Column: Understanding the new FAA drone regulations

Q: Do the new FAA regulations mean I can finally use a drone in my real estate business soon?

A: The Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday unveiled its proposed regulation for “unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS), which most folks refer to as drones.

At the moment, you cannot use these devices for commercial purposes without the expressed permission of the FAA, which is nearly impossible to get.

Commercial use is currently described by any use in connection with a business, the selling of photos or video taken from a UAS, aerial inspections, security or telecommunications. Basically, if your business benefits from the use, you’re probably in violation of the current FAA rules.

The proposed regulation finally provides a structured outline for commercial use, but the regulations would not apply to recreational use or to model aircraft.

The proposed regulations mandate:

  • The drone must be under 55 pounds
  • The drone must remain in visual line of sight of the operator
  • The drone must remain below 500 feet and fly no faster than 100 mph
  • The drone may not fly over people other than those directly involved with the flight
  • Flights must take place during daylight hours
  • Operators must be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test, pass a TSA background check and have an FAA UAS operator’s certificate.
  • Knowledge testing must be renewed every 24 months
  • The UAS will need to be registered and have aircraft markings, similar to other FAA regulated vehicles

It’s important to understand that these are proposed regulations; they are a long way from becoming ratified. So don’t plan on using your drone any time soon.

The FAA will submit the proposed regulations to the Federal Register, take public comments for 60 days at and hold public meetings to discuss the idea further.

After that, the FAA could make modifications and resubmit the regulations for public comment, if necessary.

Even if they went with exactly what is currently proposed, creating the specific processes and knowledge tests outlined would take some time.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes another year or two before you can even petition to get your UAS operator’s certificate (remember, this is a government agency we’re talking about!).

If you want all the current rules for UAS usage, the FAA encourages you to visit

On a separate note, the drone industry has launched a new website called that allows you to tell them you don’t want drones flying over your private property.

Not all manufacturers are participating, but those that are pledge to hard-code these GPS coordinates into their devices to prevent them from flying over your property.

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