FAA to relax rules for commercial drone pilots

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) – That drone you got for Christmas could start making you money.

The Federal Aviation Administration is relaxing the rules for commercial drone use. Drone 8 is the only news-gathering drone in the Tampa Bay area.

You’ve seen the video of the tornado aftermath in Siesta Key, a stately resort being demolished, and a sinkhole in Tarpon Springs. The footage was shot from the camera on the drone.

P.J. Cook uses his stable of drones to produce video for real estate agents. He sees the relaxed FAA rules as a good thing.

“They’re definitely opening up the gates a little bit wider. So it’s going to be a little bit easier to get into this type of field, so probably a little bit more competition if nothing else,” said Cook.

Gone will be the rule about staying 500 feet away from people. You just can’t fly over their heads. There will be a new test of aeronautical knowledge. It also could mean less experienced flyers.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasts that probably aren’t that much interested in having safety as paramount as the main thing that you’re looking at every time,” said Cook.

Another drone pilot with a positive outlook is Anthony Ison, an aviation attorney in Winter Haven.

“We’re making it easier for people to operate a drone business and make money faster,” said Ison.

He’s hopeful that the revamped rules will mean safer drone flying.

“I see this as a plus because now we’re streamlining the process,” he said. “We’re implementing more educational tools for drone pilots.”

Drone pilots will be required to have a “remote pilot airman certificate” and everyone will be checked out by the Transportation Security Administration.

There is a 60-day “comment period” and then the FAA has to establish testing centers. The rules could be ready by the end of August, but drone pilots are saying it will most likely be in late September.

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