New FAA Rules Will Make Commercial Drone Photography Easier

By Tom Burton

The Federal Aviation Administration has finalized new rules for the operation of drones that will open business opportunities, including aerial photography for news organizations. The FAA rules that take effect in August do not directly address privacy issues connected to photography or video captured by unmanned aircraft.

In a press release on June 21, 2016, the FAA acknowledged the business models developing around drone technology,  with these rules, could help generate an estimated $82 billion and more than 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

The small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have exploded in popularity in recent years but their use has been limited to hobbyists. The new rules for commercial purposes include allowing drones that weigh less than 55 pounds that fly at a maximum 400-foot altitude during daylight hours. Pilots must have line-of-sight on the aircraft and the drones can not fly over people. Pilots will have to pass a licensing test by the Transportation Security Administration, but will not have to be licensed airplane pilots.

The National Press Photographers Association general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher has been an advocate for updated rules for commercial drone use. The NPPA is part of the News Media Coalition which has advocated for the use of drones for newsgathering. Osterreicher has met with the FAA and congressional staff to discuss these issues as well as participated in stakeholder meetings held by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency regarding UAS privacy best practices.