FAA streamlines its rules to speed up permits to fly commercial drones below 200 feet

WASHINGTON – Federal aviation officials say they are streamlining their rules to expedite permits to fly commercial drones as long as flights remain under 200 feet in altitude.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been granting permits on a case-by-case basis to companies that want to use drones for aerial photography, to monitor crops and pipelines, and to inspect bridges, cellphone towers, oil platforms and other tall structures. But the agency has a backlog of over 400 applications for permits, and the list is growing.

Under streamlined rules released Tuesday, the FAA will grant blanket flying permission to applicants whose drones weigh less than 55 pounds and who agree to keep flights under 200 feet, to fly only in the daytime, and to keep away from airports.