Commercial drone operators will have an easier time using and testing their devices in the U.S. after the Federal Aviation Administration said it has loosened some requirements for obtaining government permission to fly.
The FAA has awarded 48 waivers for commercial drone use under a program created by Congress to allow flights while the agency completes more formal regulations. Under that process, a company has had to petition the FAA for every type of instance and location where it wanted to use a drone for commercial purposes.
The FAA said Tuesday that such waivers will now provide blanket permission to use the drones anywhere in the U.S. as long as operators follow certain height and safety restrictions. The drones can’t go any higher than 200 feet (61 meters) from the ground and must steer clear of airports and restricted airspaces, the FAA said in a statement. The rules apply to unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms).
The waivers have been given to Hollywood filmmakers, insurance companies that want to survey damage after disasters and inspectors of petroleum plants and utility equipment. More than 600 people and companies have applied.
The waivers are a stopgap until the FAA can implement a formal set of drone rules that it proposed last month.