For the first time, the FAA will allow small commercial drones to fly short distances over people and at night without a waiver. Small drones will also be permitted to fly over moving vehicles under limited conditions.
In a change from a previous proposed draft of the rules, drone operators must also have their remote pilot certificates on their persons and ready to be displayed if challenged by the authorities.
“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”
The agency said it submitted the rule changes to the Federal Register and that it expects the them to be published in January. The new regulations will take effect 60 days after publication.
Industry advocates said there are still many steps ahead before that drone delivery can truly go mainstream in the US — such as opening up the rules to allow routine drone flights beyond an operator’s visual line of sight.
Those types of expanded operations “are critical to fully realizing the promise of [drone] technology to deliver innumerable economic and societal benefits,” said the Small UAV Coalition, an industry advocacy group.
Still, the changes could give a boost to companies that have all explored shipping goods via unmanned aircraft.
Pilots will also no longer be required to undergo an in-person training test every two years. Instead, they may complete the test online.