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FAA Expected To Require Pilot License To Operate A Drone Under Strict New Regulations

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The official rules for commercial drones are expected to be released by the end of the year, but according to newspaper report on Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to announce they will require operators to have a pilot license and will limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while the FAA wants to open the skies to unmanned commercial flights, the expected rules are more restrictive than anticipated by drone supporters sought and wouldn't address privacy concerns.

Matt Waite, a professor at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and founder of the Drone Journalism Lab, called the expected rules a "mixed bag."

He said that while the altitude limits and line-of-sight rules are not unexpected—rules that operators be within line of sight of the drone have been on record for about a year. The pilot license requirement however is a major disappointment.

"It's really hard to see why learning how to fly a Cessna is really going to help fly a three-pound quadcopter on the ground." he said.

Radio-controlled helicopters were once difficult to maneuver, but Waite said that due to new GPS and smartphone technology, it has become much easier. Minimal classroom instruction and some practical experience are all that are necessary, he said.

The line-of-sight rules will stand in the way of companies like Amazon that want use drones for making deliveries.

"The FAA has been saying that for sometime, so Amazon's plans have always been on the hopeful side than anything else," Waite said. "For operations like crop monitoring, environmental operating, for journalism and things like that, line of sight is actually not that big of a hurdle."

It would be an impediment, however, for operations monitoring something like pipelines over long distances.

From here we can expect some backlash on the pilot's license guideline. According to Waite, that license may not end up being a "full-blown" pilot's license. "The air traffic controllers unions and the pilot unions are going to be upset about that. On the other hand, small drone manufacturers are going to be upset about having to have a pilot's license at all."

Waite said there are some very large interests invested in drone technology from the defense industry, law enforcement, tech-companies, and big agriculture and that things could get loud and crazy for bit.

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