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C.O. drone professionals cheer word of new FAA rules


New drone rules from the Federal Aviation Administration were released Tuesday after being in the works for about a year.

Central Oregon drone experts said the new rules will make it easier and less costly for drone users to operate commercially. They also said the regulations will likely lead to more jobs and more business opportunities money.

“We’re going to go from a few thousand legal commercial operations to tens or even hundreds of thousands probably within the next 12 months,” said SOAR Oregon Executive Director Chuck Allen.

The FAA released a 642-page document outlining the new rules for commercial drone operation.

Warm Springs Drone Test Range Communications Manager Aurolyn Stwyer said the new rules are going to make it easier to fly.

“In the past, it used to demand an airline pilot license, which is very expensive and very long-term,” Stwyer said.

Under the new rules, people will have to take a test to operate drones, which Chuck said will open up drone use to many. Prior to these fleshed-out rules, it was a time-consuming and costly process to operate a drone, and the new rules make it much easier, Allen said.

The new rules state the drones must stay under 400 feet and must fly within sight of the operator. Drone operators must be at least 16 years old and have passed a written test every two years. The drones must weigh less than 55 pounds.

Allen said the rules are straightforward. “You can now go out and do photography, site inspections, power line inspections — whatever your commercial application happens to be.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., hailed approval of the new rules.

“I am pleased the FAA has published these long-anticipated rules so that unmanned aerial vehicle businesses can continue to take economic flight in Oregon and nationwide,” the senator said.

As far as risks with the new regulations, drone professionals said there aren’t many to worry about.

“Commercial operators are not taking chances,” Allen said. “They’re not flying over people or close to people. They’re not peeping in windows or anything like that.”

Stwyer said the previous regulations kept the U.S. drone industry from advancing as quickly as other countries. She said new the rulings will give the U.S. more opportunities to advance in the industry.

The rules will go into effect at the end of August.

The FAA’s new regulations only affect commercial drone users and don’t change the rules for hobbyist or recreational drone users.

To learn more, here’s the FAA’s news release:

On July 7, the Warm Springs FAA UAS Test Range will have a ground breaking for the Unmanned Aerial Systems Training Center at noon.

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