WASHINGTON — Long-awaited rules to usher in a new era in which small, commercial drones zipping through U.S. skies are a part of everyday life were proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday.
The proposal lays out requirements commercial operators must meet such as passing a knowledge test administered by the FAA and a security check by the Transportation Safety Administration in order to fly small drones, defined as weighing less than 55 pounds. It is likely to be two or three years before the rules are made final, but federal officials said that once they are in place the economic and safety benefits of unmanned aircraft are expected to be enormous.
Among the chores that officials envision drones performing: Aerial photography and mapping, crop monitoring, and inspections of cell towers, bridges and other tall structures. But the proposal includes safety restrictions such as keeping drones within sight of operators at all times and no nighttime flights. That could mean no package or pizza deliveries by drone. Drones would also have to stay at least 5 miles away from an airport.