63-96. Permit required for commercial operation of unmanned aircraft systems.

(a) No person shall operate an unmanned aircraft system, as defined in G.S. 15A-300.1, in this State for commercial purposes unless the person is in possession of a permit issued by the Division valid for the unmanned aircraft system being operated. Application for the permit shall be made in the manner provided by the Division. Unless suspended or revoked, the permit shall be effective for a period to be established by the Division not exceeding eight years.

(b) No person shall be issued a permit under this section unless all of the following apply:

(1) The person is at least 16 years of age.

(2) The person possesses a valid drivers license issued by any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia.

(3) The person has passed the knowledge test for operating an unmanned aircraft system as prescribed in G.S. 63-95(b).

(4) The person has satisfied all other applicable requirements of this Article or federal regulation.

(c) A permit to operate an unmanned aircraft system for commercial purposes shall not be issued to a person while the person's license or permit to operate an unmanned aircraft system is suspended, revoked, or cancelled in any state.

(d) The Division shall develop and administer a program that complies with all applicable federal regulations to issue permits to operators of unmanned aircraft systems for commercial purposes. The program must include the following components:

(1) A system for classifying unmanned aircraft systems based on characteristics determined to be appropriate by the Division.

(2) A fee structure for permits.

(3) A permit application process, which shall include a requirement that the Division provide notice to an applicant of the Division's decision on issuance of a permit no later than 10 days from the date the Division receives the applicant's application.

(4) Technical guidance for complying with program requirements.

(5) Criteria under which the Division may suspend or revoke a permit.

(6) Criteria under which the Division may waive permitting requirements for applicants currently holding a valid license or permit to operate unmanned aircraft systems issued by another state or territory of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the United States.

(7) A designation of the geographic area within which a permittee shall be authorized to operate an unmanned aircraft system. The rules adopted by the Division for designating a geographic area pursuant to this subdivision shall be no more restrictive than the rules or regulations adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration for designating a geographic area for the commercial operation of unmanned aircraft systems.

(8) Requirements pertaining to the collection, use, and retention of data by permittees obtained through the operation of unmanned aircraft systems, to be established in consultation with the State Chief Information Officer.

(9) Requirements for the marking of each unmanned aircraft system operated pursuant to a permit issued under this section sufficient to allow identification of the owner of the system and the person issued a permit to operate it.

(10) A system for providing agencies that conduct other operations within regulated airspace with the identity and contact information of permittees and the geographic areas within which the permittee is authorized to operate an unmanned aircraft system.

(e) A person who operates an unmanned aircraft system for commercial purposes other than as authorized under this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(f) The Division may issue rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this section. (2014-100, s. 34.30(g); 2015-232, s. 2.4; 2016-90, s. 14.5.)