Drone rules change could turn drone use from a hobby to a business

New FAA rules could change America’s drone use from a hobby to business and could impact the hundreds of drone pilots in Colorado.

staff photo
An aerial photo of Fox Hollow Golf Course in Lakewood. The photo was shot using a drone. Courtesy of Vic Moss Photography.

An aerial photo of Fox Hollow Golf Course in Lakewood. The photo was shot using a drone. <em>Courtesy of Vic Moss Photography.</em>

The Federal Aviation Administration finalized new rules Tuesday that could change America’s drone use from a hobby to business and could impact the hundreds of drone pilots in Colorado.

Industry experts predict the FAA’s new rules will create more than 100,000 new jobs and generate $82 billion for the U.S. during the next decade. The rules are set to go into effect in late August.

Nearly 10,600 drones are registered for hobby use in Colorado. Sixty-two unmanned aircraft systems are registered in the state for non-hobby use, according to the most recent FAA data.

Among other things, the new rules for commercial drone use will require unmanned aircraft systems to weigh less than 55 pounds, fly slower than 100 mph and avoid other aircraft and flying over people.

“With this new rule, 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,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

Vic Moss, the owner of Lakewood-based Moss Photography, called the FAA’s new policy awesome if not overdue.

“This opens the door to a lot of new people who are going to get into drone aerial photography,” Moss said. “It’s similar to when photography transitioned from film to digital. Everyone who had a digital camera was a professional photographer.”

Moss will have a leg up on his competition. For the last two years, he has been contracting with drone pilots or operating in the gray zone to personally use unmanned aircraft systems.

Developers use the aerial photographs in marketing materials, he said. “You’re going to see more people using drones who didn’t necessarily want to before because the regulations were so muddy.”

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.