John S. Duncan, Director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Standards Service issued an Advisory Circular detailing new rules designed to regulate and phase in small commercial drones.

It is a first step in the government’s efforts to properly regulate and harness the explosive growth in commercial drones.  The regulations take a cautious approach, setting guidelines that clearly curtail the machines from realizing their fullest capabilities.  Drones are limited to an altitude of 400 feet,  55 pounds and must fly within the line of site of the operator.

Michael P. Huerta, the Administrator of the FAA explained that “With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety.  This is just our first step,” he said. “We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

The new rules limit commercial drones to mostly daylight hours and require certification every two years.  Operators can be as young as 16, need to read and write English, be of sound physical and mental state and pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test.  Interestingly, fully certificated pilots can take an abbreviated online training course to receive their commercial drone license.