Section 107.3 Definitions. (2018)


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§ 107.3 Definitions.

The following definitions apply to this part. If there is a conflict between the definitions of this part and definitions specified in §1.1 of this chapter, the definitions in this part control for purposes of this part:

Control station means an interface used by the remote pilot to control the flight path of the small unmanned aircraft.

Corrective lenses means spectacles or contact lenses.

Small unmanned aircraft means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft.

Small unmanned aircraft system (small UAS) means a small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.

Unmanned aircraft means an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.

Visual observer means a person who is designated by the remote pilot in command to assist the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground.

 

My Commentary:

Notice that small unmanned aircraft are UNDER 55 pounds. This means a 55 pound aircraft is NOT a small unmanned aircraft.

Alos notice that this regulation creates definitions in addition to Section 1.1 which has many definitions. If you are having trouble finding a definition, try searching in Section 1.1.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on § 107.3 Definitions.

4.2 Definitions. The following defined terms are used throughout this AC:

4.2.1 Control Station (CS). An interface used by the remote pilot or the person manipulating
the controls to control the flight path of the small UA.
4.2.2 Corrective Lenses. Spectacles or contact lenses.
4.2.3 Model Aircraft. A UA that is:

• Capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
• Flown within VLOS of the person operating the aircraft; and
• Flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

4.2.4 Person Manipulating the Controls. A person other than the remote pilot in command
(PIC) who is controlling the flight of an sUAS under the supervision of the remote PIC.
4.2.5 Remote Pilot in Command (Remote PIC or Remote Pilot). A person who holds a remote
pilot certificate with an sUAS rating and has the final authority and responsibility for the
operation and safety of an sUAS operation conducted under part 107.
4.2.6 Small Unmanned Aircraft (UA). A UA weighing less than 55 pounds, including
everything that is onboard or otherwise attached to the aircraft, and can be flown without
the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
4.2.7 Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS). A small UA and its associated elements
(including communication links and the components that control the small UA) that are
required for the safe and efficient operation of the small UA in the NAS.
4.2.8 Unmanned Aircraft (UA). An aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human
intervention from within or on the aircraft.
4.2.9 Visual Observer (VO). A person acting as a flightcrew member who assists the small UA
remote PIC and the person manipulating the controls to see and avoid other air traffic or
objects aloft or on the ground.

4.3 Abbreviations/Acronyms Used in the Advisory Circular.

1. AC: Advisory Circular.
2. ACR: Airman Certification Representative.
3. AGL: Above Ground Level.
4. ATC: Air Traffic Control.
5. CFI: Certificated Flight Instructor.
6. CFR: Code of Federal Regulations.
7. DPE: Designated Pilot Examiner.
8. FAA: Federal Aviation Administration.
9. FSDO: Flight Standards District Office.
10. GPS: Global Positioning System.
11. IACRA: Integrated Airmen Certification and/or Rating Application.
12. KTC: Knowledge Testing Center.
13. MSL: Mean Sea Level.
14. NOTAM: Notice to Airmen.
15. NAS: National Airspace System.
16. PIC: Pilot in Command.
17. UA: Unmanned Aircraft.
18. UAS: Unmanned Aircraft System.
19. U.S.C.: United States Code.
20. VO: Visual Observer.

FAA’s Discussion on §107.3 Definitions from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule 

The NPRM proposed to define several terms in part 107 including: (1) control station; (2) corrective lenses; (3) unmanned aircraft; (4) small unmanned aircraft; and (5) small unmanned aircraft system (small UAS).

1. Control Station
The NPRM proposed to define a control station as “an interface used by the operator to control the flight path of the small unmanned aircraft.” The NPRM explained that, unlike a manned aircraft, the interface that is used to control the flight path of a small unmanned aircraft remains outside of the aircraft. The proposed definition was intended to clarify the interface that is considered part of a small UAS under part 107.

NAAA and another commenter agreed with the proposed definition. Transport Canada asked the FAA to consider refining this definition by adding a definition of “control link” to distinguish between command and control functions and communication functions. One commenter asserted that the proposed definition does not encompass instances in which a small UAS’s flight path is preprogrammed via waypoints, and the interface used by the remote pilot is intended simply to commence execution of the program.

The link between the ground control station and the small unmanned aircraft is commonly referred to as the “command and control link” or “C2.” When a communication link between the remote pilot and another person, such as a visual observer or an air traffic controller, is added to C2, it is referred to as “command, control and communications” or “C3.” C2 is an inherent requirement for safe operations, even if the small unmanned aircraft flight is completely autonomous (i.e., preprogrammed flight operations without further input from the remote pilot) because the remote pilot must be able to take direct command of the flight in order to exercise his/her responsibility for collision avoidance, yielding right of way to other aircraft, etc. C3, on the other hand, is only needed if the remote pilot is using the ground control station to communicate with another person directly involved in the operation, such as a visual observer. Because this rule does not require multi-person operations, the definition of a ground control station will not include the requirement for a communications link.

Furthermore, as technology advances, the concept and use of C2 and C3 could change significantly. Omitting a rigid regulatory definition of these terms in this rule will allow them to evolve as technology changes.

2. Corrective Lenses
In connection with the visual-line-of-sight requirements in the NPRM, the FAA proposed to define the term “corrective lenses” as “spectacles or contact lenses.” The FAA explained that, unlike other vision-enhancing devices, spectacles and contact lenses do not restrict a user’s peripheral vision, and thus could be used to satisfy the visual-line-of-sight requirements proposed in the NPRM. The FAA did not receive any adverse comments on this proposed definition, and thus finalizes the proposed definition of “corrective lenses” in this rule without change.

3. Unmanned Aircraft
The NPRM proposed to define “unmanned aircraft” as “an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.” This proposed definition would codify the statutory definition of “unmanned aircraft” specified in Public Law 112-95, section 331(8).

MAPPS stated that the definition of “unmanned aircraft” needs to be clarified because the current definition leaves open the possibility that paper airplanes, model airplanes, model rockets, and toys could be considered unmanned aircraft. The Permanent Editorial Board of the Aviators Model Code of Conduct Initiative stated that this definition and the definition of small unmanned aircraft may permit infant passengers and asked the FAA to amend the definition to categorically prohibit the carriage of passengers on an unmanned aircraft.
The definition of unmanned aircraft as “an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft” is a statutory definition and, as such, this rule will finalize that definition as proposed. In response to MAPPS’ comment, as discussed in section III.C.5 of this preamble, part 107 will not apply to operations governed by part 101. Those operations include model aircraft, moored balloons, kites, amateur rockets, and unmanned free balloons. With regard to carriage of infants on small unmanned aircraft, this concern is addressed by other provisions in this rule that prohibit careless or reckless operations that endanger the life of another person.

4. Small Unmanned Aircraft
The NPRM proposed to define “small unmanned aircraft” as “an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds including everything that is on board the aircraft.” The NPRM noted that Public Law 112-95, section 331(6) defines a small unmanned aircraft as “an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.” However, the NPRM pointed out that this statutory definition does not specify whether the 55-pound weight limit refers to the total weight of the aircraft at the time of takeoff (which would encompass the weight of the aircraft and any payload on board) or simply the weight of an empty aircraft. The NPRM proposed to define small unmanned aircraft using total takeoff weight because: (1) heavier aircraft generally pose greater amounts of public risk in the event of an accident, because they can do more damage to people and property on the ground; and (2) this approach would be similar to the approach that the FAA has taken with other aircraft, such as large aircraft, light-sport aircraft, and small aircraft.

Commenters including AOPA, ALPA, and the Helicopter Association International, supported the proposed definition. The New England Chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International and Devens IOP, commenting jointly, pointed out that there are commercial applications being developed that will need to exceed 55 pounds. Event 38 Unmanned Systems stated that rather than segregate small unmanned aircraft by total weight, the FAA should use a “kinetic energy split” that combines weight and speed.
Several commenters asked that the 55-pound weight limit be lowered. Event 38 Unmanned Systems recommended an initial weight restriction of 10 pounds, with adjustments based on subsequent research. Prioria Robotics, Inc. stated that the weight limitation for small unmanned aircraft should be less than 25 pounds, and that the definition should include a requirement that the aircraft be “hand-launchable.” Another commenter asked for the weight limit to be reduced to 33 pounds.

Green Vegans stated that FAA must provide test data on the collision impact of a 55-pound UAS, traveling at various speeds, on both humans and birds. The advocacy group argued that the public cannot make informed comments on the proposed weight limitation without such data. The advocacy group also noted that such data would be provided by a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Impact Statement, which the group stated the FAA must do. Crew Systems similarly opposed the maximum weight limitation, arguing that FAA provided no justification for it. The company asserted that a 55-pound UAS is large enough to be hazardous when operated in an urban environment, even if care is taken. Although it did not expressly object to the weight limitation, the United States Ultralight Association also expressed concern about the significant damage that a 50-plus-pound unmanned aircraft could do to light, open-cockpit aircraft.

Other commenters asked the FAA to increase the 55-pound weight limit. Consumers Energy Company objected to the definition’s proposed weight limitation as too light, arguing that a 55-pound weight restriction will negatively impact small UAS flight times and the usage of alternative fuel sources. Consumers Energy urged the FAA to consider fuel loads and to increase the weight restriction to 120 pounds. The commenter also suggested that, if the FAA has concerns about safety, it could create subcategories under which maximum weight restriction is imposed on the fuel load, rather than adopt a blanket weight restriction. Several commenters also suggested higher weight limits, including: 80 pounds; a range of 30-100 pounds; and 150 pounds. Another commenter called the weight restriction “arbitrary,” and noted that other States have defined small UAS to include unmanned aircraft weighing up to 150 kilograms.

One commenter suggested that the FAA amend the definition of small unmanned aircraft to include aircraft weighing exactly 55 pounds. Another commenter stated that the definition of “small unmanned aircraft” must be clarified to account for different types of UAS (e.g., fixed-wing, rotor-wing, small, medium, large).

The definition of “small unmanned aircraft” is a statutory definition. Specifically, Public Law 112-95, section 331(6) defines a small unmanned aircraft as “an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.” Accordingly, this rule will retain the statutory definition, which includes 55 pounds as the weight limit for a small unmanned aircraft. However, the FAA emphasizes that, as discussed in section III.A of this preamble, this rule is merely one step of UAS integration into the NAS. As such, the FAA anticipates that future rulemakings will integrate larger UAS into the NAS and thus enable additional commercial opportunities.

Several commenters discussed the ambiguity in the statutory definition with regard to how the 55-pound weight limit should be calculated. The Small UAV Coalition and Federal Airways & Airspace supported the inclusion of payload in the weight calculation. Conversely, DJI, the Associated General Contractors of America, and another commenter questioned whether the 55-pound weight limitation should include payload that is carried by the small unmanned aircraft. DJI argued that the FAA does not consider the weight of payload in its regulations governing the operation of ultralights. Kapture Digital Media stated that the 55-pound weight limit should not include the weight of the battery.

As noted in the NPRM, the FAA uses total takeoff weight for multiple different types of aircraft, including large aircraft, light-sport aircraft, and small aircraft. One of the reasons that the FAA uses total takeoff weight in all of these regulations is because in the event of a crash, a heavier aircraft can do more damage to people and property on the ground than a lighter aircraft. In evaluating this type of risk for a small UAS, it is the total mass of the small unmanned aircraft that is important; the manner in which that mass is achieved is irrelevant. In other words, a 50-pound unmanned aircraft carrying 30 pounds of payload does not pose a smaller risk than an 80-pound unmanned aircraft that is not carrying any payload. As such, this rule will retain the proposed inclusion of everything onboard the aircraft in the 55-pound weight limit of a small unmanned aircraft.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) pointed out that, although the FAA typically points to maximum takeoff weight when identifying an aircraft’s weight and associated mass, the proposed definition of small unmanned aircraft does not include the term “takeoff.” As such, GAMA recommended that the FAA modify the definition to reference the point of takeoff as follows: “Small unmanned aircraft means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds including everything that is on board the aircraft on takeoff.” Another commenter stated that the choice of “on board” in the definition of “small unmanned aircraft” will create confusion, because these aircraft routinely have “attached” external payloads because there is little room for internal “on board” payloads.
The FAA agrees with these comments and has modified the proposed definition to refer to the total aircraft weight at takeoff and to include possible external attachments to the aircraft in the calculation of small unmanned aircraft weight.

5. Small Unmanned Aircraft System (small UAS)
Finally, the NPRM proposed a definition of “small unmanned aircraft system” as “a small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.” The NPRM explained that this proposed definition would be similar to the statutory definition of UAS specified in Public Law 112-95, section 331(9), except that it does not include a “pilot in command” reference that appears in the statute. The FAA did not include the “pilot in command” reference in the proposed definition of small UAS because that position did not exist under the NPRM. Even though the FAA is creating a remote pilot in command position in this final rule, the FAA considers adding a reference to that position in the small UAS definition as unnecessary.

AirShip Technologies Group, Inc. (AirShip Technologies) supported the proposed definition. Conversely, Transport Canada asked the FAA to consider whether it would be better to use the ICAO terminology of remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) instead of small UAS. Foxtrot Consulting, LLC stated that the inclusion of the phrase “associated elements (including communications links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft)” in the definition of small UAS creates a “regulatory nightmare,” because it means cellular network providers and their infrastructure are considered part of a small UAS. The commenter pointed out that small UAS can be controlled via Wi-Fi and cellular networks, which opens enormous capabilities to small UAS operations. The commenter went on, however, to question whether, as a result of the proposed definition, a cellular provider is liable if a UAS being controlled through their network causes damage to property, serious injury, or death.

The proposed definition of small UAS is derived from the statutory definition of “unmanned aircraft system” in Public Law 112-95, § 331(9). As such, this final rule will codify the proposed definition. Because Congress has selected the term “unmanned aircraft system” to describe this type of a system, the FAA may not use a different term, such as RPAS, in this rule.
With regard to cellular providers, the requirements of this rule apply only to the remote pilot, the owner of the small UAS, and people who may be involved in the operation of the small UAS. As such, a cellular provider whose involvement in the small UAS operation is limited to a remote pilot simply using the provider’s infrastructure would not be in violation of part 107 if something were to go wrong. The FAA does not opine on liability issues that are beyond the scope of this rule, such as whether the provider may be liable to the remote pilot or third parties under tort or contract law.
The NextGen Air Transportation Program at NC State University and another commenter recommended specifically stating that tethered powered small UAS are considered small UAS under proposed part 107. In response to these comments, the FAA notes that the definition of small UAS in this rule includes tethered powered small UAS.

6. Other Definitions
One commenter asked the FAA to define the term “aerial photography” in the regulatory text. However, with the exception of operations involving the transportation of property, part 107 does not contain any requirements specific to the use to which a small UAS is put. For example, a small UAS used for aerial photography will be subject to the same operating restrictions as a small UAS used for bridge inspection, precision agriculture, or utility inspection. Because this rule does not contain any requirements specific to aerial photography, no definition of the term is necessary.

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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.