New federal rules unleash commercial drones

The first aviation regulations for commercial drones were unveiled Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Government and industry officials say they expect the rules to spur greater growth of a budding industry and inspire new uses for the technology. Key elements of the rules:


—Drones must weigh no more than 55 pounds.

—Operators or an observer working with the operator must keep the drone within sight at all times.

—No flights over people who are not participating directly in the drone's operation.

—Daytime flights only, except for a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset for drones equipped with anti-collision lights.

—Top speed limited to 100 mph.

—No flying near airports.

—Exceptions require an FAA waiver.


—A person operating a drone must have an FAA "remote pilot" certificate, obtained by taking an aviation knowledge test at a government-approved testing center.

—Pilots of manned aircraft can obtain a certificate by taking a test online.

—Remote pilots must be at least 16 years old.

—Remote pilots must submit to a government background check similar to the security check for manned aircraft pilots.


—Rules take effect in 60 days.