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FAA eases restrictions on UAV operation

h2013_UAV_demo_InfoAgThe Federal Aviation Administration has eased restrictions for commercial operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Jamie Nafziger, a law partner at Dorsey & Whitney says the rule is an improvement over the cumbersome and time consuming waivers that were previously required.  “When you needed to get a waiver you had to file a written petition that took quite some time to put together and then you had to wait 60 to 90 days for the FAA to approve it,” she says.  “It added some costly delays – especially considering growing seasons for the agriculture industry.  Now we won’t have to do that.”

The rule, (called Part 107), says UAVs must weigh under 55 pounds and require the pilot to pass a written, UAV specific, aeronautical knowledge test.  Previously, under the waiver system, operators had to have a commercial pilot’s license to get approved.

Nafziger says that has changed.  “There will be more types of operators of drones permitted,” she says.  “So it should make it less expensive for farmers to hire someone to operate a drone – or farmers can now do that themselves.”

The new rule still requires that UAVs be flown in daylight and remain in the operators line of sight.  But, she says there is an addition to the line-of-sight requirement that should benefit the operators.  “The new rule allows you to have a helper, called a visual observer, who could be somewhere else on your property – and be in communication with the operator,” she says.  “You can now fly the drone where the visual observer can see it as well.”

While this is a federal rule, Nafziger says several states have their own UAV rules that owners and operators also need to follow.

The federal rule will go into effect in late August.

AUDIO: Jamie Nafziger, Dorsey & Whitney

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