FAA officials said Thursday that they won’t grant a commercial drone operator a commercial pilot’s license because they said the drone operators “don’t have the expertise” to fly drones safely and responsibly.
The decision comes amid a surge in commercial drone use, and as federal regulators and the industry grapple with how to regulate them.
The agency said it has received more than 2,500 requests for drone operator licenses and issued nearly 4,000 licenses since the FAA began issuing licenses in the summer of 2015.
The FAA has issued licenses to about 800 drone operators since then.
“We don’t think these commercial drone operators are qualified to fly a commercial aircraft, and they don’t have our expertise to fly safely and appropriately,” said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mark Wood.
The government agency will continue to review all applications for drone licenses and will issue the licenses to operators who meet criteria.
“As we continue to evaluate all applications, we will issue licenses to those who meet our qualifications,” he said.
“Those qualified to do so will receive a license in the future.”
The FAA said in a statement that the agency will review all application materials “to ensure the safety of all people flying drones and are committed to issuing licenses to qualified operators of commercial drones.”
The agency also said that its licenses will be issued only to operators “who are authorized to operate, maintain, and operate for a commercial purpose.”
The Federal Aviation Agency issued more than 1.8 million licenses to commercial drone users between 2015 and 2018.
The vast majority of drone operators in the United States do not have a commercial flight experience and have not completed training, FAA officials have said.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has said that drones that are flown for recreational purposes are unsafe, and have no safe operating limits.
“The commercial use of drones for aerial photography, aerial robotics, and other recreational activities is a growing threat to human safety,” the agency said in September.
“Commercial drone operators pose significant safety risks because of the limited skills and training required to safely operate and operate in a controlled environment.
The commercial use also poses risks to human health and the environment.”
The NIST report said that commercial drone operations could cause significant health and environmental risks, and called for greater regulation.
A study released earlier this month by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) found that drones with a pilot operating at least 30 hours per week had the potential to disrupt air traffic control, disrupt the operation of air traffic controllers, disrupt weather forecasts and communication systems, and cause aircraft accidents.
The IISS also found that drone operators could “unmanage” or “inhibit” a large number of critical systems, including airports, rail, roads and highways, and that the technology could cause widespread disruption.