Section 107.12 Requirement for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. (2018)


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Section 107.12   Requirement for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, no person may manipulate the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system unless:

(1) That person has a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating issued pursuant to subpart C of this part and satisfies the requirements of §107.65; or

(2) That person is under the direct supervision of a remote pilot in command and the remote pilot in command has the ability to immediately take direct control of the flight of the small unmanned aircraft.

(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, no person may act as a remote pilot in command unless that person has a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating issued pursuant to Subpart C of this part and satisfies the requirements of §107.65.

(c) The Administrator may, consistent with international standards, authorize an airman to operate a civil foreign-registered small unmanned aircraft without an FAA-issued remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

 

My Commentary on Section 107.12   Requirement for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

 

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.12  Requirement for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

Applicability. This chapter provides guidance regarding sUAS operating limitations and the responsibilities of the remote pilot in command (PIC), person manipulating the controls, visual observer (VO), and anyone else that may be directly participating in the sUAS operation. A person is also a direct participant in the sUAS operation if his or her involvement is necessary for the safe operation of the sUAS.

Aircraft Operation. Just like a manned-aircraft PIC, the remote PIC of an sUAS is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that UAS. The remote PIC will have final authority over the flight. Additionally, a person manipulating the controls can participate in flight operations under certain conditions. It is important to note that a person may not operate or act as a remote PIC or VO in the operation of more than one UA at the same time. The following items describe the requirements for both a remote PIC and a person manipulating the controls:

Remote PIC. A person acting as a remote PIC of an sUAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) under part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating issued by the FAA prior to sUAS operation. The remote PIC must have this certificate easily accessible during flight operations. Guidance regarding remote pilot certification is found in Chapter 6, Part 107 Subpart C, Remote Pilot Certification. Again, the remote PIC will have the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of an sUAS operation conducted under part 107.

Additionally, part 107 permits transfer of control of an sUAS between certificated remote pilots. Two or more certificated remote pilots transferring operational control (i.e., the remote PIC designation) to each other may do so only if they are both capable of maintaining Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) of the UA and without loss of control (LOC). For example, one remote pilot may be designated the remote PIC at the beginning of the operation, and then at some point in the operation another remote pilot may take over as remote PIC by positively communicating that he or she is doing so. As the person responsible for the safe operation of the UAS, any remote pilot who will assume remote PIC duties should meet all of the requirements of part 107, including awareness of factors that could affect the flight.

Person Manipulating the Flight Controls. A person who does not hold a remote pilot certificate or a remote pilot that that has not met the recurrent testing/training requirements of part 107 may operate the sUAS under part 107, as long as he or she is directly supervised by a remote PIC and the remote PIC has the ability to immediately take direct control of the sUAS. This ability is necessary to ensure that the remote PIC can quickly address any hazardous situation before an accident occurs. The ability for the remote PIC 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 (CS): one for the person manipulating the flight controls and one for the remote PIC that allows the remote PIC to override the other CS and immediately take direct control of the small UA. Another method could involve the remote PIC standing close enough to the person manipulating the flight controls so as to be able to physically take over the CS from the other person. A third method could employ the use of an automation system whereby the remote PIC could immediately engage that system to put the small UA in a pre-programmed “safe” mode (such as in a hover, in a holding pattern, or “return home”).

Autonomous Operations. An autonomous operation is generally considered an operation in which the remote pilot inputs a flight plan into the CS, which sends it to the autopilot onboard the small UA. During automated flight, flight control inputs are made by components onboard the aircraft, not from a CS. Thus, the remote PIC could lose the control link to the small UA and the aircraft would still continue to fly the programmed mission/return home to land. During automated flight, the remote PIC also must have the ability to change routing/altitude or command the aircraft to land immediately. The ability to direct the small UA may be through manual manipulation of the flight controls or through commands using automation.

The remote PIC must retain the ability to direct the small UA to ensure compliance with the requirements of part 107. There are a number of different methods that a remote PIC may utilize to direct the small UA to ensure compliance with part 107. For example, the remote pilot may transmit a command for the autonomous aircraft to climb, descend, land now, proceed to a new waypoint, enter an orbit pattern, or return to home. Any of these methods may be used to satisfactorily avoid a hazard or give right of way.

The use of automation does not allow a person to simultaneously operate more than one small UA.

Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) and Crew Resource Management (CRM). ADM is a systematic approach to the mental process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. A remote PIC uses many different resources to safely operate an sUAS and needs to be able to manage these resources effectively. CRM is a component of ADM, where the pilot of sUAS makes effective use of all available resources: human resources, hardware, and information. Many remote pilots operating under part 107 may use a VO, oversee other persons manipulating the controls of the small UA, or any other person who the remote PIC may interact with to ensure safe operations. Therefore, a remote PIC must be able to function in a team environment and maximize team performance. This skill set includes situational awareness, proper allocation of tasks to individuals, avoidance of work overloads in self and in others, and effectively communicating with other members of the crew, such as VOs and persons manipulating the controls of an sUAS. Appendix A, Risk Assessment Tools, contains expanded information on ADM and CRM, as well as sample risk assessment tools to aid in identifying hazards and mitigating risks.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.12  Requirement for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule 

1. Remote Pilot in Command
The NPRM proposed to create a new crewmember position (called “operator”) for small UAS operations conducted under part 107. The proposed rule would define an operator as a person who manipulates the flight controls of a small UAS. The NPRM also proposed prohibiting a person from serving as an operator if he or she does not have an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating, which would be a new airman certificate created by the proposed rule. Finally, the NPRM invited comments as to whether this rule should create a pilot in command (PIC) position and whether the PIC should be given the power to deviate from FAA regulations in response to an in-flight emergency.

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will remove the proposed crewmember position of “operator” and will instead create a new position of “remote pilot in command.” The remote pilot in command will have the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of a small UAS operation conducted under part 107. Additionally, the remote pilot in command will be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. However, an uncertificated person will be permitted to manipulate the flight controls of a small UAS as long as he or she is directly supervised by a remote pilot in command and the remote pilot in command has the ability to immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft. Finally, in case of an in-flight emergency, the remote pilot in command will be permitted to deviate from any rule of part 107 to the extent necessary to meet that emergency. A remote pilot in command who exercises this emergency power to deviate from the rules of part 107 will be required, upon FAA request, to send a written report to the FAA explaining the deviation.

a. Terminology
The NPRM proposed to create a new crewmember position called “operator,” which would be defined as a person who manipulates the flight controls of a small UAS. The NPRM also proposed to create a new airman certificate for the operator, which would be called an “unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating.” The NPRM noted, however, that the term “operator” is already used in manned-aircraft operations, and invited comments as to whether this term would cause confusion if used in part 107.

Several commenters noted that using the term “operator” in part 107 could result in confusion. NTSB, ALPA, and TTD pointed out that “operator” is currently used to refer to a business entity and that use of that term to refer to a small UAS pilot would be inconsistent with existing usage. Transport Canada and several other commenters stated that ICAO defines the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS as a “remote pilot” and asked the FAA to use this terminology in order to harmonize with ICAO. Transport Canada also noted that: (1) Canada uses the same terminology as ICAO; and (2) calling an airman certificate issued under part 107 an “operator certificate” may lead to confusion with FAA regulations in part 119, which allow a business entity to obtain an operating certificate to transport people and property. ALPA and TTD suggested that the person manipulating the controls of the small UAS should be referred to as a pilot, asserting that this would be consistent with how the word pilot has traditionally been used.

As pointed out by the commenters, FAA regulations currently use the term “commercial operator” to refer to a person, other than an air carrier, who engages in the transportation of persons or property for compensation or hire. Commercial operators are issued an “operating certificate” under 14 CFR part 119.67 Because other FAA regulations already use the term “operator” to refer to someone other than a small UAS pilot under part 107, the FAA agrees with commenters that use of the term “operator” in this rule could be confusing.

In considering alternative terminology to replace the term “operator,” the FAA noted that ICAO68 and the United Kingdom69 both use the term “remote pilot” to refer to the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS. Additionally, as pointed out by Transport Canada, Canada also uses the term “remote pilot.” Accordingly, this rule will use the term “remote pilot” instead of “operator” in order to harmonize with international terminology. Consequently, the FAA has changed the name of the airman certificate issued under part 107 to a “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.”
In addition, as discussed below, this rule will create a new crewmember position of “remote pilot in command.” The remote pilot in command will be a certificated airman and will have the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of a small UAS operation. Because the FAA anticipates that the remote pilot in command will often also be the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS, there is no need to have a separately defined crewmember position for the person manipulating the flight controls. Accordingly, the proposed definition of “operator” has been removed from this rule.

b. Remote Pilot in Command
The current regulations of part 91 create a separate PIC crewmember position that has ultimate authority and responsibility for the safety of the operation to: (1) ensure that a single person on board the aircraft is accountable for the operation; and (2) provide that person with the authority to address issues affecting operational safety. The NPRM proposed to forego this type of position in part 107, but invited comments as to whether a separate “operator in command” position should be created for small UAS operations.

Commenters including Aerius Flight, NetMoby, Predesa, and NRECA, generally agreed that a separate operator in command designation is not necessary for small UAS operations. NBAA commented that since small UAS operations will largely be excluded from airspace covered by traditional definitions of “operator” and “pilot,” there is no need to create a separate operator in command position for part 107 operations.

Other commenters requested that the FAA include a separate “operator in command” position in the final rule similar to the PIC position used in manned-aircraft operations. The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences pointed out that due to a wide variety of system configurations available for small UAS, it is possible that one or more flight crew members or sensor stations may affect the flight path of the unmanned aircraft. Accordingly, the commenter recommended that the term operator-in-command be added and defined in the rule to reflect the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight. ArgenTech Solutions, Inc. also recommended the rule address the title of operator-in-command and specify the requirements for operator hand-off of small UAS. Similarly, the Kansas State University UAS Program recommended clarification of responsibility in regard to operations with multiple operators and noted that creation of an operator-in-command designation would be an appropriate clarification.

As discussed below, this rule will allow small UAS to be operated by more than one person for purposes such as instruction or crew augmentation. As such, the FAA agrees that there needs to be a designated crewmember who is responsible for the safe operation of a small UAS and has final authority over that operation. Thus, this rule will create a new crewmember position of remote pilot in command.

Just as with manned-aircraft PICs, the remote pilot in command: (1) must be designated as remote pilot in command before or during the flight; and (2) will have the final authority and responsibility for the operation. In light of this change, the FAA has amended the regulatory text of part 107 to transfer the duties that the NPRM proposed to impose on the operator to the remote pilot in command and, where appropriate, to the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS. The remote pilot in command will also be generally responsible for ensuring that the small UAS operation complies with all applicable FAA regulations.

Turning to the comments about operator hand-off, a person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS may be augmented by another person during operation. Specifically, the person manipulating the flight controls may safely transfer the controls to another person during flight as long as the transfer does not violate the operational provisions of part 107 and a remote pilot in command is designated. For example, the flight controls of a small UAS may not be transferred if the process of transferring the controls would cause the unmanned aircraft to enter Class B airspace without ATC permission.

The FAA emphasizes that, as discussed in section III.E.2.a of this preamble, at any point throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS must both have the ability to see the small unmanned aircraft unaided by any device other than corrective lenses. Therefore, the person manipulating the flight controls must be able to see the small unmanned aircraft at the time of the handoff sufficiently well to satisfy the visual-line-of-sight requirements of this rule. The FAA also emphasizes that § 107.19(c) requires the remote pilot in command to ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will not pose an undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property on the ground if positive control is lost. Thus, the remote pilot in command must ensure that the technology and method used for conducting the handoff does not unduly increase the risk associated with a possible loss of positive control.

c. Airman Certification Requirement

The NPRM proposed to require that each person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS obtain a part 107 airman certificate. The FAA’s statute requires a person serving as an airman to obtain an airman certificate. Because the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS would be an airman under the crewmember framework proposed in the NPRM, that person would statutorily be required to obtain an airman certificate. The NPRM also proposed to create a new airman certificate to be issued for small UAS operations in place of the existing part 61 pilot certificates that focus on manned-aircraft operations.

Many commenters, including Air Tractor, Inc., Ag Info Tech, LLC, and the American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, supported the proposal to require the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS to obtain a part 107 airman certificate. Commenters generally supported this provision because it was viewed as an economical means to achieve the rule’s safety objective. Commenters including Modovolate and the National Association of Broadcasters stated the proposed approach of adding a new category of airmen provides a good balance with the need to verify operator qualifications without unduly burdening the operators.

Several commenters disagreed with the proposed airman certification requirement. Airship Technologies argued that an airman certificate is unnecessary to operate a small UAS and asserted that the proposed regulatory framework is too complex, costly, and burdensome for both the public and the FAA. Airship Technologies suggested that the operator should instead depend upon the product manufacturer’s training in the form of classes and documented materials. Another commenter asserted that processing certificate applications will create a backlog for the FAA. Yet another commenter suggested a self-certification procedure in lieu of a required airman certificate asserting that the proposed certificate would offer little benefit to the operators or the NAS.

Commenters from the educational and academic community, including Princeton University and the Council on Government Relations, suggested that a remote-pilot-in-command position should allow a faculty member acting as a remote pilot in command to oversee student operators utilizing small UAS as part of a course or research activity. Princeton University expressed concern over requiring the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS to hold an airman certificate, citing complications in the academic environment. Princeton provided scenarios where students would use a small UAS in projects as part of their academic courses and the challenges involved in obtaining an operator certificate prior to testing their project. To resolve these concerns, Princeton recommended that universities be able to obtain an “Educational UAS License,” which would give them the authority to designate an “Operator-in-Command” and administer the knowledge test to appropriate faculty and staff.

The FAA agrees with the majority of comments that an airman certificate to operate a small UAS should be required unless directly supervised by a remote pilot in command. This is in fact a statutory requirement, as 49 U.S.C. 44711(a)(2)(A) prohibits a person from serving in any capacity as an airman with respect to a civil aircraft used or intended to be used in air commerce “without an airman certificate authorizing the airman to serve in the capacity for which the certificate was issued.” The FAA’s statute defines an airman to include an individual “in command, or as pilot, mechanic, or member of the crew, who navigates aircraft when under way.” 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(8)(A). Because the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS without supervision are both pilots and members of the crew who navigate the small unmanned aircraft when it is under way, these crewmembers are statutorily required to have an airman certificate. The FAA therefore maintains the requirement that a person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS without supervision must obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating and this rule will also extend this requirement to the remote pilot in command.

However, the FAA acknowledges the educational concerns that have been raised by the academic commenters and notes that in the manned-aircraft context, an uncertificated person can manipulate the flight controls of an aircraft in flight as long as he or she is directly supervised. An individual whose manipulation of the flight controls is closely supervised by a certificated airman is not in command and is not a pilot or member of the crew because his or her presence is not necessary to fly the aircraft. Instead, the certificated airman who is providing the supervision is exercising the judgment that is normally expected of a pilot and that airman could simply fly the aircraft by him or herself instead. Thus, an individual who is directly supervised by a certificated airman is not an “airman” within the meaning of section 40102(a)(8)(A) and is therefore not statutorily required to obtain an airman certificate.

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”).

The FAA also emphasizes that, as discussed in section III.E.3.b.ii of this preamble, part 107 will not allow a person to act as a remote pilot in command in the operation of more than one small unmanned aircraft at the same time. In the educational context, this means that a faculty member who is acting as a remote pilot in command could not directly supervise the simultaneous operation of more than one small unmanned aircraft. The faculty member could, however, instruct a class of students in a manner that does not involve the simultaneous operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft. For example, a class of students could operate a single small unmanned aircraft with students passing control of the aircraft to each other under the supervision of a faculty member who is a remote pilot in command. An academic institution could also require a certain number of students to obtain a remote pilot certificate prior to beginning a class involving small UAS use in order to increase the number of people who would be available to act as a remote pilot in command.

Several commenters, including the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Textron Systems, expressed the view that there should be different small UAS certifications for different altitudes, locations, aircraft sizes, and applications.

The FAA recognizes there are differences between the various small UAS operations as articulated by the commenters. However, the key knowledge areas that will be tested on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests will be applicable to all small UAS operations that could be conducted under part 107 regardless of the altitude, location, size, or application of the small UAS. Requiring only a single remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating will give the remote pilot in command the flexibility to operate various small UAS within the parameters permitted by part 107 without any additional FAA-required training or testing.

Many commenters, including ALPA, NAAA, and TTD, argued that small UAS operators should be required to have a part 61 pilot certificate to operate in the NAS. These commenters remarked that operating in the NAS is a great responsibility, and that all persons operating in the NAS should be aware of these responsibilities.

ALPA, TTD, Schertz Aerial Services, Inc., and many other commenters recommended that the FAA require a part 61 commercial pilot certificate. TTD stated that the standards put in place must ensure one level of safety for all who operate in the NAS, and if small UAS operators are operating for compensation or hire in shared airspace with manned aircraft, then they too should hold a commercial pilot certificate. Schertz Aerial Services added that small UAS pose a risk of collision or interference with manned aircraft and that UAS operators are not putting their own life at risk when flying. Schertz Aerial Services argued that the FAA should not carve out exceptions to the well-established requirement of commercial airman certificates for commercial operations.

NAAA and several other commenters suggested that, in place of a part 61 commercial pilot certificate, the FAA should require small UAS pilots to hold a part 61 private pilot certificate. NAAA stated that this position is a change from its section 333 exemption comments. After further analysis NAAA determined that requiring a commercial pilot certificate is not necessary and a private pilot certificate with a UAS knowledge and skills test rating would be sufficient to operate a UAS safely. Another commenter asserted that a UAS pilot should be required to have a part 61 student pilot certificate.

Many other commenters, including AIA, AOPA, and the National Association of Realtors, supported having a separate part 107 airman certificate. Commenters including the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the American Fuel & Petrochemicals Association stated that requiring a part 61 pilot certificate would be overly burdensome and pointed out that many of the knowledge areas and skills required for manned aircraft do not apply to the operation of unmanned aircraft.

The FAA agrees with the commenters who pointed out that the skills necessary to obtain a part 61 pilot certificate would not equip the remote pilot in command with all of the aeronautical skills necessary to safely operate a small UAS and would instead impose a significant cost burden without a corresponding safety benefit. Specifically, manned-aircraft training may not prepare a pilot to deal with UAS-specific issues such as how to maintain visual line of sight of the unmanned aircraft or how to respond when signal to the unmanned aircraft is lost.

Required training for a part 61 pilot certificate would, however, impose the burden of training on areas of knowledge that are inapplicable to small UAS operations. For example, unlike a manned-aircraft pilot, a remote pilot in command does not need to know how to operate the flight controls of a manned aircraft. Similarly, the remote pilot in command does not need to be able to takeoff, land, or maneuver a manned aircraft. While these skills are critical to the safe operation of manned aircraft and are thus required for a part 61 pilot certificate, they are not typically necessary for the safe operation of a small UAS. Because requiring a part 61 pilot certificate would not ensure that certificate applicants learn all areas of knowledge specific to small UAS operations while at the same time requiring those applicants to learn areas of knowledge that are not necessary to safely operate a small UAS, this rule will not require a remote pilot in command to obtain a part 61 pilot certificate.

Several commenters stated that despite the language of 49 U.S.C. 44711(a)(2)(A), the FAA should not require an airman certificate for small UAS operations conducted in rural areas on private property, and at low altitudes. One commenter stated that there is no statutory or regulatory requirement that a small UAS operator must be an airman given that part 103 operators need not have an airman certificate yet they fly in the NAS. Another commenter stated that the FAA was overly broad in its definitions of aircraft and air commerce. The commenter claimed the proposal ignored the flexibility FAA exercised in creating the regulations of 14 CFR part 101 regulating amateur rockets, kites, and unmanned free balloons. The commenter added that current part 101 regulations for these devices are safety-based and they appropriately make no artificial distinction between commercial and non-commercial use.

Several other commenters disagreed with the proposed certificate requirements, claiming they should not be applicable to hobbyists.
In response to the comment arguing that the FAA was overly broad in its definitions of aircraft and air commerce, the FAA notes that both terms are defined by statute. As discussed earlier, the NTSB has held that the statutory definition of “aircraft” is “clear on [its] face” and that definition encompasses UAS. The NTSB has also held that, based on the statutory definition of air commerce, “any use of an aircraft for purpose of flight constitutes air commerce.”

Turning to the comments arguing that certain UAS operations should be exempt from airman certification, as discussed earlier, it is a statutory requirement, under 49 U.S.C. 44711(a)(2)(A), that a person may not serve as an airman with respect to a civil aircraft used or intended to be used in air commerce without an airman certificate. The statute does not distinguish between different types of operations, such as those suggested by the commenters. Accordingly, regardless of where and how a small UAS operation is conducted, this rule will require the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS to hold a remote pilot certificate unless he or she is directly supervised by a certificated remote pilot in command who has the ability to immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft. However, as discussed in section III.C.4 of this preamble, operations of model aircraft as a hobby or for recreational use under the provisions of section 336 will not be subject to part 107. With regard to parts 101 and 103, those regulations are beyond the scope of this rule.

The Flight School Association of North America and Event 38 Unmanned Systems suggested that the airman certificate should include the operator’s information and a color photo. Under this rule, the FAA will issue the same type of pilot certificate for the remote pilot in command as it does for all other airmen. The airman’s specific information will be listed along with the date of issuance. At this time, the FAA does not issue airman certificates with a photo; however the FAA is addressing that issue through a separate rulemaking effort.

Event 38 Unmanned Systems suggested that the FAA create a database of registered airmen, but limit accessibility to FAA and law enforcement. NetMoby suggested allowing the public to access the database so they may confirm a person flying a small UAS in their vicinity is authorized to do so and assist in enforcement. Additionally, NetMoby suggested that the FAA use the current airman certificate database as the template for its suggested database.

The FAA currently maintains an airman certification database that permits the public to search or download through its public website. This information includes name, address, and certificates and ratings held by the certificate holder. The agency will issue remote pilot certificates in accordance with its existing processes for issuing airman certificates and the public will be able to search the airman certification database for those who hold a remote pilot certificate. The certificate holder may opt to request their address not be published on the public website.

The University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences recommended that the FAA remove the “small UAS rating” from a part 107 airman certificate. The commenter stated that an additional small UAS rating is redundant because part 107 will apply only to small UAS operations.

As discussed in section III.A of this preamble, this rule is only one step of the FAA’s broader effort to fully integrate all UAS operations into the NAS. Future agency actions are anticipated to integrate larger and more complex UAS operations into the NAS and integrating those operations may require the creation of additional UAS-specific airman certificate ratings. To accommodate these future actions, the FAA will retain the small UAS rating.

Textron Systems recommended establishing a small UAS certificate with appropriate category ratings (e.g., rotorcraft or airplane) which would require documentation of aeronautical experience and a practical test prior to issuance. Textron stated the skills and knowledge required to operate unmanned rotorcraft and unmanned airplanes are substantially different during launch, semi-autonomous missions, and recovery, and therefore there should be a difference indicated on the certificate.

The category and class designations used for part 61 pilot certificates stem from the airworthiness certification designations given on the type certificate data sheet (TCDS) when an aircraft type becomes certificated. The TCDS identifies the airworthiness standards that a specific aircraft has met as those standards differ for different types of aircraft. However, as discussed in section III.J.3 of this preamble, small UAS operating under part 107 will not be required to obtain an airworthiness certificate. As such, there will be no airworthiness standards or a TCDS that will be issued for every small UAS design, and a category designation would not be workable under part 107.

One commenter recommended that the FAA require that the remote pilot certificate be displayed on a name badge, lanyard, or armband during a small UAS operation in case the remote pilot in command is approached or questioned about authorization for the activity.

The FAA emphasizes that § 107.7(a)(1) will require the remote pilot certificate holder to, upon request, make his or her remote pilot certificate available to the Administrator. This rule will not specify the method by which the certificate holder stores and displays his or her certificate, but whatever method is used, the certificate holder must provide the certificate to the FAA upon request.

In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to exclude foreign-registered aircraft from part 107 because the proposed rule included a registration component and foreign-registered aircraft may not be registered by the FAA. The FAA has since promulgated a separate interim final rule, titled Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft50 (Registration Rule), to address the registration and marking of all small unmanned aircraft, including unmanned aircraft that will be subject to part 107. In the Registration Rule, the Department acknowledged that under 49 U.S.C. 41703, the Secretary may authorize certain foreign civil aircraft to be navigated in the United States only if: (1) the country of registry grants a similar privilege to aircraft of the United States; (2) the aircraft is piloted by an airman holding a certificate or license issued or made valid by the U.S. government or the country of registry; (3) the Secretary authorizes the navigation; and (4) the navigation is consistent with the terms the Secretary may prescribe.

A foreign civil aircraft is defined in 14 CFR 375.1 as (a) an aircraft of foreign registry that is not part of the armed forces of a foreign nation, or (b) a U.S.-registered aircraft owned, controlled or operated by persons who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. For those that fall within this definition and wish to operate under the provisions of part 107, they must first apply with the Office of the Secretary’s Foreign Air Carrier Licensing Division for permission to operate in the United States.

The Department only will authorize operations of foreign-registered UAS in the United States if it determines that such operations are recognized under international agreements or via findings of reciprocity, consistent with the statutory obligations under section 41703, and via the process as described below. The notion of reciprocity has a long-standing tradition in international relations and has been used in the realm of specialty air services for years. While there are many types of specialty air operations authorized under free trade agreements, it has been the long-standing policy of DOT to require a finding of reciprocity before allowing foreign-owned specialty air services to operate in the United States, even when the United States has no obligation under a trade agreement. The Department also will continue to review whether existing international agreements address the operation of UAS, and if not, what negotiations will need to occur to address these operations in the future.

With respect to the supply of specialty air services in the United States by foreign-owned or controlled entities, DOT may allow these operations to occur provided that the UAS are registered and the owners have provided proof of reciprocity by their homeland of the ability for U.S. investment in UAS operations. Additional conditions may be imposed as necessary to satisfy the statutory requirements of section 41703.

The FAA notes that, initially, all airmen operating under part 107 will be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate. Currently, ICAO has not adopted standards for the certification of pilots of unmanned aircraft that the FAA could rely on in determining whether it is obligated under international law to recognize a foreign-issued UAS-specific airman certificate. However, once an ICAO standard has been developed, this rule will allow the FAA to determine whether a foreign-issued UAS-specific airman certificate was issued under standards that meet or exceed the international standards, and therefore must be recognized by the FAA for purposes of operating a foreign-registered aircraft within the United States.

The FAA also notes that remote pilots of foreign-registered aircraft will need to comply with any applicable requirements imposed by their country of registration that do not conflict with part 107. For example, while part 107 will not require airworthiness certification, the small unmanned aircraft will need to obtain airworthiness certification if required to do so by its country of registration.

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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.