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By Marcos Osorno, Chief Technology Officer at Skyward

Launching a commercial operation in a new (and highly regulated) market requires calculated choices about business goals, the regulatory environment, the competitive landscape, and timing.

For the past four years, the FAA has required commercial drone operators in the United States to have a 333 Exemption. This has been a major regulatory hurdle for early adopters and business innovators.

But, the FAA is expected to finalize formal rules for commercial UAVs in late spring. Titled Part 107, the new rules are expected to lower the barrier to entry for new commercial drone programs.

So, if you are on the verge of launching a commercial drone operation today, you have a few choices:

  1. Operate without permission from the FA

  2. Apply for a 333 Exemption from the FAA

  3. Wait for the FAA to finalize formal rules (Part 107)

The centerpiece of this post is a chart comparing operations under a 333 or a Part 107 based on current knowledge of the expected rule. There are also a couple of handy aerial maps showing fly/no fly zones under the two rules. And there is a great deal of very good business advice.
To be clear, no one actually knows when Part 107 will come into effect so an unsolvable variable is time and opportunity cost.
Jeremiah Karpowicz writing for Commercial UAV News did an excellent follow-up interview with Osorno which developed some of the key differences. Here are a couple of things from that interview that stood out.

Q: As you mention in your article, the new rules are generally more permissive than the existing rules. Outside of removing the requirement of having a sport­pilot’s license, which of the new rules do you feel is most significant?

A: The removal of the 500-foot buffer zone opens up a lot more opportunities. To comply with your 333, you must be at least 500 feet from all persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures unless you have legal permission to operate closer than that. Part 107 makes it a lot easier to operate in populated areas and with a
single operator.

In a nutshell under the 333 you are basically operating as an aircraft. Under Part 107, not so much. What was interesting to me – especially since Skyward offers insurance – is that there is no comparison of the costs of cover. In fact, the risk is quite different. With a 333 there is a licensed pilot staying a minimum of 500′ from everything and everybody. Under 107 there is an operator who passed a written exam, has not demonstrated proficiency and who can fly much closer to people and things. Conversely, it is reasonable to project that the 107 operators will form a much
larger class.
One other thought. Based on Mark McKinnon’s excellent analysis of the Industrial Skywork’s night exemption, it seems clear to me that for the foreseeable future, any business that wants to do something outside of the norm will need a 333 to get
an exemption.

Read more at Skyward.io

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