While the FAA has been doing a paltry job, at best, constructing a usable regulatory framework for commercial drone operation, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer has been put together a very reasonable drone bill.
This bill would legalize commercial operations of drones weighing 4.4 pounds or less with a few sensible operating requirements. This bill would cover many of the most popular models, including the enormously popular DJI Phantom series of drones.
The bill would do away with the FAA’s cumbersome exemption process currently in place for these micro UAS. And eliminate many of the expensive and totally unnecessary requirements (from a safety perspective) of the exemption that have turned many a commercial drone operator into a scofflaw in the eyes of the FAA. The bill would eliminate the requirement for a manned aircraft pilot’s license – one of the more absurd FAA requirements and totally unnecessary from a safety perspective – along with dozens of other detailed and also unnecessary requirements and replace them with just these five. The drone would have to operate at:
“(1) less than 400 feet above ground level;
“(2) at an airspeed of not greater than 40 knots;
“(3) within the visual line of sight of the operator;
“(4) during daylight; and“(5) at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of an airport as denoted on a current aeronautical chart published by the Federal Aviation Administration, except that upon notice to the airport operator and air traffic control tower, such airport operator may allow an individual to operate a micro UAS within 5 statute miles of a tower-controlled airport.
If this bill becomes law, it would undoubtably translate into explosive growth in the drone industry. One of the biggest barriers to entry for commercial drone careers today is the FAA’s requirement that all Section 333 exempt drone operators must have a Sport Pilot Certificate rating or better. Earning this rating, even with a hot air balloon as your platform of choice, can be time consuming and pricey.
In today’s commercial drone landscape, the Section 333 Exemption is a strong competitive edge. Under Congressman Blumenauer’s bill, this advantage could very well be nullified. One thing remains true, regardless of the state of this bill, to succeed in this competitive, nascent industry, the real competitive edge is education.