Drone Pilots Expected To Outnumber Aviators

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With new FAA rules now in place, as of Monday, for operators to secure a commercial drone certificate, it’s been projected that their numbers will quickly outnumber manned-aircraft pilots. The FAA has estimated the number of certified commercial drone operators could exceed 600,000 within a year, equal to the total number of pilots from student to ATP. More than 3,300 people signed up to take the FAA drone knowledge test on Monday, the first day it was available, according to Bloomberg News. “The sky is going to open up at the end of August for a lot of opportunities,” said Randy Yates, of Omaha, Nebraska, who plans to use drones in his property-inspection business. “It’s going to be a whole new world.” The Air Line Pilots Association issued a statement on Monday, raising concerns about the safety of FAA’s new venture.

The new rules are “missing a key component,” according to ALPA. Commercial drone operators should be required to pass a flight test, ALPA said, as well as the FAA’s knowledge test. The FAA also should do more to regulate recreational drone flyers, ALPA said. Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the new rules will enable businesses and innovators “to harness the tremendous potential of UAS and unlock the many economic and societal benefits the technology offers.” Prior to this week, the FAA already had approved more than 5,000 exemptions to allow for commercial drone use.