Part 107


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

How to Get Your FAA Part 107 Drone Pilot License (1st-Time & Current Pilots)

drone-pilot-license-part-107-checklistThis page is a how-to guide on getting your Part 107 remote pilot certificate which has also been called all sorts of things such as a drone license, commercial drone license, UAV certificate, drone permit, drone pilot license, etc.

Do you need a pilot certificate to make money with a drone? 

Yes, you need the Part 107 remote pilot certificate is the certificate you NEED to make money.

This guide is based upon my knowledge as a current FAA certificated flight instructor (CFI & CFII) and aviation attorney. There are two sections to this page: (1) instructions for first time pilots and (2) instructions for current manned aircraft pilots.

 

I created a free 100+ page Part 107 test study guide.  

(Include 5 “cram” summary pages and 41 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained.)

 

This is Part of a Series of Part 107 Articles:

commercial drone pilot license

 

You’ll have to take the exam at a knowledge testing center. Note: if you took a test on the FAA’s website and received a certificate like what is on the right, this is NOT a Part 107 initial knowledge test for new pilots. That test is only for current manned aircraft pilots transitioning over to drones.

 

The correct term is remote pilot certificate, but throughout this article I will be referring to the remote pilot certificate and drone pilot license interchangeably.

 

To obtain your drone pilot license you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at a FAA-approved knowledge testing center

 

Here is your immediate plan of action. Do these steps in the exact order of how they appear in this list:

  1. Immediately schedule a time to take the FAA Part 107 knowledge test at one of the testing sites. There are only two companies that offer the Part 107 exam: CATS and PSI/Lasergrade.
    1. Figure out which test site you want to take the test at. There are currently 696 of these centers around the world. Keep in mind that CATS is currently taking appointments while PSI is not. Also, CATS does a $10 off discount for current AOPA members. If you want to become a current AOPA student member, you can sign up here. 
    2. Find out the site ID so you know who to call. LAS = PSI/ Laser Grade  ABS = CATS
    3. Test option 1: CATS is registering and taking appointments for the test!
      • CATS – call and get an appointment for a date ASAP. The first day to take the test is August 29th. Two phone numbers (Try in this order):
        • This is their main testing number. Call 1-800-947-4228 and press 3. Monday through Friday
          5:30 AM PST to 5:00 PM PST Saturday & Sunday
          7:00 AM PST to 3:30 PM PST
    4. Test option 2: PSI/Lasergrade(August 13) Is also registering people for the Part 107 initial knowledge exam
      •  Call 1-800-211-2754 or  1-800-733-9267 to register for your test.
  2. Start studying. I created free 100+ page Part 107 test study guide. The study guide has the material the FAA suggested you study, but I added essential material they left out. It also comes with 41 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained. Think of it as your “personal trainer” for Part 107 to get you into a lean mean testing machine. You can read the Part 107 test study guide online or you can sign up for the free drone law newsletter below and be able to download the PDF to study on the go.

Sign up for the Newsletter to Receive Important Updates and Articles.

  1. Now that you know what the rules are, make a business plan for operations under Part 107. Go back and skim over the Part 107 Summary and read about Part 107 waivers (COAs). You might want to branch out into non-107 types of operations.
  2. Once you have figured out what types of industries and operations you plan on doing, you should spend this time:
    • Building or updating your website.
    • Buying the aircraft or practicing flying your current aircraft.
    • Obtaining insurance for the aircraft that will perform the operations.
    • Finding an attorney for each of the particular areas of law listed below. You may not need the lawyer right away but you have time to calmly make decisions now as opposed to rapidly making decisions in the future when your business is growing. You won’t have time in the future as you do now. Put their numbers in your phone. Ideally, you should have a retainer/ billing relationship set up to get answers rapidly.
      • Business / tax – (Preferably both)
      • Aviation – Contact me to get things set up. Remember. I’m not your attorney until you sign an attorney-client agreement!)
      • Criminal – (in case you get arrested because of some drone ordinance you stumbled upon).
  1. Take the Part 107 initial knowledge test.
  2. Complete FAA Form 8710-13:
    • By filing out the paper based version of FAA Form 8710-13 and mailing it off  OR
    • Online for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA).
        • Login to IACRA with your username and password. If you don’t remember them, follow the “Forgot Username or Password” link.
        • Applicant Console
          • From the Applicant Console, you can start new applications and view any existing applications. Click Start New Application
          • Select ‘Pilot’ from the Application Type dropdown list. This will now show the different types of pilot certificates IACRA has available.
          • Click on Remote Pilot. Starting a Remote Pilot Application
        • The Application Process page will open, and the Personal Information section will be open. This section will be prepopulated with the information you entered when you registered. If no changes are needed, click the green Save & Continue button in the bottom of this section.
        • The Supplementary Data section will open. Answer the English Language and Drug Conviction questions. If you would like to add comments to you application, you can do so here. Click Save & Continue.
        • The Basis of Issuance section will open.
          • Enter all the information related to your photo ID. A US passport or US driver’s license is preferred.
          • Enter the knowledge test ID in Search box. PLEASE NOTE : It can take up to 72 hours after you take your knowledge test before it is available in IACRA. When you find the test, click the green Associate Test button. Now click Save & Continue.
        • The Review and Submit section will open.
          • Answer the Denied Certificate question.
          • Summary information info will be displayed.
          • You must view the Pilots Bill of Rights, Privacy Act and Review your application before you can continue.
        • Sign and Complete
          • You should now sign the Pilots Bill of Rights Acknowledgement form.
          • Sign and complete your application.
          • Your application is now complete and will be automatically sent to the Airman Registry.
          • After 2-4 days, your temporary certificate will be available in IACRA. You will also receive an email reminder.
          • Your permanent certificate will arrive by mail.

Click next to see how current manned aircraft pilots can obtain their Part 107 drone pilot license.

next


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Crash-What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

 

 

crashed droneIf you crashed a drone, there are reporting requirements. Below we will discuss the reporting requirements you make to the FAA and the reporting requirements you make to the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) following a drone crash. Just to be clear, this whole page does NOT apply to Part 101 model aircraft. 

 

Quick Info:

  • “Contact the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. A phone call is sufficient initially, but a written follow-up may be required.”
  • FAA REGIONALOPERATIONS CENTERS. LOCATION WHERE ACCIDENT OCCURRED:
    • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
    • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
    • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
    • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006
  • The FAA also has a website where you can report a crash.
  • NASA AVIATION SAFETY REPORTING SYSTEM
  • Note that the NTSB’s definitions of accident and unmanned aircraft accident and the FAA’s definition of accident in 107.9 are ALL different. It would have been a good idea for the FAA to just match up the definitions of 107.9 to 830.2 to keep things simple.
  • Keep in mind that this article is primarily focusing on Part 107 operations, NOT  Section 333 exemption operations, but most 333 exemptions have a provisions that requires notification to the FAA UAS Integration Office and NTSB so this article is still very relevant although some the requirements might differ. The language of the exemption and Blanket COA supersedes these requirements.

Times:

  • Mandatory:
    • Report an “accident” or “serious incident” (Part 830’s definitions) immediately to the NTSB Response Operations Center.
    • Send NTSB Form 6120.1 in within 10 days for an accident or 7 days for an overdue aircraft that is still missing. For a serious incident and if requested, send in the form. No time is mentioned in 830.15.
    • Notify the FAA within 10 days of the occurrence of an accident (107.9 “accident”).
  • Voluntary:
    • “NASA Form” is within 10 days of the violation.

 

During this 10 day period, you have time to call an attorney to help in figuring out how best to handle the situation and what to say in your report.

Don’t want to read? Watch the video of this article!

 

 

crashed cinematography drone

Who is the NTSB? How Are They Different than the FAA?

crashed drone 2“The NTSB is an independent federal agency, charged by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, determine probable cause, and issue safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents. The agency’s scope extends beyond aviation crashes, as it also investigates selected rail, marine, highway, and pipeline accidents, as well as those involving transportation of hazardous materials.”[1] The NTSB is COMPLETELY separate from the FAA. “The primary role of NTSB is improving safety of our nation’s transportation system. The agency determines the probable cause of accidents and issues safety recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. It does not determine fault or liability. In fact, according to 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b), ‘No part of a report of the Board, related to an accident or an investigation of an accident, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report.’”[2]


In addition to doing investigations, the NTSB can judge appeals of FAA enforcement actions brought against manned aircraft pilots and drone pilots. There are two levels of appeal with the NTSB: (1) the administrative law judge level (ALJ) and (2) the full board of NTSB members. Some of you might remember the Pirker case. The Pirker case was initially won at the ALJ level, but on appeal to the full NTSB Board, was remanded back to the ALJ to determine if Pirker’s flight was careless and reckless.

next


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Don’t Drink and Drone – FAA Regulations on Drones & Alcohol

drink-drone-faa-alcohol-regulationsI thought I should write an article to educate individuals on one of the lesser known regulations regarding flying drones and drinking. This article will address first the commercial drone operators and then the recreational drone or model aircraft operators.

 

The FAA is really focused on preventing people from droning under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

 

Commercial Drone Operators Using Alcohol or Drugs

 

Commercial drone operators are either operating under Part 107 or under a Section 333 exemption.

 

Part 107 

14 CFR 107.27 says,

“A person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system or acting as a remote pilot in command or visual observer must comply with the provisions of §§91.17 and 91.19 of this chapter.”  Part 107 incorporates Part 91 by reference. Part 107 does this also with the temporary flight restriction provisions.

 

Let’s now look at the other way commercial drone operators can legally fly.

 

Section 333 Exemptions

The Section 333 exemptions were updated in November 2016 and include, “Unless otherwise specified in this exemption, the UAS, the UAS PIC, and the UAS operations must comply with all applicable parts of 14 CFR including, but not limited to, parts 45, 47, 48, 61, and 91.”

 

Remember that when operating under a Section 333 exemption, you are really operating under all of the other Parts of the federal aviation regulations besides Part 107. If you comb through them all, you’ll find the same two regulations that were referenced by Part 107 – 91.17 and 91.19.

 

Let’s dive into what 91.17  and 91.19 says.

 

14 CFR Sec. 91.17 says,

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft—

(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

(2) While under the influence of alcohol;

(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or

(4) While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

. . . . 

(c) A crewmember shall do the following:

(1) On request of a law enforcement officer, submit to a test to indicate the alcohol concentration in the blood or breath, when—

(i) The law enforcement officer is authorized under State or local law to conduct the test or to have the test conducted; and

(ii) The law enforcement officer is requesting submission to the test to investigate a suspected violation of State or local law governing the same or substantially similar conduct prohibited by paragraph (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(4) of this section.

(2) Whenever the FAA has a reasonable basis to believe that a person may have violated paragraph (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(4) of this section, on request of the FAA, that person must furnish to the FAA the results, or authorize any clinic, hospital, or doctor, or other person to release to the FAA, the results of each test taken within 4 hours after acting or attempting to act as a crewmember that indicates an alcohol concentration in the blood or breath specimen.

(d) Whenever the Administrator has a reasonable basis to believe that a person may have violated paragraph (a)(3) of this section, that person shall, upon request by the Administrator, furnish the Administrator, or authorize any clinic, hospital, doctor, or other person to release to the Administrator, the results of each test taken within 4 hours after acting or attempting to act as a crewmember that indicates the presence of any drugs in the body.

(e) Any test information obtained by the Administrator under paragraph (c) or (d) of this section may be evaluated in determining a person’s qualifications for any airman certificate or possible violations of this chapter and may be used as evidence in any legal proceeding under section 602, 609, or 901 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

 

Can You Give Me Some Real World Scenarios How People Could Violate the Regulation?

next


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Amazon Drone Delivery – 3 Major Legal Problems with Amazon Prime Air

I’m going to briefly discuss some of the background to this drone delivery buzz, why privacy won’t be an issue to drone delivery, what really is going on, and then dive into the three major legal problems with Amazon Prime Air becoming a reality for Americans.

Don’t want to read? Watch or listen to the article while you are doing something!

Brief Background on the Drone Delivery Craze

 

Drone delivery has been all over the news with Amazon being the first to announce the projected use of drones to make deliveries. Others have followed the trend and announced deliveries such as the drone burrito delivery, the drone pizza delivery, etc.

 

In 2015, Dave Vos, the former head of Google’s Project Wing, said to an audience, “Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017[.]”  Fedex, UPS, DHL, Walmart, and everyone including your grandma’s dog has announced they are interested in drone delivery. Then, as if we hadn’t enough drone delivery buzz, Amazon published on December 14, 2016 a video showing their first customer delivery using a drone.

 

amazon-prime-air-drone-deliveryDrone delivery is really a small portion of the drone market, but thanks to Amazon, it is the “face” of the commercial drone industry. This has gone a long way to clean up a lot of the public stigma about the drone industry. On the topic of drones, people tend to think of Amazon delivery, not predator drones. Kudos to you Amazon for changing that.

 

The idea of drone deliveries in general is not only just delivering potato chips but also for more legitimate humanitarian purposes. A great example of this is the company Matternet, which partnered with UNICEF to do drone delivery in Malawi with the end goal of developing low-cost delivery of blood samples from children to be tested so medical drugs can be given to them when needed and in time. Drones – they can save money, time, and lives.

 

 

………and it isn’t because of one of the most frequently raised issues – privacy.

next


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Practice Part 107 Test Questions for the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test

These practice Part 107 test questions are designed to be very hard. The questions are the “fill in the blank” type to force you to study. Remember that I have a “beginner” article answering and explaining the 41 other FAA Part 107 sample questions that the FAA issued. These questions are designed to be taken AFTER you have studied those other 41 questions.

This is a great opportunity for you and your study buddies to dig around and find these answers .The answers are there, you just have to find them. 🙂 I would highly suggest going back to the resources listed in the Free Part 107 Test Study Guide For FAA Remote Pilot Airmen Certificate.  Ctrl + F, appendix, index, table of contents, etc. are your friends.

This is like what baseball players do before they go to bat. They practice with a heavy weight on the bat. The same thing applies here. You most likely will not get all the questions below. I would be happy if you just get like 5 of them. That is OK. Do not get discouraged.

The point of this test is to force you to get familiar with searching for answers.  

Helpful Part 107 Articles

Sample Part 107 Practice Exam Questions

  1. Give an example of where you can fly in Class E without a waiver or authorization.
  2. You are flying in Alaska. How long can you fly after sunset provided you have the proper equipment? How long can you fly after sunset if you are operating under a 333 exemption? (Hint: see my article on this). Which is better?
  3. To fly in civil twilight in Alaska, you want to use a strobe that is visible for 3 nautical miles. The light is powered by a 2nd separate LiPo battery from the main drone. Is this legal?
  4. Explain the differences between the three completely different dashed magenta lines. What do they mean?part-107-sectional-chart-magenta-dashed-lines
  1. Part 107.39 says, “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is: (a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or (b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.” The FAA gave 4 specific examples of people directly involved in the operation of the unmanned aircraft in the preamble to the final rule. Can you legally fly over the gimbal operator? What about an actor who has consented?
  2. What does the AHP stand for?army-heliport-sectional-chart-part-107-sample-test-question
  1. You’ll see this picture somewhere on the legend in your sectional charts. What is the significance of 8,069? Why are some airports outlined while others are in a circle?8069-hard-surfaced-runway-part-107-test-question
  2. How long are sectional charts good for?
  3. How long are chart supplements valid?
  4. What is the difference between a chart supplement and an airport facility directory?
  5. If you call up 1800-WX-BRIEF and ask for a standard briefing, they can give you the NOTAMS. What NOTAMS will they NOT give you unless you specifically ask for them?
  6. You are supervising a person flying your drone and you are operating under Part 107. He does not have a remote pilot certificate. Give me an example of where it would not be legal and three where it WOULD be legal.
  7. Following on question 12, can the person flying the drone under the supervision of the remote pilot be 15 years old?
  8. How high can you fly the drone above these towers? Why?class-c-airport-part-107-practice-test-question

next


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Law for Drone Training Educators, K-12 Schools, & Universities.

drone-law-education-teacher-professor-school

This article is written to help drone training educators and schools who offer drone training courses to understand the legal issues surrounding drones.

Why? We need drones in the schools to promote STEM education. Why am I all pro-STEM education? My wife and I ran a LEGO robotics business for a while where we taught physics and robotics. If you are an educator or school needing material, I have created a dedicated drone education resource page where I will continually add resources to help you in this area. 🙂

If you are setting up a drone program, you should check out my article 5 Problem Areas When Integrating Drones Into Large Companies as it brings up many questions that need to be answered by schools or universities setting up a drone program.

Don’t want to read? Watch or listen to the article here while you are doing something.

 

I. Foundations of Drone Law for Drone Training Educators

 

From my book Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them:

The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.”[1] Congress created the Federal Aviation Agency by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958,[2] but in 1967, Congress changed the name into the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and moved that agency into the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) which is a Presidential cabinet department.[3] The FAA has been given by Congress jurisdiction to regulate navigable airspace of aircraft by regulation or order.[4] . . . .

The FAA has created regulations,[5] known as the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”), which govern the certification of only civil aircraft,[6] civil pilot licensing,[7] airspace,[8] commercial operations,[9] general pilot operating rules,[10] pilot schools and certificated agencies,[11] airports,[12] and navigational facilities.[13]

federal-aviation-regulations-versus-interpretaions
The FAA also “regulates” in multiple ways by creating advisory circulars, or memos or interpretations on the regulations. Regulations ARE the law while advisory circulars, memos, and interpretations are the FAA’s opinion of how to follow the law, but they are NOT the law.  However, they somewhat become law in effect because even though they are not law, the interpretations change people’s behavior who would rather not pay an attorney to defend them in a prosecution case. They in effect stay out of the grey area like the guy with the yellow shirt in the graphic. When I say grey, I don’t mean that it is not clear as to whether it is law, the grey area is not law, but I mean that it is unclear as to whether a judge would agree with the FAA’s opinion and would find the guy in the yellow shirt to be in violation of the regulations. In short, the law is what you get charged with violating, but the interpretations/memos/advisory circulars are what determine if you are on the FAA “hit list” so they can go fishing to try and get you with the law.

Keep in mind that the FAA has the super vague regulation which prohibits you from acting in a careless or reckless manner[14] which functionally acts as a catch-all. This gets thrown in as a charge for almost every FAA prosecution out there. Out of the 23 FAA enforcement actions against drone operators I studied, all 23 of them were charged with violating 91.13 (107.23 was NOT around at the time the prosecutions started).

Why are these regulations created? They are really safety standards that have been proscribed by the FAA for us to follow to maintain the safety of the national airspace system. The FARs apply to almost everything that touches aviation. A good exercise is to find something that the FARs do NOT regulate. Below is a graph to help you understand the different areas that the FAA regulates which all contribute to the safety of the national airspace system.

faa-far-standards-pilot-aircraft-maintenance-medical

 

II. How Drone Training Educators Can Fly Legally

 

Unmanned aircraft can be flown as public aircraft under a public COA, as civil aircraft flown under a Section 333 exemption, as non-recreational unmanned aircraft under Part 107, or under Part 101 as a recreational unmanned aircraft. The classification of the aircraft will determine which set of regulations and standards are used. Below is a graphical summary of the requirements of each of the different classifications. Purple is where the burden of determining the standards is placed upon the remote pilot in command. Grey is where the FAA determines the standards.

part-107-101-333-exemption-publicc-coa-comparison

We are now going to explore each of the 4 options as they relate to drone education.

A. Public Aircraft Operations Under a Public Certificate of Authorization (COA).

public-coaPublic aircraft are those that (1) fall into 1 of 5 statutorily defined owned/operated situations,[15] (2) are flying for a governmental purpose,[16] and (3) are NOT flying for a commercial purpose.[17] The big benefit to obtaining public aircraft status is the public aircraft operator determines their own standards for the pilot, aircraft, maintenance of the aircraft, and the medical standards of the pilot, but they still must fly under the restrictions given to them by the FAA as listed in the public certificate of authorization (COA).

Unfortunately, educators and schools are unable to fly unmanned aircraft under a public COA for education. (Keep in mind many universities are flying under public COAs but for purposes like aeronautical research.)

The FAA answered the question of whether education was a governmental function in a letter from Mark Bury of the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s Office to Jim Williams of the UAS Integration Office by saying:

If the FAA now were to read a concept as broad as education into the statute, it could exponentially expand the operation of unregulated aircraft. As a concept, education is not restricted to age or curriculum, and would include aviation education such as flight schools. All manned flight schools are civil operations, and are subject to significant regulation – none use public aircraft to teach students to fly, nor would we allow uncertificated pilots operating unregulated aircraft to teach others. The same must hold true for UAS, as the statute contains no distinction in the type of aircraft used to conduct a public aircraft operation. Accordingly, we must answer in the negative your question of whether a university could, in essence, conduct a UAS flight school using its COA.

You also asked whether some limited form of education could be found governmental. It would not be defensible to include education as a governmental function but then draw artificial limits on its scope, such as the level of education being provided, the curriculum, or the aircraft that can be used. Since our agency mission is the safe operation of the national airspace, including the safe integration of UAS into it, any analysis of whether the list of governmental functions can reasonably be expanded to include education must contain a clear consideration of the overall effect that such a change would have on aviation as a whole. There is nothing in the law or its minimal legislative history to suggest that Congress intended education to be a governmental function that a state needs to carry on its business free of aviation safety regulations.

 

Let’s go to the next option for educators.

 

2. The Section 333 Exemption for Drone Training and Education

section-333-exemptionstandardsSection 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 says:

(b) ASSESSMENT OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.—In making the determination under subsection (a), the Secretary shall determine, at a minimum—

(1) which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as a result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and populated areas, and operation within visual line of sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and

(2) whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 of title 49, United States Code, is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

This authority given to the FAA was created before Part 107 or Part 101 were created.  The FAA’s view at that time was that all the FARs applied to civil aircraft.  These regulations were very burdensome to comply with. For example, 14 CFR 91.119 requires the aircraft to be at least 500ft away from non-participating people and property which makes it very hard to do aerial photography from 500ft! The FAA was given authority under Section 333 but needed another legal tool to help the drone operators get airborne.

The FAA used the authority given to them in Section 333 to determine that the unmanned aircraft did not need an airworthiness certificate. The remaining regulations were taken care of by using the Part 11 exemption process. This is why the paperwork allowing you to fly was nicknamed the 333 exemption, even though Section 333 does NOT provide any exemption powers!

The operator operates under all the federal aviation regulations, except for those specifically exempted.  Where  exempted, the operator flies according to the restrictions which will provide an equivalent level of safety as the regulations they were exempted from.

The FAA wisely decided to create restrictions in the 333 exemption which required the pilot in command to determine the airworthiness of the aircraft and determine proper maintenance; however, all the pilots were still required to have a sport pilot license or higher, a driver’s license or a 3rd class medical, and they were still limited by Part 91 and its restrictions regarding their operation.

Exemptions are operation specific. The first group of exemptions were for the cinematography industry which was focused on creating movies, not on instructing or education. The restrictions slowly morphed over time to be “eh O.K.” enough to allow for other industries to use the 333 exemptions.

Over a year after the first exemptions were granted, on November 20, 2015, the FAA finally granted a Section 333 exemption to Kansas States University to allow for flight instructing.

The FAA issued their educational memo on May 4, 2016 and Part 107 was released June 21, 2016 which is far easier to operate under than the Section 333 exemption. The idea behind the memo was to allow people to fly for purposes of education without having to obtain a Section 333 exemption.

To further promote flight training, the FAA granted on November 14, 2016 an amendment to a giant list of exemptions to allow many exemptions to conduct training of students. See FAA Updated Section 333 Exemptions.

3. The FAA’s Memo on the Educational Use of Drones and Part 101 (Recreational Operations)

far-part-101-recreational-model-aircraft-dronesa. Background to Part 101 Subpart E.

Up until Part 101 Subpart E went into effect, the FAA was pretty much echoing the definition of model aircraft as defined in Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Part 101 Subpart E is just a copy-paste of Section 336.

Keep in mind that the terms “model aircraft” and “recreational aircraft” are used interchangeably throughout the FAA’s website and material even though recreational aircraft might not be a miniature model versions of a full-sized manned aircraft (e.g. Phantom 4 as opposed to a model P-51 Mustang).

The FAA’s treatment of Section 336 is really weird because the FAA uses Section 336 to somehow define model aircraft but Section 336 was specifically directed at the FAA telling them what NOT to regulate.  The FAA ignored what Congress said in Section 336 twice. Once when the FAA created the new Part 48 registration regulations and secondly when they created Part 101 Subpart E.  For a much more in-depth discussion of how the FAA has violated Section 336 see my article on why the registration requirements and regulations are illegal.

The reasons I have question marks over these areas is that the newly created Part 48 regulations and the FAA’s interpretation that all aircraft are required to be registered are being challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. How the court rules will determine the effect of the FAA’s interpretations, Part 101, and Part 107 on model aircraft operations.

b. The Educational Memo

The reason why the educational memo was created was that many universities were wanting to offer classes where students would be required to fly the aircraft. This brought up questions such as “does the university need a Section 333 Exemption?” or “does the student need a pilot license?” There were also spin-off questions such as “can we teach the local 4-H, Boy Scouts, etc. about drones?”

The FAA summed the memo up in three points:

  • A person may operate an unmanned aircraft for hobby or recreation in accordance with Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) at educational institutions and community-sponsored events[1]provided that the person is (1) not compensated or (2) any compensation received is neither directly or incidentally related to that person’s operation of the aircraft at such events;
  • A student may conduct model aircraft operations in accordance with Section 336 of the FMRA in furtherance of his or her aviation-related education at an accredited educational institution;
  • Faculty teaching aviation-related courses at accredited education institutions may assist students who are operating a model aircraft under Section 336 and in common with a course that requires such operations, provided that the student maintains operational control of the model aircraft such that the faculty member’s manipulation of the model aircraft’s controls is incidental and secondary to the students (e.g. the faculty member steps in to regain control in the event the student begins to lose control, to terminate flight, etc.)

UAS Demonstrations

Hobbyists or enthusiasts can fly at an “accredited educational institution or other community-sponsored events to promote the safe use of UAS and encourage students’ interest in aviation as a hobby or for recreational purposes provided the hobbyist receives no compensation of any kind (honorarium or reimbursement of costs), or any such compensation neither directly or indirectly furthers the hobbyists’ business or operation of the UAS.[4]

Keep in mind that the last portion is very broad. If you think this might apply to you, the work around is to just do demos inside a completely enclosed building and avoid all these legal gymnastic problems.

Student Use

We were all wondering if the skills learned from education somehow prevented the flight from being recreational. The FAA’s interpretation of recreational was that the operator was not receiving any direct or indirect benefit. Skills would be an indirect benefit so this kept many on the sideslines.

The FAA went on to say that just because a student learns about the knowledge of flight does not make the flight not hobby and recreational when they will use that knowledge to get a degree.[5] The link between knowledge, to degree, to job is just “too attenuated” to be considered outside of hobby or recreational use.

The FAA concluded that UAS flying for “students at accredited educational institutions as a component of science, technology, and aviation-related educational curricula or other coursework such as television or film production or the arts more closely reflects and embodies the purposed of ‘hobby and recreation[.]’”[6]

If the student receives any reimbursement for costs or an honorarium then that is NOT hobby and recreational; however, a student may receive financial aid, participating in a work-study program, or being a paid research assistant to a faculty member teaching the course.[7]

Faculty Use

Faculty teaching a course or curricula that uses unmanned aircraft as a component of that course may provide limited assistance to students operating the unmanned aircraft” without changing the student’s hobby and recreational classification or the need for the faculty to obtain FAA authorization.[8]

This limited assistance exception is only where the UAS operation is secondary in the course; however, if UAS operations is the primary reason for the course, the faculty member would need authorization, but the student, as defined above, would not.

It is NOT considered hobby and recreational for a faculty member or assistant to operate a drone as part of their professional duties. Additionally, a professor cannot do a “work around” and get the students to fly the drone for purposes of the faculty member’s professional research objectives.

When Does a University’s Class/Operations NOT Fall Into This Exception?

  • Faculty operating the drone for research and development
  • Faculty supervising students doing research and development using a drone
  • UAS flight instruction where the faculty instructor is actively involved in the operation (not incidental and secondary); however, just teaching without touching the controls would be fine. (Think of it like the faculty is the air traffic controller teaching the student how to land the aircraft.)

Problems I See:

  • How much of this has been superseded or will be overruled?
    • Does the newly created Part 101 nullify the older 336 interpretations? Will the FAA treat the 336 interpretations like they were really Part 101 interpretations?
    • How will the Taylor cases in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals cause problems to the reach of the interpretations on the 336 protected model aircraft class?
    • Keep in mind the FAA mentioned in the Part 107 preamble that they are revising the 2014 model aircraft interpretation.
  • Must the Model Aircraft Be Registered?
    • Nothing is said in the memo about whether the aircraft must be registered or not. This is most likely an oversight on the FAA’s part since they have been campaigning hard about the need for all aircraft 250 grams or above to be registered.
    • The FAA’s interpretation of Section 336 is that it prohibits the specific regulation of model aircraft, not the regulation of all aircraft as a whole like it is some sort of civil rights for drones equal protection clause which does not in any way work with the meaning of “special” in the title to Section 336. In other words, how are model aircraft special (as indicated in the title of 336) if model aircraft are required to be treated like everyone else?
  • Are Model Aircraft Special or Not?
    • There is something seriously incongruous with the FAA’s view of Section 336 and Part 101 and how Section 336 actually reads. The FAA seems to view 336, and now Part 101, as a means of allowing model aircraft flights without “authorization”[9]when in reality it is specifically addressed at the FAA telling them to not create any rule or regulation governing model aircraft.
  • FPV Flying
    • The FAA in their 2014 interpretation on the model aircraft rules indicated that FPV racing would NOT fall within Section 336’s definition of model aircraft.[11]An interesting point here is the Federal Aviation Regulations required the pilot to “see and avoid” other aircraft[12] and Section 336 defines the model aircraft as being “flown within visual light of sight of the person flying the aircraft.”[13] This all logically follows that the FAA’s interpretation would be that FPV racing, while possibly permitted under this interpretation, would NOT be permitted under their model aircraft interpretation from 2014 since it would not be considered a “model aircraft” for purposes of Section 336 or Part 101.

So what does all this mean?

There are more problems here than a MacGyver episode.

There are two easy solutions for educators and schools: (1) have the students and teachers all fly indoors or (2) have the teacher/professor obtain a Part 107 remote pilot certificate and one student flies under the direct supervision of the teacher/professor. Part 107 is a far less restrictive than the newly amended Section 333 exemptions.


4. Part 107 (Non-Recreational Operations)  Drone Training 

far-part-107-standards

The best choice is for the professor/teacher to obtain a remote pilot certificate. (In-depth step-by-step instructions for obtaining the certificate for first time and current pilots are located here). There are two options for obtaining it:

  1. Manned aircraft pilots certificated under Part 61 and who are also current with a biannual flight review can take a free online training course. They can then get identified from either a certified flight instructor, an FAA aviation safety inspector, a designated pilot examiner, or from an airmen certification representative. They then file through an online portal. They’ll receive and email later notifying them they can print out their temporary remote pilot certificate.
  2. Brand new pilots can take the remote pilot initial knowledge exam ($150) at a testing center. Also, manned pilots who are not current will have to take the knowledge exam.

 

If you are brand new to all of this and don’t know much about Part 107, read What Drone Operators Need to Know About the New Part 107 Drone Regulations.

There are many resources out there to study for the exam. There are some paid courses out there, but I have created a FREE 100+ page study guide for this test.

Part 107 Articles You Might Enjoy

Important Points About Part 107 For Educators & Schools:

Please understand that this is NOT a complete list.

The minimum age of the remote pilot in command is 16 years of age. Keep in mind there is no limit how young a person can be who is flying under the direct supervision of the teacher.

Part 107 is for OUTSIDE buildings while in the national airspace. You can get around the regulations by operating in a completely closed building.

The FAA said on page 103-104 of the preamble to the final rule:

To further enable the educational opportunities identified by the commenters, this rule will allow the remote pilot in command (who will be a certificated airman) to supervise another person’s manipulation of a small UAS’s flight controls. A person who receives this type of supervision from the remote pilot in command will not be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate to manipulate the controls of a small UAS as long as the remote pilot in command possesses the ability to immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft. This ability is necessary to ensure that the remote pilot in command can quickly address any mistakes that are made by an uncertificated person operating the flight controls before those mistakes create a safety hazard.

The ability for the remote pilot in command to immediately take over the flight controls could be achieved by using a number of different methods. For example, the operation could involve a “buddy box” type system that uses two control stations: one for the person manipulating the flight controls and one for the remote pilot in command that allows the remote pilot in command to override the other control station and immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft. Another method could involve the remote pilot in command standing close enough to the person manipulating the flight controls so as to be able to physically take over the control station from the other person. A third method could employ the use of an automation system whereby the remote pilot in command could immediately engage that system to put the small unmanned aircraft in a pre-programmed “safe” mode (such as in a hover, in a holding pattern, or “return home”).

 

III. Potential Liability Issues that Drone Training Instructors and Schools Face

Instructors and schools face liability issues from multiple areas. Please understand that this is NOT a complete list. You should talk to an attorney to find out what applies to your situation.

A. State and Local Law Issues

All sorts of states, towns, and counties have started creating drone laws. It is becoming very problematic to keep track of them all since they are springing up like mushrooms. It is almost as if drones laws are the like the latest fad for government officials – like Pokemon and we are now as drone operators trying to catch them all.

Here are two resources that could be very valuable to help you find out your STATE laws:

Regarding county, city, and town laws…good luck.  You are on your own there. This is a big problem for the industry because there is no easy way to track the laws. The databases aren’t complete and these local governments all are wanting to play FAA use all sorts of different terms (drones, UAS, unmanned aircraft, model aircraft, model airplanes, etc.).  You end up having to search for a bunch of different terms and hope one get’s a hit; otherwise, you are stuck in the land of uncertainty wondering if you didn’t find the drone law out there or there aren’t any.

The reason I bring this up is there are state laws that have criminal penalties and other liability issues. For example, Florida’s law provides for a private right of action for an individual to sue the drone operator using a drone to gather data of the person’s property that was not able to be seen at eye level. Make sure you check your local laws! The FAA is NOT the only one trying to regulate your drones.

B. Students Versus the Teacher

Let’s say a student is flying the drone and the teacher isn’t paying attention to the student’s flying. BAM. Now the student injured himself, the teacher, or another student.  Uhhh ooo.

Was the teacher proficient in instructing? Was there a means to override the student’s actions to prevent this? Is there insurance covering the teacher, school, and student?

C. Third Party Bystander Versus Teacher (Now & Later)

This area of liability can be broken down into current liability and a residual type of liability.

The current type of liability would be the teacher and student versus other third parties in the area at the time. (Maybe a mom jogging with a baby stroller, the mailman, old guy walking his dog, etc.)

The more subtle and dangerous type of liability is the lingering residual type of liability that happens when you train many students. If you train 100 students, that is 100 reasons flying around to get you sued. If one of them crashes into someone, you could get brought into a lawsuit as a defendant under the idea that you provided negligent instruction to the student. Hopefully you will have an insurance policy that will cover this. This is why myself, and other flight instructors, stop instructing all together because we don’t want to have this lingering liability.

You should also document the living daylights out of all the training you give to students. This will come in handy later on if there is a lawsuit. I created a drone operator’s logbook which will be helpful for documenting training.  Yes, it is a paper logbook which means you WON’T have battery, connectivity, firmware, IOS version, etc. problems.

Conclusion

This is an evolving area of the law. On top of that, it is confusing. If you are setting up a program or currently are running one, you might want to consider working with an aviation attorney to help you navigate this area safely.  Additionally, you might need waivers and/or authorizations for some of your operations. If you are needing help, contact me so we can get your program off the ground and soaring to new heights of success by integrating drones to save time, money, and lives.

 

[1] U.S Const. art. I, § 8; see also 49 U.S.C. § 40103 (a)(1)(“The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.”).

[2] Federal Aviation Act, Pub. L. No. 85-726, 72 Stat. 731 (1958).

[3] See A Brief History of the FAA, Fed. Aviation Admin., http://www.faa.gov/about/history/brief_history/

[4] See 49 U.S.C. § 40103(b)(1)(Congress delegated to the FAA the job to “develop plans and policy for the use of the navigable airspace and assign by regulation or order the use of the airspace necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use of airspace.”)(emphasis mine).

[5] 14 C.F.R. §§ 1-199.

[6] 14 C.F.R. §§ 21-49.

[7] 14 C.F.R. §§ 61-67.

[8] 14 C.F.R. §§ 71-77.

[9] 14 C.F.R. §§ 119-135.

[10] 14 C.F.R. §§ 91-105.

[11] 14 C.F.R. §§ 141-147.

[12] 14 C.F.R. §§ 150-161.

[13] 14 C.F.R. §§ 170-171.

[14] 14 C.F.R. § 91.13; 107.23.

[15] See 49 U.S.C § 40102(a)(41).

[16] See 49 U.S.C. § 40125(a).

[17] See id.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

5 Problem Areas When Integrating Drones Into Large Companies

drone-fleet-enterprise-company-problems

5 Areas to Consider When Integrating Drone Operations into a Large Company

This article is written based upon my experience interacting with small to multiple billion dollar companies. This article is designed to ask questions which will be the starting point for discussions which need to happen internally in a company. If you are a company wanting to continue the discussion further, contact me. 

Don’t want to read the article?  Watch it here!

 

1. Operations – (Internal, External, & Flight Operations Procedures Manual)

A. Internal Operations Within the Company Between the Different Departments

drone-enterprise-internalHow does the drone department fit into the immediate company?  How will it interact with the other departments? For example, is the drone department also going to be doing the R & D for business cases using drones, or will the R & D department do the business cases for drones?  Are there are other departments which might want to use the drone technology such as the marketing department for obtaining photos or videos?

How is the legal department going to exercise oversight? It might not be the wisest use of company resources to have an attorney in legal do the aviation law compliance work but instead work with experienced outside counsel who focuses on this area. Additionally, many states, counties, cities, and towns are all trying to create drone laws. Who is going to manage that? The legal department or more outside attorneys?

Is the drone flight department going to be its own department completely separate from the corporate flight department with the jets or will the drone department be located in the corporate flight department?

drone-enterprise-flight-department-drone-department

In addition to WHERE will the department go, WHO will be the one in charge of it. (We all know everyone wants to be in charge of it.) This will cause some interesting dynamics between different departments.  Will the drone department be on its own or be under supervision from the flight department?

B. External Operations Outside the Company?

 

Where is the drone flight department(s) going? For smaller and mid-sized companies, this might not be a problem, but for large companies which have multiple subsidiaries, it can be an issue.  For example, a parent company might want to create a completely new service company by which to service their other companies or they might want to create a drone flight department in each of their subsidiaries.

drone-enterprise-company-interactionIn Scenario 1, if each company is to have its own drone department, who is actually responsible for updating manuals and distributing them to the other departments You don’t want to be paying for duplicate work. Who is responsible for recurrent training?

What are the long term goals of the company? Scenario 2 with a completely separate drone department is already set up (D) for doing business with other companies who might want to supplement their drone operations (X & Y) or hire out for certain regions because it is more cost effective. Company D could service other companies (potentially even competitors) in the same industries as A, B, and C who haven’t established drone inspection departments. D could be a revenue generator.

Why would a company hire their competitor for drone service?  Trying to find a legitimate drone service provider is the equivalent of trying to find a legit pair of sunglasses at the flea market. I would trust my competitor’s drone inspection department more than an independent drone service provider’s.

C. Flight Operations Procedures Manual Outlining Step-by-Step Procedures for Internal & External Interactions

How many different operations are needed? (Day, night, beyond visual line of sight, moving vehicle, operating near an airport in controlled airspace, etc.) Each operation might need its own operations manual.  Why?  Each type of operation has its own unique set of hazards which need to be mitigated. Those mitigations are built into the manual and checklists.

There are hazards everywhere. Some we know about and some we don’t know about. As operations go on, new hazards will be identified and will need to be reported back to the flight department.  For example, let’s say a Phantom 5 comes out and certain drone operators are starting to experience flight controller problems. Who is to receive this information and who will track it?

Another thing to consider is the procedures and quality controls on delivering the data to the appropriate people without it falling through the cracks. For example, if a utility sub-station is being inspected and an element is found to be overheating, who is to receive this knowledge? How is it to be documented?  If during a line inspection, vegetation is found starting to get very close to the powerlines, who is supposed to be get notified? Should the drone operator in the field make the direct calls to the appropriate department? Should the drone operator just report back to a dedicated individual in the drone flight department who will make sure the situation is resolved?  Maybe both?

What type of data and how much is to be collected? Should the drone operator quickly take some pictures and send those to the appropriate department so they can prioritize the response in their schedule?  Is video needed? Where is that data to be stored and what happens if there is a lawsuit with a clever attorney requesting all the data? The legal department knows where to find that data right?

 

2. Aircraft – (Mission Type, Maintenance, Aircraft Manuals, & Batteries)

A. What Types of Missions Will the Aircraft Perform?

Going back to the two scenarios above, drone departments in Scenario 1 might want mission specific aircraft while Scenario 2 might want a platform that will be adequate for all missions across the multiple companies.

There are a few popular aerial platforms out there that are not that expensive, but certain missions might require aircraft specifically built for that operation which means they will be more expensive.

B. Will the Aircraft Have a Maintenance Program? (Preventive & Corrective Maintenance).

How robust will the maintenance program be? Will it cover all types of repairs?  As the repairs needed are more sophisticated, there will be a bigger need for a specialist to conduct those repairs. Will you send it to the manufacturer or will you hire a specialist in-house.  Many logistical issues arise; for example, where do you base an in-house specialist if you have offices across the country?

Since unmanned aircraft are getting cheaper and cheaper, you could go to a completely disposable set up. Think of laptops and cellphones as opposed to airplanes. The question is what damage will be considered minor and what or how much damage will cause you to just scrap the drone.  You could always sell off the scrap to an aftermarket repair company.

Regarding either scenario, you’ll need to still set up periodic inspection schedules on the aircraft. How are you going to arrange that? Are you checking everything or certain things? What about updates for the drone and the ground station? What about any peripheral equipment like iPads?

C. Aircraft Flight Manuals

Many of the manuals that come with these drones are a joke. You might want to develop your own standardized aircraft flight manuals that are standardized for all platforms.  For example, Chapter 1 is Definitions, Chapter 2 Quick Specifications, etc.

D. Batteries

How many batteries will you need per drone operator to have in the field?

Batteries are hazardous. If you accidentally drop one just right, you can start a fire.

If you drop something on one, you can start a fire.

If you look at it funny, you can start a fire. Starting to get the picture?

Watch this video of what happened to a LiPo battery in a car:

 

 

Here is another story where a guy was charging some batteries and a fire erupted which damaged his home:

 

Where are they going to be charged? In the car while in the field or back at the office?

If you are going to charge these at the office, how do you prevent them from being a big fire hazard like what happened to the guy in the 2nd video where he had multiple batteries next to each other?

Are there requirements for your operators on the storage of the batteries in the cars when driving out to job sites? It would be a big problem if a vehicle was rear-ended and caught on fire. Will they carry a fire extinguisher? Are the extinguishers appropriately rated for a chemical fire?

E. The Aircraft Manufacturer

From Gus Calderon:

“Selecting the appropriate drones for your intended operation type is a critically important decision. Too often, companies are influenced by drone salesmen boasting features such as fully autonomous operation. There will always be a need for a skilled and experienced pilot so don’t be fooled by this common sales pitch. You should be most concerned about reliability and safety. When considering safety, keep in mind that the more a drone weighs, the more damage it could cause if it has an “unscheduled landing.”

Another consideration is how long the manufacturer has been in business? What is their product support like? What is the availability of replacement parts and consumables for the drones you select? Also, are training courses available for the drones you are considering?”

3. Drone Pilots – (Pilot Standards, Quality Control, & 107 Waivers and Training.)

A. What Are the Standards for Selecting Pilots?

You are going to have to figure this out if you hire within-house or outside help. What will be the objective grading criteria you will use for selecting pilots? Will it be based upon test proving just skills? What about experience? Do you use hours or cycles? Do you give more weight to time in certain environments as opposed to others?

B. What Are the Quality Controls?

If you are planning on hiring purely outside help or maybe a hybrid with in-house, how are you going to audit them?  I was talking with another drone attorney and this one drone service provider company name came up. We shared the same story of this company that was basically being shady to their clients and not admitting they were NOT approved to fly at the location. That company was trying to get the work done and hoped the clients didn’t ask any questions. Drone service providers like dumb clients.  You should seriously consider getting either an aviation attorney or someone in the flight department to do vetting on the front end and some random audits on whoever you hire outside.

C. What Type of Training Will You Provide the Pilots so They Can Fly Under a 107 Waiver?

Certain waivers, like night waivers, require training that is required to be documented and available for inspection if the FAA were to ask for it. How are you going to set up that training? Who is going to deliver it and what are the standards for determining the qualifications of that pilot? If you hire someone outside of the company to train the pilots, how do you vet them and make sure they have instructing insurance?

4. Legal – (107 Waivers or Section 333 Exemptions, External or In-House Counsel, & Crash/Accident Response).

A. Will Your Operations Need a 107 Waiver or Section 333 Exemption or Maybe Both?

This will be important to figure out for purposes of determining costs, operations, and training. Some jobs cannot be done under 107 or 107 waivers (like 55 pound and heavier operations) so you’ll need to go the 333 exemption route. It would be wise to involve a competent aviation attorney at this point to help you determine if you can do all of your operations under just Part 107.

B. Will Legal Be Performed by In-House or with Outside Counsel?

I think the most effective use of company resources will be hiring outside counsel for dealing with the FAA.  Most companies do not have any aviation attorneys in their company, and the flight departments, while skilled in navigating the FARs, are not licensed to practice law. Most states consider the unlicensed practice of law a crime.

Furthermore, it can get interesting if there is a lawsuit. Why? Attorneys have the attorney-client privilege while there is no such thing as a drone-consultant – client privilege or flight-department-guy- client privilege.   Just run this little statement by legal and I’m sure they will 100% agree with me that an attorney is the best way to go. Otherwise, your drone-consultant could get served with a subpoena in a lawsuit and then be forced to either (1) commit perjury, (2) testify against you, or (3) be held in contempt of court if they don’t testify.

Moreover, many attorneys carry malpractice insurance while I highly doubt many of the consultants in this area carry some type of insurance to protect their clients. The insurance is there to make whole injured clients. Do the consultants or attorneys you are working with carry insurance?

C. Does the Company Have Attorneys Designated to be Involved in Post-Crash/Accident Investigations and Communications?

Following on what I just said regarding having an attorney involved PRE-ACCIDENT, an attorney should be designated to be involved post-accident.  Do you have an emergency response plan (ERP)? Remember that everything your employees say can and will be used against the company in a lawsuit.

There are also reporting requirements that are to be made to the NTSB and the FAA in certain situations. It also might be beneficial to know if a NASA form should be filed or not. See my article What Are You Legally Required to do After a Drone Crash.

Setting liability aside, there is also a public relations issue here. How will your PR department be brought in?

5. Manuals & Checklists (Training, Aircraft, Flight Operations, & Maintenance).

A. Training Manuals Should Be Integrated with Pilot Standards and 107 Waiver Training Requirements.

Echoing what was said before, the training standards need to be to that of what waivers will require. Night waivers will need pilots and visual observes who are trained to recognizing the problems with operating at night.

B. Who Will Maintain the Aircraft Flight Manuals?

As time goes on, the FAA will issue interpretations. Aircraft will have software upgrades and their control stations as well. There will need to be a person who updates the manuals and ensures that the managers are briefed on the new updates and that the information is relayed to the pilots as well.

C. How Will You Ensure the Flight Operations Manuals Are Updated to Mitigate New Hazards?

The remote pilots operating out in the field will notice new hazards that were maybe not identified in the beginning or the pilots discovered that the mitigation to counter the hazard created a whole new hazard that needs to be mitigated. These hazards need to be relayed to a central point who will determine an appropriate mitigation and then update the manuals and disseminate them to the managers to relay to the pilots.

 

Conclusion

This article is merely the beginning of discussion on these 5 problematic areas. I would highly suggest you take a good long look at your operations and see how these pieces of the puzzle interact.

I would also highly, highly suggest getting knowledgeable people involved in these discussions quickly. Why?  The larger the company, the larger the group or committee working on the project. This creates more indecisiveness. On top of that, these indecisive committees can have 3-10 people on them which creates 3-10 man hours of – wasted time.

How much did it cost the company to have those 3-10 people try and figure out something? Worse yet, how much did it cost the company by not implementing drone operations? Remember, drones don’t make money, but save money. There are operating costs that can be immediately lowered or risks lowered (thus, lower insurance premiums or less chance for an accident).

I would suggest to you that the bigger the company, the overall cost will be lower to immediately get involved competent people to (1) allow the drone group/committee to rapidly make decisions and (2) accelerate the time from discussion to implementation to enable the company the use of drones to save time, money, and lives.

Can you really afford not to start? Contact me and let’s get started.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Part 107 Statistics (3 Big Take-Aways)

 

Part 107 Statistics: 3 Big Take-Aways

The data gathered was from a source in the FAA which requested to remain anonymous. I made an effort to cite data. It is current as of October 18, 2016.

 

1. Remote Pilot Pass Rates Are Close to Private Pilot Knowledge Test Pass Rates.

Interestingly, the individuals taking the remote pilot exam had a pass rate of 88.29%, which is close to the private pilot knowledge test for airplanes pass rate of 89.44% for all of 2015[1].

I know that many have had success using the free study guide I put out.

 

 passvfail of Part 107 exam

2. TSA Responded Well to Processing the Applications.

You’ll notice that when you compare the applications filed to applications completed, it is disproportionate at the beginning; however, the TSA, while not catching up fully with the applications filed, responded well by increasing their rate of processing the applications close to that of applications being filed. Many of us were concerned the TSA would be backed up with the surge in applications which would continue to grow and grow.

 filedvcompleted of part 107 iacra applications

3. The Majority of Those Applying Are Current Part 61 Pilots.

You have two ways of obtaining a remote pilot certificate, be a current Part 61 pilot who has taken the online training course or take the remote pilot initial knowledge exam. The green columns below show the number of individuals who have successfully passed the remote pilot initial knowledge exam while the orange columns are the number of people who have applied for their remote pilot certificate.

filedv107taken
There could have been some CURRENT  Part 61 pilots who took the initial knowledge exam (green column), but that is going to be a very small portion because the test costs $150 while the online training course they would need to take as a current pilot is free. The Part 61 pilots in this group will primarily be NON-CURRENT Part 61 pilots.

 

Additionally, to file a remote pilot certificate application you will need select the test you took (the initial knowledge exam will show up in the system otherwise you are stuck till it shows up) or have your identification validated by a certified flight instructor, air a safety inspector, a designated pilot examiner, or an airmen certification representative and they certify that in the application. It is very unlikely that any of those four would commit perjury by certifying a person or that the person applying for the 107 would commit perjury himself. (Yes, it could happen but it would be a small number.)

 

This means that the difference is going to be mostly current Part 61 pilots with an unknown number of non-current Part 61 pilots in the green column. That is a lot of Part 61 pilots moving into the industry!

Conclusion

 

It looks like we are off to a good start. The new remote pilots haven’t really “dropped the ball” but have passed the test. It will be very interesting to see how these new pilots interact with the more highly trained Part 61 pilots who are currently coming into the industry. Hopefully, the culture of professionalism and safety from the Part 61 pilots will transfer over to the drone community.

 

One way to set yourself apart from the typical 107 competition is to obtain waivers or authorizations. The most commonly asked for waiver is the night waiver which allows you to fly past civil twilight (see How to Fly Your Drone at Night).  If you are interested in any of the waivers to stand out from the crowd, don’t hesitate to contact me.

[1] https://www.faa.gov/data_research/aviation_data_statistics/test_statistics/media/2015/annual/2015_Airman_Knowledge_Tests.pdf

[2] Id. on Page 2.

[3] https://www.faa.gov/data_research/aviation_data_statistics/civil_airmen_statistics/media/2015-civil-airmen-stats.xlsx

 


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver)

107-night-waiver-fly-cowInterested in obtaining a Part 107 night waiver to fly your drone at night? This article will dive into the different definitions of night, civil twilight, and what is legally required to fly at night. To start off, this article is focusing on operations under Part 107, not model aircraft operating under Part 101. Part 107 remote pilots will need a waiver from 107.29 which is sometimes called a Part 107 night waiver.

Their are different standards and definitions floating around causing all sorts of confusion in this area. The FAA uses different terms in the regulations: night, sunset, civil twilight, 1 hour after sunset, and 30 minutes after sunset. I’m going to throw all the terms out on the table and explain them so you know what is required of you.  If you sign up for the newsletter and confirm your email, you’ll be sent an email with a link to download the above infographic to keep with you on your device. Additionally, it is optimized for 8.5×11 pieces of paper. You could print it out and keep it with you or you can give it out.

The Different Definitions in the Federal Aviation Regulations

The bold emphasis is mine. Pay particular attention to the words and context.

14 CFR § 1.1 says, “Night means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the Air Almanac, converted to local time.”

14 CFR § 61.57(b) says, “Night takeoff and landing experience. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, unless within the preceding 90 days that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise[.]”

14 CFR § 91.209 says, “No person may: 

(a) During the period from sunset to sunrise (or, in Alaska, during the period a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon)— (1) Operate an aircraft unless it has lighted position lights; . . .

(b) Operate an aircraft that is equipped with an anticollision light system, unless it has lighted anticollision lights. However, the anticollision lights need not be lighted when the pilot-in-command determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to turn the lights off.”

14 CFR § 107.29 says,

“(a) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during night.

(b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.

(c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following:

(1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise;

(2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and

(3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.”

Notice that different parts of the FARs are cited. Basically, if you are a commercial drone operator, you have the option of operating under Part 107 or under a Section 333 exemption and all the applicable regulations.

Summarizing What is and is NOT Required

  • Part 107

    • You are limited to daylight operations (sunrise to sunset).
    • However, you may operate at civil twilight provided you have an appropriate anti-collision system.
    • You cannot operate at night unless you have a Part 107 night waiver
  • Section 333 Operators

    • 333 operations “may not be conducted during night, as defined in 14 CFR § 1.1.” Part 1.1’s definition of night is tied back to the Air Almanac while Part 107 definition of civil twilight is fixed, unless you are in Alaska.
      • Why is this interesting? The length of twilight changes depending on what latitude you are operating at and also at what time of the year. Florida has a greater duration of twilight during the winter than during the summer. Additionally, Maine has a greater amount of twilight than Florida on the same day because Maine is higher in latitude. See The Duration of Twilight, and if you are in the U.S., page 1 of this graph. Another interesting thing is that for those of us living in Florida, we got a good deal and picked up more operating time under 107 than those operating under a 333 exemption; however, those in the northern latitudes got goofed over and could actually operate longer under a 333 exemption than they could under 107.  I used the U.S. Naval Observatory calculator to compare Miami to Seattle during the winter and summer solstices.

         

        Difference Between Sunset & Sunset Civil Twilight at the Summer SolsticeDifference Between Sunset & Sunset Civil Twilight at the Winter Solstice

        Miami, Florida

        26 Minutes

        25 Minutes

        Seattle, Washington41 Minutes

        37 Minutes

        So for those of you operating in the higher latitudes, you could try and figure out all of this juggling of the 107 and 333 exemption stuff, or just hire me to get you a Part 107 night waiver so you do not have to worry about this. 🙂

    • 14 CFR § 61.57(b) does NOT apply because you aren’t carrying passengers. Interestingly, some of the early 333s had a 90-day currency requirement (see Aerial Mob’s exemption at restriction 12) but the 90-day currency situation was done away with as time went on with the 333s.
    • First off, this section is only for 333 operators, not 107 operators. 14 CFR 91.209(a) is applicable only to those operating at night. To date, Industrial Skyworks is the only 333 exemption to have been approved for night operations. Interestingly, they received an exemption from 91.209. 14 CFR 91.209(b) is applicable only to those drones equipped with anti-collision lights.

Why the FAA Requires a Part 107 Night Waiver for 107 Operators

The FAA gave us very insightful comments on pages 42,102-103 of the Operation and Certification of Small
Unmanned Aircraft Systems that was published in the Federal Register.

Nighttime operations pose a higher safety risk because the reduced visibility makes it more difficult for the person maintaining visual line of sight to see the location of other aircraft. While the existence of other lighted manned aircraft may be apparent due to their lighting, the distance and movement of small unmanned aircraft relative to the distance and movement of those aircraft is often difficult to judge due to the relative size of the aircraft. In addition, visual autokinesis (the apparent movement of a lighted object) may occur when the person maintaining visual line of sight stares at a single light source for several seconds on a dark night. For this reason, darkness makes it more difficult for that person to perceive reference points that could be used to help understand the position and movement of the lighted manned aircraft, the small unmanned aircraft, or other lighted object.

The lack of reference points at night is problematic for small UAS subject to part 107 because they are not required to have any equipage that would help identify the precise location of the small unmanned aircraft. As such, a remote pilot in command operating under this rule will generally rely on unaided human vision to learn details about the position, attitude, airspeed, and heading of the unmanned aircraft. This ability may become impaired at night due to a lack of reference points because all a remote pilot may see of his or her aircraft (if it is lighted) is a point of light moving somewhere in the air. For example, a lighted small unmanned aircraft flying at night may appear to be close by, but due to a lack of reference points, that aircraft may actually be significantly farther away than the remote pilot perceives. An impairment to the remote pilot’s ability to know the precise position, attitude, and altitude of the small unmanned aircraft would significantly increase the risk that the small unmanned aircraft will collide with another aircraft.

In addition to avoiding collision with other aircraft, remote pilots in command must also avoid collision with people on the ground, as well as collision with ground-based structures and obstacles. This is a particular concern for small UAS because they operate at low altitudes. When operating at night, a remote pilot may have difficulty avoiding collision with people or obstacles on the ground which may not be lighted and as a result, may not be visible to the pilot or the visual observer. As such, this rule will not allow small UAS subject to part 107 to operate at night (outside of civil twilight) without a waiver. . .

Civil twilight is a period of time that, with the exception of Alaska, generally takes place 30 minutes before official sunrise and 30 minutes after official sunset. The FAA agrees with commenters that operations during civil twilight could be conducted safely under part 107 with additional risk mitigation because the illumination provided during civil twilight is sufficient for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished during clear weather conditions. As a result, many of the safety concerns associated with nighttime operations are mitigated by the lighting that is present during civil twilight. That is why current section 333 exemptions permit twilight UAS operations. Accordingly, this rule will allow a small UAS to be operated during civil twilight.

However, while civil twilight provides more illumination than nighttime, the level of illumination that is provided during civil twilight is less than the illumination provided between sunrise and sunset. To minimize the increased risk of collision associated with reduced lighting and visibility during twilight operations, this rule will require small unmanned aircraft operated during civil twilight to be equipped with anti-collision lights that are visible for at least 3 statute miles.

A remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lights if, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. For example, the remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of anti-collision lights to minimize the effects of loss of night vision adaptation. The FAA emphasizes that anti-collision lighting will be required under this rule only for civil twilight operations; a small unmanned aircraft that is flown between sunrise and sunset need not be equipped with anti-collision lights.

The FAA acknowledges that current exemptions issued under Public Law 112–95, section 333 allow civil twilight operations without a requirement for anti-collision lighting. However, the section 333 exemptions do not exempt small UAS operations from complying with § 91.209(a), which requires lighted position lights when an aircraft is operated during a period from sunset to sunrise (or, in Alaska, during the period a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon). As such, UAS currently operating under a section 333 exemption have lighting requirements when operating during civil twilight.

However, while current section 333 exemptions rely on position lighting, it would be impractical for this rule to prescribe specifications for position lighting for civil twilight operations because a wider range of small unmanned aircraft will likely operate under part 107. Position lighting may not be appropriate for some of these aircraft. Thus, instead of position lighting, small unmanned aircraft operating under part 107 will be required to have anti-collision lights when operating during civil twilight. The FAA also notes that meteorological conditions, such as haze, may sometimes reduce visibility during civil twilight operations. Accordingly, the FAA emphasizes that, as discussed in the following section of this preamble, this rule also requires that the minimum flight visibility, as observed from the location of the ground control station, must be no less than 3 statute miles.”

One Big Benefit to Possessing a Part 107 Night Waiver

Want to Fly Near a Class D Airport Without an Airspace Authorization? A Part 107 night waiver might be your solution.

Sometimes we you get a job that is last moment. You don’t have time to obtain an airspace authorization or airspace waiver. You can just wait till the airport tower closes and fly under a Part 107 night waiver. 
Most controlled airports close at around 9-11PM local time. Not every airport is 24/7. Check the chart supplement (formerly known as the airport facility directory)  for the airport and see when the airport closes. You should also see which type of airspace it turns into. MAKE SURE IT TURNS INTO CLASS G! The time the tower will be in operation will be listed in Zulu time. Remember to convert to local time by looking at the UTC correction at the top. Just check to make sure in the chart supplement as I think a few towered airports might revert to Class E at the surface which requires an authorization.

You might have noticed something that looked like a  double plus + symbol right next to the Z in the tower’s operational time. It is important that you know what it means so you know WHEN exactly the tower closes or opens. This is what the chart supplement’s legend says:

Hours of operation of all facilities are expressed in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and shown as “Z” time. The directory indicates the number of hours to be subtracted from UTC to obtain local standard time and local daylight saving time UTC–5(–4DT). The symbol ‡ indicates that during periods of Daylight Saving Time (DST) effective hours will be one hour earlier than shown. In those areas where daylight saving time is not observed the (–4DT) and ‡ will not be shown. Daylight saving time is in effect from 0200 local time the second Sunday in March to 0200 local time the first Sunday in November. Canada and all U.S. Conterminous States observe daylight saving time except Arizona and Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. If the state observes daylight saving time and the operating times are other than daylight saving times, the operating hours will include the dates, times and no ‡ symbol will be shown, i.e., April 15–Aug 31 0630–1700Z, Sep 1–Apr 14 0600–1700Z.

class-g-chart-supplement-part-107-night-waiver

Procedures

Step 1: Check the airport’s chart supplement listing to make sure it reverts to class G.

Step 2: Figure out what the hours are. Keep in mind the ++ thing mentioned above.

Step 3: Check the NOTAMs for that airport to make sure those hours haven’t changed. I did come across this one time where the tower hours were changed via NOTAM. You might get a chance to take off sooner or have to wait till later.

 

Conclusion:

I have 14 Part 107 night waiver approvals already. I’m noticing that night waivers are on average taking about 26 days for my clients. The fastest ever was 13 days. The FAA is sure speeding things up. If you need help with a night waiver, please contact me.

I highly suggest you take time to browse through the other high quality Part 107 Articles I have created.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Press Release: Rupprecht Law’s Client Just Received a Part 107 Night Waiver

Part-107-night-waiverImmediate Press Release:

Rupprecht Law, P.A.’s client Red Raptor just picked up a night waiver today. Here is a picture from the first page.  The waiver is good for the entire United States in Class G airspace. It lasts until 2020. The manual used was developed by Airspace Consulting.

 

Why are night waivers so important?

14 CFR 107.29 requires:

(a) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during night.

(b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.

(c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following:

(1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise;

(2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and

(3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.

All sorts of jobs need night waivers:

  • Search and rescue at night
  • Inspecting roofs using a FLIR camera to spot water damage
  • Firefighting or law enforcement at night
  • Aerial cinematography
  • Sport or event filming
  • Security
  • Wildlife monitoring/filming

pilotheadshot

If you are needing help in obtaining a night waiver, please contact Rupprecht Law, P.A. today.

In selecting an aviation attorney to help your company, it is important to look at their background to see if they have any aviation experience. Don’t hire a poser, hire an aviation attorney who is also a commercial pilot. Jonathan is a commercial pilot and current flight instructor, has co-authored an American Bar Association legal treatise on unmanned aircraft law, co-authored a book on UAS flight instructing soon to be published by the ASA, has helped over 100 individuals or companies with drone law, and received a 100% on his Part 107 initial knowledge exam which he took to validate the principles he taught in his FREE Part 107 study guide.