The sky really is becoming the limit for drones these days. Turning just about everyone into a pilot of some sort, these quadcopters have gained considerable popularity in the last several months, and are now gaining altitude as well. Thanks to newly relaxed rules announced by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA), both commercial and government drones will be allowed to fly up to 400 feet in the air, double the previous limit of 200 feet.
“Expanding the authorized airspace for these operations means government and industry can carry out unmanned aircraft missions more quickly and with less red tape,” FAA Administration Michael Huerta said in a statement. A word to the wise, however — operators will only be able to take advantage of this new, higher limit if they apply for a waiver from the FAA.
“The FAA’s decision to raise the operating altitude of the blanket COA from 200 feet to 400 feet provides greater flexibility to those receiving FAA exemptions and makes it easier for more commercial UAS operators to access the skies,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an advocacy group for both the drone and robotics industries. Of course, drones and their operators would still like to go higher, but the rule that would increase the ceiling to 500 feet has yet to be fully approved.
While this certainly marks a step forward for drone enthusiasts, there remain a number of obstacles to the full enjoyment of quadcopters across the country. You still can’t fly at night, you must keep your drone within your sight, and you must stay far, far away from airports and other restricted areas. That said, the FAA also just made it easier to register your drone online, and this will cost owners just $5 (the same price as model airplane registration).
So fly high, drone lovers. Slowly but surely, the rules seem to be changing in your favor.