Friday, November 17, 2017
Business

More businesses may be going to the drones after FAA rule change

RECOMMENDED READING


More businesses may be going to the drones after FAA rule change

By Jack Suntrup, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG

Getting clearance to fly drones commercially can be tough. It can take months for companies to win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and cost thousands of dollars for someone to get a necessary pilot's license.

Since the FAA started accepting applications for what's become known as a Section 333 exemption in 2014, the agency has approved 6,100 applications nationwide; 7,600 are pending.

But that process is about to change. On Tuesday, the FAA announced new regulations that don't require the special permission. The agency will also stop requiring operators to obtain a pilot's license.

The new rule, designed for devices weighing less than 55 pounds, instead requires drone operators to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and clear a background check to earn a "remote pilot certificate."

The result: Barriers to entry will be lowered when the rule takes effect in late August. Analysts expect more startups and investments for all sorts of uses, including agriculture, infrastructure inspections, public safety and photography.

"The biggest change is that commercial drone companies will no longer have to get special approval from the FAA to do their drone operations," said Steve Hogan, a Tallahassee lawyer and host of the Drone Law podcast. "That is going to unleash a lot of pent-up entrepreneurial energy over the next six months to a year."

The 333 waivers were seen as a stop-gap measure, meant to allow commercial activity while the FAA developed a concrete regulatory scheme. A 2013 report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says the United States should experience an $82 billion economic impact with more than 100,000 jobs created over a decade if widespread commercial drone use is allowed.

For Florida, that means a $467 million economic impact and 4,800 jobs, the group said.

But for now, concepts like delivery of goods via drones remain unsettled. Under the new rules, drone operators would have to keep the devices in their line of sight, won't be able to fly at night and won't be able to fly devices over people — hampering, at least temporarily, companies such as Amazon, which have sought to deliver goods via drones.

"If you are trying to deliver a package from a fulfillment center and you are flying over someone's house, you are directly over people," said Matt Waite, founder of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and a former staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. "That says Amazon is not happening.

"The FAA is really concerned about drones being able to see and avoid other aircraft (beyond line of sight), and how you do that," he said.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release that the FAA will try to keep pace with advancing technologies.

"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," Huerta said.

Local business owners expect a rush from hobbyists-turned-businessmen in the short run, but it's unclear how newcomers will do long term, given that established companies have a leg up in brand recognition, talent and technology development.

"I think initially we'll probably see some new companies," said Ryan English, the president of Tampa-based FlyMotion Unmanned Systems. "But just like we saw when we got into the industry, there were a lot of players in the market but a lot have fallen off."

English says there could be a noticeable influx of drones in real estate and other kinds of photography, where expensive equipment isn't required.

Chris Durante, CEO of Eagle Eye Assets, an aerial photography and cinematography company in Oldsmar, says that for photographers, especially, there is enough business to go around.

"Do I see an influx of drone companies now that someone can actually get it and operate it legally? Absolutely," he said. "Do I believe there's enough for everybody? Absolutely.

"However, the companies that have had their feet in the water a little longer, I guess, still have an advantage," Durante said.

c. 2016 Tampa Bay Times

   
Comments
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

The tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long lived, as predicted by economists. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Fri...
Updated: 3 hours ago
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
New vegan prepares for Thanksgiving with meat loving family

New vegan prepares for Thanksgiving with meat loving family

This will be my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. And, I’m nervous.It’s also first time back in my hometown of Milwaukee in five years. In a three-day span, I will visit at least 15 different relatives’ houses. All of whom welcome you in with a smile, a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
A Santa flight academy? Malls pull out stops to counter online shopping

A Santa flight academy? Malls pull out stops to counter online shopping

TAMPA — One of Santa’s helpers warns the grown ups to stand back. Sawyer Baker is about to be fitted for his virtual flight academy suit.The four-year-old from Safety Harbor holds his arms straight out, just like he’s told, and sees a moving, mirror ...
Updated: 7 hours ago