Before you fly a drone that weighs more than 8.8 ounces, you need to register it. And if you plan to use it for anything related to work or commercial ventures, you need to do more than register.
The US Court of Appeals in Washington has barred the FAA from requiring non-commercial drones to be registered with the FAA. The existing rules for commercial use, and where drones are permitted to fly, is still in force.
View current FAA guidance on unmanned aircraft systems
Last August, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set forth a new regulation regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones. Drones may have been viewed by some, at least early on, as toys not unlike model aircraft. However, drones are definitely not used as toys by the military, and companies and U.S. bureaucracies like NOAA and The Department of the Interior are eager to use drones, especially instead of manned helicopters due to potential savings in fuel and labor. If your drone weighs less than .55 pounds, your drone is essentially a toy and is not required to be registered. If you fly for fun and it weighs more than .55 pounds, you have to register the UAV before you fly it, regardless of the purpose or whether the operator has a certificate. Flying for commercial reasons is regulated under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation Part 107.
The regulation governing drones for commercial use, also referred to as Part 107 (FAA’s PDF here), states that UAVs must:
Furthermore, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) conducts a security background check of applicants before a certificate is issued. Model aircraft already have criteria established by the FAA and are not affected by Part 107.
The FAA action sets a precedent for considering drones with gravitas. Drones have great potential for cost savings and for accomplishing activities that are too hazardous for manned aircraft. Drones can be used to assist in putting out wildfires, automate extra package deliveries from the roof of a delivery vehicle in the area, assist in weather forecasting with data gathering, and investigate large areas of land for wildlife management, criminal investigation, and archaeological mapping and discoveries.
Drones can do much more than shoot video. Lightweight, wireless electronics can be mounted for in-flight data gathering. For example, TE Connectivity has a small Bluetooth®-enabled, weatherproof barometric pressure sensor that’s Android™, iOS, and Win 7 compatible (P/N MS5637.) TE Connectivity also has a MEAS MS5837-02BA01 ultra-small pressure sensor for altimeter and barometric measurements. The sensor uses a very precise 24-bit ADC that measures an altitude resolution (at sea level) of just 13cm of air.
It’s my hope that drones can inspire more creativity the DIY/ Maker community, to creatively accomplish tasks with drones using lightweight, wireless devices. The better, longer-running drones are more expensive than what most can afford, but even experimenting with an 8-ounce drone can engender the kind of skill set that a kid will need to become a PIC someday for commercial drone operation. (Yes, drones are already creating jobs.)
Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)
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