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Drones Take to the Skies as FAA Finalizes Flight Rules

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the first ever operational rules for commercial unmanned aircraft systems under 55 pounds, commonly referred to as drones.

Operating drones, which is the replacement for flying model planes for the millennial generation, has become a rather popular hobby over the last couple years, with a professional racing league developing alongside the casual flyers.

Drones have also become more important in society, and people have found uses for them other than entertainment. Corrupt governments are using them to spy on their people, farmers are using drones to survey their land and count their herd, filmmakers and photographers are using them to capture aerial images, and some companies are even looking into using drones to make deliveries.

Jason Miller, an Obama economic advisor, said the rules are the first step toward fully integrating drones into the national airspace system.

Up until these recent rules, commercial drone operators had to operate under the rules that governed a manned aircraft, making the process for legally flying a drone difficult and expensive to achieve. This caused many drone pilots to take to the skies illegally.

Under the new rules released Tuesday, drone operators will have to register their drones online, pass an aviation knowledge exam for drone pilots, and then they are free to go.

The downside to the rules is that the operators have to follow many of the same rules that model aircraft hobbyists have to follow, such as always keeping the drone within sight, not flying over individuals, and not exceeding 400 feet in altitude. Flying drones at night is also banned.

Operators can still seek waivers that would allow them to fly at night and fly beyond the sight of operators if they are equipped with the correct equipment.

Flights over cities and heavily populated areas are still banned, temporarily putting an end to the dream of drones dropping off small packages only minutes after they were ordered.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has announced that the agency is still researching how drone deliveries could safely work in cities, but has not given a timetable. Google and Amazon have both said that they are expecting to deliver packages by drone sometime in 2017.

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