Drones for Commercial Use


Drones for Commercial Use

Drones were first used by the military to perform jobs too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft. Drones have an increasing number of uses ranging from performing military operations to inspecting pipelines to locating valuable resources. They are also very versatile depending on their needed function: they come in varying sizes, can handle various loads (lethal and non-lethal), and can be controlled remotely or fly autonomously. Due to risky environments that drones are frequently sent into, they are often engineered to be expendable—lightweight and cost-efficient—while still being durable and high-tech enough to perform these difficult operations. Drones can also help with animal tracking, surveillance, reconnaissance, and news in dangerous areas.


Perhaps because of their versatility and power, drones have become something of a controversial topic. What could at one point put out a devastating forest fire could, at another point, also harm a lot of people. One of the concerns about drones revolves around their growing commercial uses.


Up until this year, drones were only approved to be used for recreational purposes. Only just recently they have been approved for commercial uses—and with specific restrictions. But the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is still figuring out the final rules.


So what constitutes “commercial use”? This is a question that seems easily answered but has caused a bunch of confusion. It would seem that you just can’t use your drone to make money. This might include even selling photos you’ve taken with your drone. However, until the FAA finishes making the solid rules, the parameters for commercial use are still going to be a bit fuzzy.


Let’s get into some of the regulations already in place.


First of all, to fly a drone commercially, you need a pilot’s license. You can’t fly directly above anyone’s head or within 5 miles of an airport. The drone has to weigh less than 55 pounds and has to fly under 500 feet, and you have to make sure to keep it within your line of sight. These rules make a lot of sense and, actually, they’re pretty much the same suggestions for flying a drone for recreation. The only difference is you are suggested to only fly below 400 feet rather than 500. However, the FAA doesn’t regulate recreational use as much.


So which drones are generally being used commercially now? Really, this depends on the preference of the company on which drones they use. I’ve seen a few DJI drones used commercially—such as the Inspire 1 and Phantom 2—though I’m sure there are other brands and types that are also preferred. Mostly, these commercial drones are going to be the same drones you can get yourself from any dealer. It’s just what you’re getting out of your drone that makes the difference.

Right now the rules are being updated, and it can be difficult to get the approval to fly a drone commercially. But, for better or worse, I think the regulations will eventually catch up to the advancing technology. Maybe soon drones will be delivering packages to your doorstep!


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  • Ashley Smith
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