U.S. unveils new rules on low-altitude drones

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The Obama administration unveiled new rules Tuesday that will allow for low-level drone flights, but only within sight of an operator and not over people.

Drones under the regulation must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg) and fly up to 400 feet (122 m) high and 100 miles per hour (161 km per hour), but deliveries from companies like Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) will not be allowed immediately until separate rules overseeing them are written.

Drones will not be allowed to fly at night unless they have special lighting and must stay at least 5 miles (8 km) away from airports.

Operators must be at least 16 and have a remote pilot certificate and must report to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration of any drone that results in serious injuries or property damage.

“As this new technology continues to grow and develop, we want to make sure we strike the right balance between innovation and safety,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on a call with reporters.

The White House says unmanned aircraft could lead to $82 billion in economic growth by 2025 and support up to 100,000 jobs.

Drones are increasingly important. The White House noted that the U.S. Interior Department has used unmanned aircraft systems since 2009 in conducting wildlife and vegetation surveys to protect endangered populations and wildfire management.

“We are in the early days of an aviation revolution that will change the way we do business, keep people safe, and gather information about our world,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)