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Drone Registration Will Have Little Impact on Businesses

Logan Campbell - Logan@Aerotas.com

Early this week, the FAA published the recommendations of their task force on drone registration, unleashing a flurry of analysis about what this will mean for the nascent drone industry.  While much of the discussion has been focused on the consumer and hobbyist aspects of the market, we at Aerotas are focused on commercial users of the technology.  Though there exist some significant challenges associated with the new set of recommendations, ultimately businesses using drones will not be significantly impacted by these recommendations. 

 

Key Requirements of Task Force Recommendations

  • Includes all UAS that weigh more than 250 grams
  • Requires that individual pilots register
  • Requires pilots to affix their number to each UAS they own or fly
  • Offers no exceptions for hobbyists or AMA members
  • Mandates that standard of safety should be higher than for general aviation
  • Full details here

The biggest question with the registration proposal is whether or not it will be effective in deterring dangerous behavior among UAS pilots.  Though registration may limit the sales of consumer models, the effectiveness of these rules is unlikely to have any direct impact on business operations.

Through the 333 exemption process, businesses already commit to operating at a significantly higher degree of safety, responsibility, and accountability than consumer operators.  To operate legally and within the guidelines of common insurance policies, companies already have to register their aircraft, and operate under a set of safety guidelines beyond what the new recommendations suggest.  The new registration proposal does not increase the burden beyond what businesses already have to do.

The only minor impact on businesses will be the need for pilots to individually register, and to track how pilots are registered on each UAS they fly.  Given that an essential factor of an effective UAS program for businesses is workflow integration and operational management, these requirements will only necessitate slight modifications to those current systems.

For businesses interested in using drones, these recommendations don’t materially change the requirements for operating safely and legally.  What will be material, and what should be watched closely, is the announcement of the final form of part 107, the rules for integrating commercial use of UAS into the national airspace.  These rules are expected to be announced in early 2016, but no official date has been announced yet.  They will have considerably more impact on businesses than the registration requirements. 

These recommendations do not present any undue burden on businesses that they don’t already have to deal with under current regulations.  If the implementation of these rules improves the public perception of drones, then they could actually help accelerate the acceptance of drones in commercial use cases.  Though the ultimate success of these recommendations is still very much in question, businesses need not worry about having to deal with the consequences of this specific rule. 

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Logan is the founder and CEO of Aerotas.  He graduated from Harvard Business School in 2015 and brings experience in a broad range of industries, including agriculture, real estate, and finance.  A lifelong tinkerer and avid UAV enthusiast, Logan also has hundreds of hours of flight experience over a broad set of different UAV types.