FAA Loosens Commercial Drone Regulations

FAA Loosens Commercial Drone Regulations
Photo: Aviation Systems Engineering Co. drone pilot Mike Marrinan launches an unmanned aerial vehicle in Nassau Sound as part of research project for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in June.

FAA loosens commercial drone regulations, First Coast company hopes to train operators

By Drew Dixon of Times-Union/Jacksonville.com Mon, Aug 29, 2016 @ 2:47 pm | updated Mon, Aug 29, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

New Federal Aviation Administration rules covering commercial drone use went in to affect Monday and a First Coast business is hoping to capitalize on the development that’s likely to lead to more drone use than ever before.

In a prepared statement, the FAA announced the enactment of three key elements that will make it easier to operate commercial drones:

■ The FAA is permitting waivers that ease some restrictions on commercial drones that used to be more tightly regulated through a licensing program. Applications can be filled out at faa.gov/UAS.

■ There are new airspace authorizations that, given appropriate conditions and safety justifications through applications at the FAA website, will permit some commercial drones to fly within an airport’s airspace which often includes a 5-mile radius.

■ A new aeronautical knowledge test that is being administered nationwide that grants an FAA remote pilot certificate instead of a previously more stringent pilot’s license to operate commercial drones.

Brent Klavon is one of the biggest advocates of commercial drone aviation in Florida and is the director of commercial drones at Aviation Systems Engineering Co. in Jacksonville. He’s also the president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Florida Peninsula chapter, who has been using commercial drones for going on two years.

ASEC was one of the first companies in Northeast Florida to get commercial drone approval in 2015 from the FAA. In addition to providing drone use for clients, Klavon has wanted ASEC to provide a drone training center and tutorial service.

With Monday’s developments, Klavon said ASEC will likely begin operations of the drone education center in September, most likely at a cost of $300 per one-day, eight-hour course with that price varying depending on custom services offered by his instructors.

“We’re hoping that there’s a strong enough demand signal that people want to get ready to take the test. They can go to the Internet and take an online course. Or they can come see ASEC,” Klavon said. “You can have certified instructors like myself who have gone through a course and hopefully better prepare you to pass the [FAA] exam.”

The applications for the waivers, exams and FAA requirements cost $150 and if an applicant doesn’t pass the test first time, they have to pay that fee each time they take the exam until they pass, Klavon said.

“We’re hoping that investing in an instructor course like ours that you’re prepared for the first time you take the test,” Klavon said. “The only reason why we’ve even started this is because we’ve had multiple inquiries from the public.”

Klavon is not overstating the demand for commercial drone use.

The Washington Post reported Monday that FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. has been slammed with demand for the certifications for commercial drone use. As of early Monday morning when the rules went into effect, the FAA had received roughly 3,000 requests for those commercial drone pilot certifications.

ASEC and Klavon have been at the forefront of advocating commercial licenses for drone operations for the past few years. The FAA held off on issuing commercial licenses for years as the federal agency finalized regulations for the devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and 2015 was the first year when commercial drones began to be given permission for flight.

Those interested in ASEC’s drone education program can visit their website at asecdrones.com.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098