The drone industry is expected to expand dramatically in the coming months and years with the passing of a new rule (PDF) that makes it easier to become a commercial drone operator. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts there to be roughly 600,000 drones to be used commercially within the next year. NPR reports: “For context, the FAA says that 20,000 drones are currently registered for commercial use. What’s expected to produce a 30-fold increase in a matter of months is a new rule that went into effect today and makes it easier to become a commercial drone operator. Broadly, the new rules change the process of becoming a commercial drone pilot: Instead of having to acquire a traditional pilot’s license and getting a special case-by-case permission from the regulators, drone operators now need to pass a new certification test and abide by various flying restrictions (and, well, be older than 16). The rest of the drone safety rules still apply: No flights beyond line-of-sight, over people, at night, above 400 feet in the air or faster than 100 miles an hour. Drones also can’t be heavier than 55 pounds, and all unmanned aircraft have to be registered. Businesses, however, may get special wavers to skip some of the restrictions if they can prove they can do so safely. The drone association expects the industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion for the economy in the first 10 years of being integrated into the national airspace. The FAA is also working on new rules that eventually will allow drone flights over people and beyond line of sight.”
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