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Local pilot responds to commercial drone proposal

Federal Aviation Administration proposes rules for small commercial drones

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Commercial drone use could officially be taking off thanks to new rules and regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sunday, the FAA announced its plans for governing small commercial drones so they can safely share the sky with full-scale aircraft.

Right now, getting a waiver from the FAA for commercial drone use is pretty rare. Only about 28 waivers have been given.

People who fly drones for a hobby, however, can use drones as long as they always have full sight of it, don't fly it above 400 feet and alert air traffic control if the drone is within 5 miles of an airport.
 
According to the FAA's proposal, commercial drones weighing 55 pounds or less would be able to fly during daylight hours within sight of their remote pilots. The drones wouldn't be allowed to go above 500 feet or more than 100 miles per hour. The pilot would need to be at least 17 years old and would be required to pass an aeronautics test.

"The new regulations, somewhat of a surprise -- a very pleasant surprise in that there will be knowledge-based portions, there will be a test and certification, and people will be held responsible for what they're doing," said KC Sealock of UAV-Outlet, which sells recreational drones.
 
One of the biggest concerns people have about drones is that they'll be at home, watching TV or doing whatever they do in the privacy of their own house, and a drone could be spying on them.

"The big boogie man is the privacy side of it," Sealock said. "Obviously, people that are going to use this for that type of situation should be taken to task, should be held responsible, because there are already laws and regulations against that sort of thing and in using this, it's a tool just like anything else."
 
Sealock said he's part of a group called SWARM that has more than 200 members across the globe who volunteer their time to help police agencies during emergency search situations. He said they don't charge anything right now, but even if they are able to start charging a fee as commercial drones, it would be much more cost-effective for local agencies.
 
"We are volunteers going out and helping out in these situations," Sealock said. "Where a small local area may not have access to an aircraft, or may not have the budget to have their own aircraft, and like you said as far as commercial, we're not charging we're going out and doing this, but even on a commercial side of this, for that group to be able to afford air support, they could do this on a much tighter budget than going with a full-scale aircraft."
 
One major company that could be affected by the new regulations is Amazon. The online retail giant had plans to charge customers a fee to use a drone delivery service, but because of the new regulations, the company doesn't believe that plan is going to be possible.