A Step in the Right Direction: Industry Reaction to Part 107

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Commercial Agricultural Drone, Crop Spraying

Part 107 was only released a few hours ago, but industry reaction has been fast and vocal.  While industry stakeholders – many of whom have been active participants in efforts to develop the new rule –  have largely praised the FAA for getting the Small UAS Rule completed, some have warned that the new rule does not go far enough to support the burgeoning industry.

“This is a watershed moment in how advanced technology can improve lives, as the Small UAS Rule allows companies, farmers, researchers and rescue services alike to explore how drones can let them do more at a lower cost and a lower risk,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs, in a company statement.  Schulman has been deeply involved for years in the regulatory process to create Part 107, and has been an active participant in the drone registration task force and other FAA policy committees. “After years of work, DJI and other advocates for reasonable regulation are pleased that the FAA now has a basic set of rules for integrating commercial drone operations into the national airspace. There is more work ahead, and DJI thanks the FAA for encouraging the development of transformative aerial technology while ensuring the safety of those on the ground and in the air.”

The “more work ahead” referred to may be rules that would allow for expanded industrial operations, such as flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), over people, or at altitudes higher than 400 feet; issues that Part 107 does not address.  Big industry players like DJI indicate relief to see some step forward in regulations – but understand that they’ll be called upon again to represent commercial interests in Washington as drone regulations evolve.  DJI’s ‎North American Corporate Communications Director, Adam Lisberg, tells DRONELIFE: “The White House and the FAA today are saying drones bring real benefits to America, ought to be expanded for more non-recreational uses and can be safely integrated into the national airspace. That’s a big step forward not just for the drone industry but for everyone who will benefit from their use. The FAA wants to see more creative ideas for how to realize the full potential of drones, and we’re happy to work with them going forward on how drone technology can be safely expanded.”

Mike Winn, co-founder and CEO of drone mapping and analytics company DroneDeploy – whose business has expanded across the country even with the system of Section 333 Exemptions in place – is encouraged by the release of the new regulations.  Winn tells DRONELIFE that the new rules will help to further expand what is already a growth industry:  “DroneDeploy has seen very strong growth in the U.S., despite the absence of clear regulation. Now, with the introduction of Part 107, we expect to see even stronger adoption and higher compliance for commercial drones, particularly among larger companies… Many large companies are already using commercial drones within parts of their business. Now with the introduction of Part 107, they will not only have the regulatory clarity needed to invest in drones, but also the ability to certify sufficient drone operators, to start leveraging commercial drones across their entire operations.”

Only One Step

Other companies, however, have been more muted in their praise.  Flirtey, the Australian startup credited with making the first drone delivery in the United States, also published a statement – warning that the US is at risk of falling behind in the drone industry due to lagging regulations.  “This is a step in the right direction for the industry and a signal that the FAA is listening to the public demand for thoughtful and progressive drone regulation. It, however, is only one step,” says the Flirtey statement.  “As a company that worked with the FAA to conduct the first FAA-approved drone delivery and the first fully autonomous drone delivery in an urban setting, we know that safety can be balanced with more progressive rules that allow drone companies like ours to transform humanitarian response, delivery systems and logistics networks.

Saying that priority in streamlined certification should be granted to companies with existing safety track records, the Flirtey statement is direct about the consequences of moving slowly: “…Countries like New Zealand are currently leading the charge in creating risk-based regulations for commercial drone applications, and the FAA must move quickly to assure the U.S. does not fall behind in the rapidly advancing global growth of drones.”

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