“Monday is a big day. We’re introducing a brand new rule,” Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s drone integration office, said during a congressional briefing last week. “We’ve done that before, but we don’t usually have as much interest.”
Until now, commercial drone operators have been forced to apply for a special “333 waiver” exemption from the FAA if they wanted to fly unmanned aircraft systems, a lengthy and expensive process. About 5,000 drones are currently operating under the 333 waiver.
In June, the FAA finalized a long-anticipated rule that permits commercial drone use for aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.
Under the regulation, which takes effect today, operators will just need to register their drones online, pass an aviation knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center and be at least 16 years old.
Lawrence said 3,351 aspiring pilots already signed up to take the written test on Monday, and 20,000 operators have registered commercial drones that will be able to take flight under the new rule.
The FAA has been ramping up for the influx of new drone pilots. Operators will be able to start their applications online but Lawrence warned that “it may be an automated front portal, but on the back end, we’re doing a lot of things manually until we have the resources to completely automate it.”
For more information, start here: Federal Drone Registration