "These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives." The FAA anticipates that it will be able to issue remote pilot certificates within 10 business days after receiving completed applications.

Still waiting on your 333 exemption? If your operations are within the limitations of 107, your 333 will automatically be transferred over. If not allowable under Part 107 — for instance, if flying over people or beyond VLOS, your request will remain pending as a 333. The FAA will continue to grant 333 exemptions, which will be good for two years after they are granted.

Jim Williams, former manager of the FAA’s UAS Integration Office and current principal and co-chair of the UAS Practice at Dentons, says Part 107 is an important foundational step for the drone industry.

“By separating the sUAS from the manned aircraft rules, you are essentially creating a whole new structure by which you regulate these aircraft,” he says. “Everything else can be built from this.”

So for those of you who might be disappointed that Part 107 does not go far enough — stay patient. The FAA is continually conducting research into various areas of sUAS operation, and Williams predicts that Part 107 will continue to grow.

“As the FAA learns more, they’ll start to open up more types of operations in different areas,” he says. “More and more opportunities and operational concepts will get approved.”

FAA administrator Michael Huerta corroborated this view in the FAA press release, saying, "This is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

Other pending legislation may have an effect on the legal framework of sUAS operation — including the FAA Reauthorization Act. Read more about that process here.
Featured image: thinkstock.com