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FAA small drone rule comes into effect Monday

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Commercial drone users are likely to have an easier time getting their unmanned aircraft systems off the ground and flying during the daytime after a new Federal Aviation Administration rule that went into effect today.

Under the new small drone rule -- also known as part 107 -- the unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds, remain within the visual line of sight of the remote pilot in command and visual commander and fly no higher than an altitude of 400 feet above ground at a speed of 100 miles per hour, according to the FAA.

“Monday is a big day. I’ve consistently urged the FAA to move forward with regulations to make safe operation of unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace a reality, and implementation of this new rule is a major step forward,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement.

Warner said the new rule will also allow for a number of small businesses in Virginia and around the county to “more cheaply, safely and efficiently harness some of the enormous potential promised by this technology.”

Warner said the new rule will also make it easier for companies that use drones for their business to no longer have to wait for an exemption from the FAA to lawfully operate their unmanned aircraft under federal guidelines.

For pilots trying to operate under the new 107 rule, they will need to get a remote pilot certificate and follow the the rule’s operating provisions, according to the FAA.

But for those who already have a certificate of waiver or authorization under the old 333 exemption, or “COA," they will be able to fly under the COA limitations until it expires.

A 2013 report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimated that expansion of UAS technology could create over 100,000 jobs and produce $82 billion in economic activity likely in the first decade after integration.

Meanwhile, Loudoun County is home to one of the most restrictive areas to fly a drone in the country.

The FAA’s Special Flight Rules Area enforces a 30-mile radius around Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, putting heavy restrictions on drone flights in the greater D.C. region. A 15-mile inner ring around the nation’s capitol prevents unmanned aircraft use entirely without special FAA permission.

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