Many excited about new FAA guidelines for drones

Many excited about new FAA guidelines for drones

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WSET) -- With drones being relatively new on the scene, it's not often clear where you can or can't use them.

Recently, the FAA loosened the restrictions, meaning you can fly them higher than ever before. And for many of the 325,000 registered drone owners, that's good news.

"The FAA recently increased the altitude for commercial operators from 200 feet to 400 feet. And a lot of that is based on work we did here at the test site, flying at 400 feet across the nation. We approved the safety case and showed that you could do this safely," explained Mark Blanks, the Associate Director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

There are some limitations to the new rule, as explained by Virginia Tech, "Small unmanned aircraft, commonly called drones, covered by the rule (including Section 333 exemption holders) can now fly up to 400 feet high anywhere in the country, except in restricted airspace and other areas where UAS operations are prohibited."

Executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership Rose Mooney explained, Executive Director Rose Mooney said, "This is exactly what Congress envisioned that our role would be, and it also shows the value of the test sites. We are able to test these kinds of scenarios so that they can roll out for broader use."

According to Virginia Tech, "the test sites run by the partnership in Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey have executed hundreds of research flights at altitudes of 400 feet and beyond, and conducted extensive testing to ensure that flights at those altitudes can be carried out safely."

President Nanci Hardwick of the Ridge and Valley chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says these changes can mean big things for the future of drones. ""For sure from here we see more widespread use, yeah. So a lot of questions still need to be answered by a lot of smart people in a lot of different fields, but we will continue to see more adoption of unmanned systems of all kinds," said Hardwick.

Blanks added,"They can be twice as efficient, cover twice as much ground for surveying applications, agriculture, that type of things, they can do other, search and rescue they can cover more ground." He said he hopes soon, they'll go even higher."The eventual goal someday is that unmanned aircraft integrates seamlessly with manned aircraft so they can fly at any altitude."

Drones have come a long way in a short while, and experts say there's no telling how far the unmanned industry is going to go."Being a beacon to go out to a search and rescue team to get somebody on the ground. Could broadcast a message to them to let them know so that even if you can't see them, there's other things you can think of. There's just the sky's the limit, no pun intended," said Blanks.

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