New drone regulations could lead to business boom

Published: Jun. 22, 2016 at 11:07 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2016 at 11:53 PM CDT
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AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - The FAA has opened the gates for widespread usage of commercial drones, and many are hoping once their businesses are buzzing they'll also start booming.

"I see it really exploding and growing. Industry-wide, they predict in 10 years it'll be an $82 billion industry and create over 100,000 jobs and I truly believe that," said Bill Hutto, Auburn Aviation Center Director. "So it's really going to open the door for more people to be able to quickly get into the field and start flying commercially. I envision seeing real estate agents, engineers and agricultural uses; I believe is going to be very big in Alabama."

The new rules are very specific on what you can and can't do with a drone.

Drones must be under 55 pounds, and fly within sight of the operator. They can't fly higher than 400 feet, or faster than 100 miles per hour. And they must stay at least five miles away from an airport.

"This is the FAA doing something that they've really never done before, which is to create a permissive, progressive environment that makes it easy for people to operate," said drone expert Gregory McNeal.

Beyond business, the drones will also play an important part in academics at Auburn.

"It's going to allow us to expand our research efforts. The private pilot requirement before was somewhat of a hindrance to research," Hutto said. "Now that that's no longer an issue, many of our researchers can get out now and do some long awaited research in many different areas and files that Auburn is involved with."

The next frontier for drones is commercial delivery from companies like Amazon. That involves the drones being out of sight from the operator however, meaning it could still be a few years off.

The new FAA rules will go into effect in August.

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