New rules for commercial drone use take effect

DENVER -- New rules, by the Federal Aviation Administration took effect for commercial drone pilots Monday.

For Denver-based real estate marketing company Virtuance, drones are big business.

“What we can do with a drone today rivals anything that could've been done in Hollywood as little as 10 years ago,” Virtuance co-founder and CEO Jeff Corn said. “And we can do it with one person flying with a remote control in 10 minutes.”

Virtuance added drone services two years ago, Corn said.

“When you're on Zillow, and seeing the images and websites and what not, videos produced for real estate, we're the guys behind all that,” he said.

To comply with previous FAA rules, Virtuance used licensed pilots and followed strict guidelines.

“There is no doubt that under the old regulation, there were a lot of folks who were flying sort of under the radar -- no pun intended,” he said.

But Monday marked big changes. According to the new rules, commercial drone pilots must be older than 16 years old and pass a background check.

They must also pass an aeronautical exam, and will then be issued a remote pilot certificate.

Other rules include:

  • Commercial drones must weigh less than 55 pounds
  • Cannot fly higher than 400 feet
  • Cannot go faster than 100 mph
  • Commercial drone pilots must maintain visual contact at all times
  • Commercial drones not allowed to fly over people who are not involved in their operation
  • Application for waiver required to fly at night

Industry experts said commercial drone use is a growing and competitive market.

“Over the next 10 years, commercial, unmanned aircraft systems could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy, and by 2025, could be supporting as many as 100,000 new jobs,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

Some said the regulation finally caught up to the technology, while others feared the new rules are too loose.

Corn said he hopes commercial pilots remember that for business purposes, a drone is a tool, not a toy.

"They can cause a lot of damage if you don`t know what you're doing with them," he said. "Being in the industry, we’re certainly interested in making sure that everybody who is operating a drone is doing it responsibly.”