The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) final rule on non-hobbyist small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS or drones) took effect on Monday, Aug. 29. The final rule applies to commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds and defines specific regulations for operation and pilot certification. For a summary of the rule’s operational limitations, see this detailed article from Newsline.

In addition to flight restrictions, the final rule also creates a process for certification of remote pilots in command.  To fly a small commercial drone, an individual must qualify as or operate under the supervision of a remote pilot in command who holds a remote pilot airman certificate with a sUAS rating. Prospective remote pilots who are Part 61 aircraft pilots  and underwent a flight review within the past two years may take an online course at prior to submitting an application for certification.  All other individuals must pass a general aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing location. To assist with test preparation, the FAA has provided a study guide and several other resources.  

The final rule also establishes a waiver process that permits remote pilots to apply for exemption from one or more of the rule’s waivable operational limitations. Applicants seeking a certificate of waiver must show that they can continue to operate safely outside of the final rule’s restrictions. 

Remote pilots should keep in mind that the Sec. 333 exemption process still governs commercial drones weighing 55 pounds or greater that do not fall within the final rule.

Read a summary of the final rule and step-by-step instructions on obtaining a remote pilot airman certificate. For general information on remote pilot certification and waivers, see the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Frequently Asked Questions