Clearer skies are ahead for American businesses betting on drones.
New rules by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) go into effect Monday, clarifying what is acceptable commercial usage of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.
Commercial drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, fly up to a maximum of 400 feet in altitude, at a speed of no more than 100 miles per hour, and can only be operated during daytime and up to 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset, according to the FAA rules. Drone operators must also qualify for flying certificates and be at least 16 years old.
Previously, drone operators had to apply for special waivers from the FAA—a time-consuming and pricey process—to use UAVs for business.
"The current FAA scheme requires commercial drone operators to spend months waiting for an exemption and to employ a pilot with a manned aircraft license from the FAA. Those high barriers to entry have prevented many companies from exploring the benefits of drones in their industry, and have been a source of frustration for business owners for years," DJI, the world's biggest commercial drone-maker, explained in a June statement.
The new rules will allow drones to be put to work in construction, surveying, agriculture, firefighting, search and rescue, conservation, academic research, film and video production and countless other fields that will benefit from an affordable aerial perspective, DJI said in a Friday press release.
Operators still need to apply for waivers if they seek to fly drones at night, above 400 feet and in other specific types of operations, the FAA noted.
The new rules could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years, the FAA said, citing industry estimates.