Running a Drone Operation


Drone Insurance Guide from Attorney/Flight Instructor (2018)

What happens if you crash your drone into a person, yourself, or something expensive? No, seriously. Think about it. You most likely right now are wondering about how to obtain your drone license, finding jobs, running your drone operation, etc.

But seriously.

Are you protected? Do you have enough money to cover the costs of an accident?

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

This article is designed to help you understand, drone insurance, drone insurance terminology, bad substitutes for proper drone liability insurance, and the different angles liability can come from so you can make wise decisions to protect your business and your family. This article is helpful for:

  • Commercial drone operators
  • Businesses hiring drone operators for services
  • Recreational flyers.

Table of Contents of this Drone Insurance Guide:


I had an hour with Terry Miller, an insurance broker at Unmanned Risk, discussing a lot of the issues in this article and some stuff that is NOT in the article.

Why Drone Insurance? 

Let’s go back in time to when kings used to protect themselves with castles.  They had moats, archers, knights, big walls, catapults, a draw bridge, etc.  All of these things were barriers to prevent an invading army from capturing the king.  Likewise, you need to treat yourself, and your family, as the royal family and surround yourself with different types of protections.

Insurance is a way of protecting yourself, your family, and your business from a catastrophic accident. In addition to protection, drone insurance:

  • Shows that you are a serious professional and potentially allows you to access higher end clients who require drone insurance.
  • Is the loving thing to have to make sure your customers, or other people, are protected and made whole if they are injured.
  • Allows you to continue focusing on doing your business while your insurance company handles the claim.
  • Lets you sleep at night or continue focusing on running your business.

Yes, I can hear you now saying, “But Jonathan, I would never fly my drone in an unsafe manner. Why should I buy drone insurance?” You also might say, “I would never let reckless people fly around me or for me.”

I’m not saying you would fly recklessly or allow others but there are situations outside of your knowledge and/or control which would lead to an accident. The Academy of Model Aeronautics insurance report from 2012 says, “The most common cause of injury is ‘lost control of aircraft’; usually without a confirmed cause (vague allegations of frequency interference are common).”

There are things outside of your knowledge and control that can happen which put you at risk of liability.

What is Drone Insurance?

Insurance can simply be boiled down to you trading your risk of liability to the insurance company in exchange for money you pay to them.

You can have liability risk from all sorts of things ranging from aircraft accidents, negligent repairs, negligent instruction, negligent hiring, etc.

Everyone has in their mind the idea of the drone flying into some car or another person, but I don’t want you to think of things so narrowly.

You need to think broadly when it comes to liability.

You should think in terms of the different actions and relationships you might have relative to other individuals.

 

Below is a table of SOME of the legal liabilities. It is not exhaustive but covers the major points. Each individual or business will have different liabilities which will trigger the need for special insurance products tailored to them. If you are working with a good drone insurance broker or drone attorney, they should be able to help you identify issues. Or perhaps you are large company that needs a drone attorney? Cough cough. Hint hint. Wink wink. Moving on…

Please keep in mind the threshold for getting into a lawsuit is low. Regardless of the likelihood of judgement against you, you will be paying for an attorney to defend you and not be focused on your business.

 

Drone Insurance Terminology:

Before we can talk further about some of the issues, we need to have an understanding of the terms. Some of these are from Terry Miller’s Transport Risk’s Drone Insurance 101 slides:

  • Premium – This is the amount of money that the person or business must pay for the insurance policy.
  • Deductible – In the event of a claim, this is the amount the person must pay before the insurance company will pay. This is to make sure the named insured has some “skin in the game.”
  • Non-Owned Aircraft Coverage – Protects you from legal obligations that result from the operation of a drone you do not own.
  • Payload Coverage – This covers the payload you own on the drone. For example, let’s say you are a drone cinematography company that can carry different types of cameras. You could insure the Red Dragon differently than the Red Epic.
  • Non-owned Payload Coverage -This covers the payload of the drone you do NOT own. For example, you are a cinematography company that flies an aircraft that can carry different cameras. The production company wants you to use a special type of camera and lens that you do not own. You rent the equipment from a camera rental studio and get non-owned payload coverage on the rented camera and lens.
  • Additional Insured – A person or person other than the original named insured, who is  protected under the terms of a policy.
  • UAS Liability Insurance – Protects insureds from claims by other parties (“third parties”) for bodily injury or death and property damage. The claim has to result from an occurrence related to the operation of the UAS.
  • Hull Insurance – Coverage for physical damage done to the drone. It is not liability coverage and is therefore triggered by a covered event, regardless of the reason for the damage or loss.
  • Subrogation – A doctrine that gives an insurance company the right to attempt to recoup some or all of the money they paid on behalf of insureds. They do this by proving that another party was legally responsible for the loss and the party has the financial ability to reimburse the insurance company.

 

Problematic Substitutes for Drone Insurance

 

1. Home Owner Insurance Is Not Always Drone Insurance

Some of you might have home owner’s insurance. Here is the problem with using it as drone insurance, most home owners insurance policies have exclusions which state that they specifically do not cover aircraft related liability. Claimsjournal.com repeated this in an article, “Most homeowners’ policies exclude liability for injuries or damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, use, loading, or unloading of “aircraft.” See, e.g., Id.; Aridas v. Royal Ins. Co. of Am., 462 F. Supp. 2d 76, 77 (D. Me. 2006); Hanover Ins. Co. v. Showalter, 561 N.E.2d 1230, 1231 (Ill. App. Ct. 1990)Tucker v. Allstate Tex. Lloyds Ins. Co., 180 S.W.3d 880, 884 (Tex. App. 2005).

Some insurance policies might cover recreational drone flying if the definition of “aircraft” in the policy allows for it. The Claimsjournal.com article went on to say, ” Our research reveals that at least some homeowners’ policies define ‘aircraft’ as ‘any device used or designed for flight, except model or hobby aircraft not used or designed to carry people or cargo.’ See, e.g., Tucker, 180 S.W.3d at 884. To the extent a UAS operator’s homeowners’ policy includes this definition, or some similar variation, harm caused by an insured’s UAS is likely covered because a UAS will probably be deemed “a model or hobby aircraft not used or designed to carry people or cargo.”

It is also important to recognize that most homeowners’ policies exclude coverage for business activities.”

Read your policy to see if you are covered. If your home owner or renter’s insurance does NOT cover your drone flying, you should look at getting drone insurance.

 

2. AMA Member Drone Insurance Is Not Really Commercial Drone Insurance

Academy of Model Aeronautics’ insurance policy will provide SOME recreational protection, see the fine details of the policy, but the policy says, “The policy does NOT cover business pursuits; that is any activity that generates income for a member beyond reimbursement of expenses, except this business pursuit exclusion does not apply to individual members providing modeling instructions for pay to AMA members.”

Furthermore, “AMA insurance is ‘excess’ to any other applicable coverage, such as homeowner’s” which means your home owners insurances has to pay first and be exhausted before the AMA insurance will kick in.  What does that mean? You will have higher home owner’s insurance premiums in the future. Even after you put that Phantom 4 in the closet.

 

3. Relying on Someone Else’s Drone Insurance Policy to Cover You is Problematic.

 

Yes, you can get listed on another person’s insurance policy as additionally insured. This can provide you SOME protection, but this can be problematic.

Who might want to purchase non-owned drone insurance policies?

  • Companies hiring drone service providers
  • Independent flight instructors or educational institutions providing instruction to people on their own drones

Yes, I can hear you now, “Wait? Say wuuuuttt?!! Jonathan, you are saying I still need to purchase insurance even though I am protected by the other person’s policy?”

Yes, and here is why.

The other person could:

  • Have lied on their application and their claims will be denied.
  • Be operating outside the terms and conditions of the insurance coverage.
  • Be flying another drone NOT listed on their policy and they didn’t bother to tell you they crashed the first one.
  • Have cancelled his policy or stopped paying for it. There have been reports of people and/or companies in the drone industry just purchasing an annual policy, sending the potential client a certificate of insurance, and then cancelling the policy after the job is awarded. In this case, the company hiring the drone service provider can separately purchase from the insurance company a notice of cancellation.

Moreover, their insurance policy does NOT protect you from:

What is even more crazy is that the insurance company for the drone company might even come after YOU for your negligence. This is under what is called subrogation. Basically, the insurance company stands in the shoes of the insured.  If you goofed over the person you hired, and that insurance company had to pay out, the insurance company might turn around and come after you for your negligence to recover the money they paid out.  This is why sometimes the hiring company purchases from the insurance company of the drone service provider a waiver of subrogation which prevents the insurance company from pursuing claims against the additionally insured hiring company. Keep in mind that is only for the insurance company. The drone service provider might still come after you.

Drone Insurance Considerations

 

1.Insurance Broker or Go Direct to Insurance Company?

  • Drone Liability Insurance Broker
    • A broker is interested in selling you the best product for your needs.
    • May or may NOT cost you more. The agent makes his money from selling you an insurance policy which typically means more expensive policies. However, he can also shop around to find you the best “bang for the buck” which might come out lower.
    • The agent will be there to help answer your questions and identify future needs. You might need a special 1 time high limit insurance policy for a job that broker can help you with.
    • Help to identify the correct hull valuation which is important if a claim is made. For example, if you overestimate your aircraft’s worth and the damage does not numerically get high enough to the overestimate to be declared a total loss, you end up getting your drone repaired when it should have just been replaced. Terry Miller made some good points in this article,  “Consider the dangers of over-insuring your UAS. Over-insuring your UAS comes with unwanted consequences:
      • Paying higher premiums for coverage under the policy
      • Likely that physical damage premium will be fully-earned
      • Deductible costs are out of pocke
      • Repair of a UAS that should be totaled
      • Ownership of a UAS with damage history and thus lower resale value
      • Questionable safety of the repaired UAS
  • Direct to Drone Insurance Company
    • Insurance companies are interested in selling you the products their company sells. In other words, if they are a “hammer” selling company, all of your problems look like “nails.”
    • Insurance company can sometimes charge lower prices because there is no broker commissions to pay. However, this means you might waste a lot of time trying to read through all the material to find out what is best for you when an independent broker could have answered your questions quickly.

 

2.Annual vs. Hourly Drone Insurance

Annual insurance is fixed while hourly insurance is….well…hourly.  This means that if you fly too much, hourly will be MORE expensive than annual insurance. Here is how to figure out if you might need annual instead of hourly drone insurance.

  1. Figure out how many hours you plan on flying for a month. Yes, this might be hard to figure out at the very beginning. You could do hourly insurance for 1-2 months and then use the number of hours you flew in those 1-2 months as a basis to estimate the upcoming months. You could also call over to companies in the area and ask them.
  2. Determine how many months realistically you will be able to fly. Consider how weather will affect your flying and/or customers. For example, you can do business year-round in Florida or Southern California but only some of the year in New England. If you go to my drone sightings page, you’ll see a graph of drone sightings activity by month and also by city. This can give you rough idea of the months for your area.
  3. Find out the cost of an annual premium.
  4. Divide that by the number of months you think you will be flying.
  5. This will arrive at the cost per month for the annual insurance policy. You can then see if it will be more costly to fly using hourly insurance or if it will be cheaper.

Also keep in mind that it is not annual OR hourly insurance. You might purchase both. Why?  Let’s say you have a Phantom 4 you fly a ton, but you have an Inspire 2 which you don’t fly frequently. You might purchase annual for the Phantom 4 and then get hourly for the Inspire 2 you rarely fly. You might be able to add the additional Inspire 2 to your annual policy for not that much more money but that would be dependent upon you knowing or expecting it. If you can’t expect flying it, you might just do hourly as a backup in a moments notice.

If you are a startup and are slowly testing the waters, you might want to keep your operating costs low and use hourly insurance for the first 1-2 months.

3. Myths regarding hourly insurance.

 4. Do you have enough?

For example, if you cause an accident which takes down electrical power to an area, that could be costly because (1) you have to pay to repair the line, (2) the electric company lost revenue, (3) there might be some lawsuits for destroyed food caused by lack of refrigeration due to power failure, (4) car accident because the traffic light went out, etc.

 

How to Choose a Drone Insurance Broker

Helpful Questions:

  • How long they have been an aviation insurance broker? Is that important?
  • Do they have any special training? (College degree in insurance or aviation, etc.)
  • Have they worked for an aviation insurance company? In other words, have they worked on the “other side?”
  • Do they sell aviation insurance products for manned aircraft also?
  • Does anyone else in the drone industry use them?
  • Do they have support staff to help you in case the broker is out?
  • Do they have access to other types of insurance that an aviation insurance broker might not have access to?

Once you find one, call only that broker. Don’t call around to get competitive quotes. Keep reading to find out why.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is drone insurance legally required?

In the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Regulations, you do not need drone insurance; however, state and local laws might require it or other types of insurance associated with your operations (e.g. commercial operations might need worker’s compensation insurance). See an aviation attorney in your state.

Can I get drone insurance for just one job?

Yes, drone insurance can be purchased hourly, per job, per day, or on an annual basis.

Is it a good idea to call around to different insurance brokers to get competitive bids?

No, here is why.  There are only a small number of UAS insurance companies that do business in the US. As a rule, an insurance company will work only with one broker at a time based on the order they come in.  In other words, you won’t have two competitive bids because the insurance company will be dealing with only ONE broker, the first one to contact them, representing you.

 

How many different insurance products are out there for those in the drone industry?

There are all sorts of other different types of insurance products that some in drone industry might need:

  • Worker’s comp
  • UAS repair and servicing
  • Manufacturing
  • Flight instructing (negligent instruction)
  • Agriculture spraying operations
  • Premises liability, and much more.

 

Great Drone Crash Videos to Make You Start Seeing the Drone Insurance Issues

Sometimes Reckless People Might Be Flying Over the Event You Are Hosting

 

Sometimes You Realize You are Not a Top Gun Pilot or a Cinematographer.

 


FAA’s LAANC System-(Low Altitude Authorization & Notification Capability)

LAANC

Table of Contents

Quick Summary of LAANC:

“[T]he FAA is seeking to implement the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system. Using the LAANC system, the FAA will be able to grant near-real-time authorizations for the vast majority of operations. Implementation of the LAANC system is vital to the safety of the National Airspace System because it would (1) encourage compliance with 14 CFR 107.41 by speeding up the time to process authorization requests (2) reduce distraction of controllers working in the Tower, and (3) increase public access and capacity of the system to grant authorizations. LAANC is expected to dramatically reduce the incidence of noncompliant operations.” From the FAA’s notice in the Federal Register.

Who Benefits from LAANC?

Recreational flyers and non-recreational flyers near the 49 airports involved in the beta test. (See below which airports).

Recreational flyers who want to fly under the protections of Section 336 are required to provide prior notice of operation to “the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) when operating within 5 miles of an airport. Recreational flyers can do this by other means but it has been a pain for recreational flyers to find reliable phone numbers and emails of airport operators and ATC towers.

Non-recreational flyers who want an authorization to fly in Class B, C, D, or E at the surface airspace can do so by using the LAANC system. 107.41 requires you to have an authorization. Many have said that a simple phone call is legally good enough. Here is my response to that statement. Regardless of whether it is legal or not, how in the world are you going to prove you have an authorization, assuming you have a verbal one, if the FAA starts asking you if you have one?  The FAA order out of D.C. told air traffic controllers to direct people to the authorization portal and NOT verbally authorize flights. Do you really think the controller who talked to you on the phone is going to have an accurate memory when asked if he authorized you contrary to the order? Furthermore, not all of the phone numbers are recorded which means FOIA does not do anyone any good. (On top of that, the phone line recordings aren’t kept for a long time and there is a good chance you will get investigated AFTER the phone recordings are destroyed). If you record your conversation on a phone, you might be getting into trouble with state wiretapping laws (see two-party wiretapping laws). In short, if you don’t want to go the authorization portal method, this is a nice alternative.

So What Cannot be Submitted via LAANC?

Complex operations cannot go through LAANC. Complex operations would be operations near the airport (in the red no-fly zone on the airport facility maps) or where a waiver is involved (e.g. flying in controlled airspace under your night waiver). If you need help obtaining these more complex airspace authorizations or waivers, contact me. :)

In the same Federal Register notice, the FAA said, “These changes include new branding of the Web site portal DroneZone and improvements to the external customer experience. It’s expected that operations that are relatively simple will go through LAANC’s automated approval process while more complex operations that require a more thorough review by FAA subject matter experts (SME) will go through the FAA’s DroneZone electronic portal.”

Am I Forced to File Via LAANC for Non-Complex Operations? 

No, you can do LAANC or the methods we are currently using, by filing for an airspace authorizations or an airspace waiver.

What Companies Are UAS Service Suppliers for LAANC?

I can’t confirm everything but here is what I have found so far.

A total of “Fourteen companies are participating in the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) process[.]” McNeal Testimony.

 

How Many Airports Will Participate in LAANC?

The FAA is planning on having 49 airports participate.   Greg McNeal wrote in Forbes that there would be 50 but it seems  Green Bay- Austin Straubel International Airport won’t be participating.  (Compare the Forbes article to the FAA’s latest post.)

LAANC-airports

What States Have The Participating LAANC Airports? 

LAANC-states

Problems I See With This Whole Situation:

  • LAANC does NOT tell us if it fixed the problem it is attempting to alleviate. Is the drone sighting report the FAA released going to identify and take out of the total number the authorized flights?  The FAA’s Federal Register post says LAANC is attempting to make things safer while citing the inflated drone sighting numbers. That’s funny. The FAA left in a ton of crummy data in their drone sightings reports so the numbers are inflated and there is no easy way to “clean” the sightings of the 14,334 COAs already issued.  The FAA gave us some big numbers without indicating how many of these “sighting” were lawful or not. What is the logical conclusion? The FAA just cited bad data as the justification for the LAANC system. There have been COAs granted to commercial flyers for over a year and I couldn’t find any indications the FAA “cleaned” the sightings.

How Does LAANC Relate to Unmanned Traffic Management (“UTM”) System?

LAANC is the Low Altitude part of the UTM. “UTM is how airspace will be managed to enable multiple UAS operations conducted beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), where air traffic services are not provided.”

“Concurrently, the FAA and NASA have developed a joint UTM Research Plan to document research objectives and map out the development of UTM. NASA is conducting research at UAS test sites to further explore UTM capabilities that will accommodate rulemaking as it expands opportunities for UAS integration. The FAA expects that UTM capabilities will be implemented incrementally over the next several years.”

Resources:

FAA’s Concept of Operations for LAANC from February 2017 for “INFORMATION ONLY PURPOSES”

Keep in mind this was for only informational purposes. Things might have been changed.

1 Introduction

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for implementing notification
and authorization (N&A) processes specific to operation of small unmanned aircraft
systems. See Pub. L. 112-95 § 336(a) (5) and 14 CFR § 107.41. From an Air Traffic
Control (ATC) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) perspective, notification of
unmanned aviation activity enables the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) to
provide safe and efficient flight services to all aircraft in the NAS. From a regulatory and
safety perspective, notification of unmanned aviation operations provides a means of
traceability to (1) inform other NAS users, if needed, of unmanned aviation activity in the
vicinity of the airspace in which they are operating; (2) ensure operators are complying
and conforming to regulatory standards; and (3) identify and hold accountable those who
are responsible during accident/incident investigations.

1.1 Background

The FAA is in the process of determining its approach and business plan to integrate
model aircraft, UAS, and sUAS into the NAS. As part of that approach, the FAA is
dedicated to ensuring safety requirements are met for integration of unmanned aviation
into the NAS, where unmanned aircraft are able to operate safely in the same airspace
with manned aircraft. The FAA must ensure that integrated UAS operations meet
appropriate performance standards and access requirements. The FAA seeks to reduce
barriers to access and equitable access to airspace. The FAA’s challenge is to foster
equitable access for all users and providers while ensuring critical ATC technical and
safety requirements are met for NAS operations. In addition, the FAA seeks to foster a
competitive environment for providers of UAS and related services. As the FAA and
industry move toward integration of all types of UAS into the NAS, the FAA
promulgated 14 CFR part 107, which governs non-hobbyist operations of small UAS.
Part 107 contains a regulation that requires receipt of an authorization from the FAA
prior to operating in Class B, C, D, or the surface areas of Class E airspace. In addition,
Congress specified “model aircraft” may not endanger of the safety of the NAS, but are
otherwise exempt from aviation regulations as long as such aircraft are flown strictly for
hobby or recreational use, are operated in accordance with a community-based set of
safety guidelines, weigh no more than 55 pounds, are operated in a manner that does not
interfere with and gives way to manned aircraft, and, when flown within 5 miles of an
airport, the operator of the aircraft provides notification to the airport operator and the
airport ATC tower with prior notice of the operation. Pursuant to this framework, the
FAA requires model aircraft operators provide airport operators and the airport air traffic
control tower (when the air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the
operation.

1.2 Problem Statement

The FAA has developed a UAS implementation plan that outlines the long term planning
for UAS integration. There is a limited strategy for identifying and inserting
technological capabilities into existing FAA systems that would enable safe sUAS
operations in accordance with established FAA rules as cited above. The current process
for meeting authorization and notification requirements of existing rules is manually
intensive and therefore costly. In addition, the time to approve authorization in this
manual state is inefficient, preventing some time critical commercial and public
operations (e.g. news, emergency response).

More automation is needed to support the growing demands for safe and efficient sUAS
operations in the NAS. The FAA has limited resources to respond to the need for
automation development to support sUAS. At the same time, industry has shown an
interest and capability to provide sUAS services as a critical element of future UAS
Traffic Management (UTM).

A critical element associated with such automation will be information sharing among the
various entities responsible for sUAS operations. However, currently there are no
conventions or standards for exchanging information between FAA and external entities
about sUAS operations. Given the many FAA systems that comprise the NAS and
associated support capabilities, conventions for the secure, safe, and orderly exchange of
sUAS-related information are needed to enable sUAS operations to scale safely and
quickly enough to meet the anticipated rapid growth in demand expected.

1.3 Purpose and Scope

The development of a fully functioning and streamlined, user friendly N&A capability is
complex and subject to a variety of inputs and coordination points across the UAS
community. This document will give stakeholders and leadership the necessary
contextual information to understand and provide input on the FAA’s Low Altitude
Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) development, demonstrations, and
fielding.

The LAANC demonstration effort is constrained by the following resources and
regulations:

– Policy: This project will leverage sending information to 3rd party systems,
allowing them to provide authorizations, and submit operational information back
to the FAA. This poses a number of policy and legal issues that will need to be
addressed along the way.
– Financial: The FAA will not be providing capital resources for the purchase or
acquisition of software programs or systems, or in conducting demonstrations of
proposed solutions. Existing systems in use at this time are expected to be adapted
to work according to requirements identified in the N&A effort outlined herein.

2 Current Operations & Shortfalls

Currently there is no means of automated authorization or notification between UAS
operators and ATC. This is because the FAA’s and ANSP’s notification information
needs with respect to UAS operations depend on a number of factors, including the type
of UAS operation being conducted, where it is conducted, what services (if any) are
required, what the UAS capabilities are, and more. Identifying and implementing
notification requirements appropriate to specific UAS operations would allow the FAA,
safety organizations, and regulators to process and access flight data in accordance with
their organizational needs and responsibilities.

Specific information requirements about a UAS operation may vary commensurate with
the risk of the operation. For example, ATC and/or the FAA may require more
information about the proposed UAS activity and more explicit procedures and
automated support for the delivery and handling of that information as the risk of the
operation increases. The basic information needs, though, should generally be consistent
across operations.

Non-hobbyist operators of sUAS must comply with 14 CFR part 107 (“Small Unmanned
Aircraft Systems”). The following general criteria illustrates the use cases1 for
identifying whether a given low altitude operation requires notification only or request
for ATC authorization.
a. To be considered a model aircraft operator, the operator must notify an Airport under
Public Law 112-95 § 336(a)(5):

 When the UAS is flown within five miles of an airport: the operator of the
model aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control
tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of
the operation.
 Model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within five miles of
an airport: the operator can establish a mutually agreed upon operating
procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower
(when an air traffic facility is located at the airport).

b. For all sUAS operations under 14 CFR Part 107:

 No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or
Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E
airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization
from Air Traffic Control (ATC). Please refer to Appendix A to Attachment 1
for a description of airspace types.

Note: There is no requirement for authorization in Class G airspace, however notification
is required within five miles of an airport regardless of the airspace class in which the
airport resides.

2.1 Operational Shortfalls

The new FAA UAS rules introduced in 2016 address the requirements for operators of
sUAS. Recently, the FAA developed an initial set of requirements for both notification
and authorization, based on the premise that authorization be automated to the greatest
extent practicable. Those operational requirements were delivered under separate cover
and provided as information to stakeholders. The current operational shortfalls are
1 Specific scenarios for the above use cases can be found in Attachment 1 to this CONOPs. The scenarios
identified to date are not exhaustive, but instead are the first scenarios prioritized to be addressed with the
LAANC system. The FAA will continue to work with industry to identify additional scenarios and use
cases that will be addressed by LAANC as part of ongoing collaboration with industry.
inefficient processes for obtaining authorization or notifying ATC of operations, the
timeline required to obtain authorizations from FAA, and the growing backlog associated
with current processes.

The FAA has established a process for commercial sUAS operators, operating under 14
CFR Part 107 to request a waiver of operation or authorization. A manual form has been
created that allows operators to enter data into the FAA’s system. The data is forwarded
to a review directorate in FAA. The FAA quotes, “The FAA will strive to complete
review and adjudication of waivers and airspace authorizations within 90 days; however,
the time required for the FAA to make a determination regarding waiver/airspace
authorization requests will vary based on the complexity of the request.” Because the
FAA’s current process depends on a manual review of every request, the time to
complete the request is lengthy and costly. Because the review is manual, there is already
a backlog in completing the review of requested waivers and authorizations.
Since late 2015, the FAA has registered more than 500,000 hobbyist sUAS operators,
with that number expected to grow significantly. The number of sUAS flights is
expected to increase dramatically as the new rules expand to enable new types of
operations and are further clarified regarding where and how sUAS flights can be
conducted. Operators will be seeking ways to fly safely while complying with the
governing rules. Processes and electronic systems supporting these rules and associated
sUAS operations are needed now.

2.2 Technology Gap

Technologically, UAS operators and the FAA need a streamlined, efficient, solution to
enable notification and authorization. At this time, the primary ways in which UAS
operators and ATC communicate for the purpose of notification and authorization is
through submission of a web form on the FAA website, which then uses other forms of
communication to process the data. The FAA is seeking to close the gap of manual versus
automated data transfer and authorizations by defining and establishing a technological
solution that will allow for data exchange between operators and ATC. A demonstration
of an initial solution is envisioned as the first step in closing this technology gap.

3 Guiding Principles

3.1 LAANC

Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) is the broad term for
an enterprise capability to automate to the maximum extent possible the ability for FAA
to grant authorization to CFR Part 107 operators under 14 CFR 107.41 and to allow for
model aircraft operators to notify ATC of planned operations within 5 miles of an airport
as described at Pub. L. 112-95 § 336. LAANC major elements include the FAAs
provision of authenticated map data for use in determining authorization, the use of third
part providers (TPP) to provide services to operators, and the ability for multiple TPP to
provide services. Generally, LAANC should encourage participation of operators in
creating an environment of inclusiveness and ease of use.

3.2 Notification

Notifications resulting from model aircraft operators under Pub. L. 112-95 § 336 are the
result of data sent from UAS operators to ATC to provide situational awareness about
operation events planned in a particular airspace. Notifications are those transactions sent
one way from UAS operator to ATC.

3.3 Request for Authorization

A request for authorization will contain data from a small UAS operator to a third party
provider (TPP) providing key parameters about an operation. The FAA may approve or
deny such requests in accordance with 14 CFR 107.41.

3.4 Authorization

Authorizations are the result of data sent from the TPP and by extension ATC, to an
operator regarding a specific request received asking permission to operate in a particular
airspace, operating under CFR Part 107 rules.

3.5 Remote Pilot Operator & UAS Operations in Airspace

The term “PIC” is specific to the person who is ultimately responsible for the operation
and safety during flight. The term “FAA” refers to the agency, or an unspecified entity
within the agency, as well as the ANSP. The term “ANSP” is a specific individual who
manages flight traffic on behalf of the FAA.

3.6 Use cases and scenarios

Scenarios for the existing use cases identified to date do not represent an exhaustive list
of notification and authorization challenges that will be addressed by implementation of
LAANC system or initial demonstrations. The urgent need for an initial LAANC solution
to enable time sensitive operations and expedite the authorization process has required
prioritization of scenarios that will guide stakeholders in development of an initial
demonstration event. The FAA will focus efforts to establish requirements for the
LAANC system using the scenarios referenced in Attachment 1. Through workshops and
continued collaboration with industry, the FAA will solicit and develop additional use
case scenarios to be prioritized as the LAANC demonstration and implementation effort
progresses.

3.7 Collaboration between Industry and FAA

It is expected that the FAA will work with industry partners to establish the LAANC, and
conduct a successful proposed solution demonstration, with an understanding that no
decisions have been reached on the implementation of LAANC services.

3.8 Collaboration within Industry (Industry to Industry cooperation)

It is expected that industry stakeholders will collaborate with each other as well as the
FAA, through and within workshops, demonstration(s), data exchange partnerships, and
in the overall development of the LAANC nationwide solution.

4 Assumptions

Following are assumptions associated with LAANC. The assumptions include key
integration assumptions as well as those specifically applicable to the sUAS operations
described in this document:

1) Information on airspace class designations and airport locations will not be
provided via Application Programming Interface (APIs) associated with N&A
functions or web services. Due to the static nature of such data and public
availability, Third Party Providers (TPPs) are expected to obtain this information
outside of the N&A processes.

2) N&A APIs will be limited to the smallest function practicable (e.g., via “micro
web services”) to ensure scalability and flexibility. (I.e. one API per functional
requirement instead of one API that spans multiple functional requirements).

3) N&A APIs will be versioned to accommodate additional phased capability as that
capability is introduced.

4) Future LAANC capability will be provided through the FAA’s system wide
information management (SWIM). Interfaces to SWIM and exchange methods
will be established for operational connection in future efforts.

5) Operator’s registration numbers may be used as unique identifiers if required to
amend submitted approvals. For sUAS operators under 14 CFR part 107, unique
certification numbers will be used.

6) Responsibilities and requirements that are deemed to fall outside FAA’s scope
(operator side) are the responsibility of the operator and TPP. The FAA will not
assign responsibility to one or the other. In order to avoid undue dependency on
TPPs, these responsibilities are expected to be established by mutual agreement
between the parties.

[Note: The Law changed so I’m marking this out to avoid confusion for readers.]

7) All Hobbyist operators must comply with Part 101.41: (e) When flown within 5
miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and
the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the
airport) with prior notice of the operation. This differs from Part 107 (see item 6)
in that the Part 101 requirement is based on a prescribed distance from an airport
rather than a particular airspace designation. 

8) 14 CFR Part 107 operators must comply with Part § 107.41: Operation in certain
airspace. No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C,
or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E
airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from
Air Traffic Control (ATC).

9) LAANC will service the well informed/well intended operator and will actively
encourage participation in the FAA’s goal of ensuring safe NAS operations for all
aircraft types.

5 Implementation Alternative

A set of operational requirements for notification and authorization was delivered in 2Q
FY16. The FAA investigated several alternatives to achieving the requirements and in 4Q
FY16 issued a request for information (RFI) to industry to gain an understanding of the
state of industry with regard to this capability. Based on the results of that RFI, the FAA
is currently pursuing an alternative where the FAA provides for data exchange with
TPPs. In this alternative the FAA provides authenticated map data and TPPs provide
resulting authorization and notification data to the FAA via an API. All vendors provide
format of data in accordance with FAA needs. Any business model for fee collection
from operators is developed by individual TPPs. The FAA will retain a separate web
interface for authorization requests and notifications.

6 Description of Key Services

Automated notification is essential to facilitate sUAS operator submission of all required
flight information, retrieval of that information by ATC facilities and/or FAA, and
provision of feedback from ATC to the UAS operator if necessary. Operators submit
their notifications through a TPP interface or through the FAA’s web portal for
notification/authorization. Based on the Operator’s planned operating type, the
operating area, and altitude indicated by the UAS operator, the TPP indicates to the
operator whether ATC authorization is required (i.e., the operation, or portions of the
operation, will be in controlled airspace), whether they may operate without authorization
(i.e., the entire operation will be in uncontrolled airspace), or whether they will be
operating within 5 miles of an airport.

If ATC authorization is not required, and the operation is one in which the operator
would provide notification to an airport operator and airport air traffic control tower
(when an air traffic facility is located at the airport), the TPP forwards the notification to
the FAA, where the information is available for distribution to other appropriate airspace
users, and is stored for traceability and data analysis purposes. If ATC authorization is
required, the TPP uses FAA authoritative facility map information (UAS Facility Map;
UASFM) and approved FAA business rules to automatically determine whether a flight
can be authorized and forwards the authorization information to the FAA through an API.
Automatic authorizations are provided to the operator. The FAA internally makes that
information available to ATC at the affected airport(s). If such automatic authorization is
not possible, the operation will be denied the opportunity for reconsideration. If a
reconsideration is requested (e.g., a different altitude or time), the request is forwarded to
the appropriate ATC authorities that provide feedback electronically via the TPP to the
UAS operator. If the operation has been authorized, either by the TPP using authoritative
maps or by appropriate ATC entity, the UAS operator may operate within the parameters
authorized by the action. If the operation has been denied, the UAS operator may review
the reasons for denial and modify the proposed authorization request accordingly (e.g.,
choose a different start time, different operating area), and resubmit the request for
authorization.

Lead times for submitting a notification depend on whether ATC authorization is
required. For instance, if only notification is required, the UAS operator may submit the
notification shortly before commencing the operation. ATC may impose time restrictions
on the pre-notification process to ensure no hazards exist in the timeframe in which the
operation occurs. However, if ATC authorization is required for the operation, the UAS
operator is required to submit the request for authorization in accordance with the
directions ATC provides for the specific airspace. The minimum lead times for
submittal, as well as lead times for providing ATC feedback will be determined and
specified by the FAA.

The FAA anticipates the current process of manual direct coordination with FAA, which
could take 90 days to complete. That process is envisioned to remain in place as LAANC
is introduced and after LAANC is fully operational, and future demand on the manual
process is likely to decrease as a result.

6.1 Distribution of Notification Info to Other Airspace Users

As previously mentioned, all unmanned aviation flight information—regardless of
whether flights require ATC authorization—are submitted to the FAA via an interface
with the TPP.

Information dissemination could be facilitated by the same notification mechanism used
for ATC submission, or by other means. Regardless of how this is done, all NAS airspace
users must have access to information about planned and active UAS operating areas
relevant to them. Disseminating UAS activity to other airspace users ensures safety of
flight as UAS present additional safety concerns due to the ranges of UAS physical, flight
performance, and operational characteristics that vary significantly from manned aircraft.
This information could be disseminated via TPPs, where those TPPs share information
with each other, or could be done through FAA central distribution of collected
information. In either case, the data would be sanitized to remove proprietary, personal,
or secure information. Sanitized information would provide sufficient data to act and
avoid by other sUAS or manned aircraft in the area.

Users of the NAS vary considerably. In this context, NAS users include sUAS operators,
model aircraft operators, as well as general aviation (GA) airspace users and commercial
carriers. NAS users are required to review published notification information for relevant
UAS activity along their intended routes of flight. For this information to be accurate and
timely, UAS operators are responsible for adhering to regulations and following proper
N&A procedures. This includes ensuring that information accurately reflects their
proposed operation, and that operations do not occur outside of the parameters of their
notification.

Follow-on development work associated with the notification concept would include a
more accurate determination of the circumstances in which dissemination of information
to other airspace users about UAS operating areas is required. The FAA is responsible for
determining the process and mechanisms for routing, storing, and managing notification
information, and for distributing the most current information to other airspace users.

6.2 Use of Third Party Providers

The FAA is pursuing the provision of LAANC services using private TPPs to provide
services specific to sUAS operations. Such services would be accomplished through an
exchange of information between the FAA and the third party, whereby the third party
would be the primary interface to the operator. The third party would use authoritative
map information and business rules provided by the FAA to authorize sUAS operations
in an area, at a particular time, under a set of conditions. The following paragraphs
outline the operational requirements of the overall system.

The operational requirements call for an automated ATC N&A system or service that
would eliminate the need for operators to call ATC directly or make requests via the
FAA’s webpage, and would limit overall operator interaction with ATC. This requires the
system/service to incorporate the following information:

 Real-time information on airspace status (e.g., Controlled Airspace, Special Activity
Airspace)
 Available projected information on airspace status (e.g., Controlled Airspace, Special
Activity Airspace)
 UAS Facility Maps (UASFM) that indicate “pre-approved fly zones” and “areas that
require further ATC coordination”

– For each airport, ATC (in collaboration with the airport operator) would develop
UASFM.
– Within each grid on the map, ATC would identify maximum altitudes at which
flight is permitted without further coordination.
– Airspace at or below the maximum altitudes would be “pre-approved fly zones”
and airspace above the maximum altitudes would be “that require further ATC
coordination.”

 Other “areas that require further ATC coordination” designated outside of airportspecific
maps (e.g., areas in which sUAS operations are prohibited under 14 CFR
99.7 and/or Pub. L. 114-190 § 2209)

The operator may use the TPP’s system to determine the viability of his/her proposed
flight operation as a planning function. Based on the operator’s input for proposed
operating area, altitude, date, start time, and duration, the “Planner Tool” would
determine whether each proposed flight operation would be within one or more of the
following:

(a) Five miles of an airport, or within Class B, C, D, or Class E surface area;
(b) Any airport-specific “areas that require further ATC coordination”;
(c) Special Activity Airspace where operations are prohibited; and
(d) A “no-fly zone” (outside of airport-specific maps).

If a proposed model aircraft flight operation is outside five miles of an airport, then ATC
notification is not required. Similarly, if a proposed sUAS flight operation will occur only
in Class G airspace, then 14 CFR part 107 does not require ATC authorization. If ATC
notification and/or authorization is not required, the operator (or designee) may
nonetheless voluntarily submit their proposed flight information through the TPP
interface. If no airspace restrictions exist, the system will provide confirmation to the
operator that the flight information has been received.

If the operation requires ATC notification or authorization, the operator (or designee)
must submit their proposed flight information via the system’s Flight Information
Submittal Tool. If the operation is within an airport-specific “area that requires further
ATC coordination” and outside of Special Activity Airspace where operations are
prohibited (in the vicinity of the airport), the system will automatically deliver
acknowledgement or authorization regarding the operation. Conversely, if the operator
(or designee) submits their proposed flight information, and the operation is within an
airport-specific “area that requires further coordination” or within Special Activity
Airspace where operations are prohibited (in the vicinity of the airport), the system will
automatically deliver a message denying the operation. Small UAS operators who operate
in accordance with part 107 will have the opportunity to further discuss their request to
operate in controlled airspace with ATC.

7 Overarching Roles & Architecture

There are five major roles defined for the concept; Operator, Third Party Provider, FAA
Processor, FAA ATC, and FAA Map Provider. The high level interaction among the
roles is described in section 7.6.

7.1 UAS Operator

Operators are people or organizations that are external to the FAA and that must follow
the rules outlined in 14 CFR part 107, Pub. L. 114-190 § 336, or a certificate of
authorization the FAA has issued to them under Pub. L. 114-190 § 333. .
Operators will submit required UAS operations information to a third party either via an
operator interface or possibly in bulk (for multiple planned Part 107 flights). Information
requirements are being developed at this time.

 

OperatorType of RequestThird Party ResponseFAA Response
Operators providing notification pursuant to Pub. L. 112-95 Section 336NotificationAcknowledgeNone
Part 107 sUAS OperatorAuto Authorization  “Fly without Further Coordination”AuthorizedAcknowledge and provide authorization message
Part 107 sUAS OperatorAuto ResponseNot-AuthorizedNone: state “Further Coordination Required”
Part 107 sUAS OperatorAuto ResponseNot-AuthorizedNone; Clarify the request involves “Special Activity Airspace”
Part 107 sUAS OperatorManual Authorization “No-Fly Zone” DiscussionAcknowledged and Sent to FAASecondary Contact (Direct Contact with Operator)
Operators providing

notification pursuant

to Pub. L. 112-96

§ 336

Notification “No-Fly”AcknowledgeProvide statement to

operator that the

operation could

interfere with other

operations in the

NAS and/or at an

airport

7.2 Third Party Provider

Third Party providers (TPPs) will provide Notification and Authorization communication
services on behalf of the FAA. TPPs are expected to be private entities, such as
corporations. They provide the primary interface to the operator via system application
software that is likely to include mobile applications. Each TPP will use only FAA
sources such as authorized UASFM, Special Use Airspace (SUA), TFRs, NOTAMs, data
to automatically provide, where feasible, confirmations of notification and authorizations
to UAS operators. Each TPP will obtain Environmental Systems Research Institute
(ESRI) based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map data
(www.uas.faa.opendata.arcgis.com) from a designated repository, managed by the FAA
aeronautical information service organization (AJV-5) , and will maintain current map
data in accordance with FAA-provided notification of new map data availability.
The TPP will manage communications and messaging with the operator and with the
FAA. As an example, the TPP will provide standard messages to the operator based on
the determination made (e.g. “operation is authorized”). The TPPs will manage and store
all the records of authorization and notification requests in protected areas based on
SORN (Systems of Records Notices) requirements. The TPP will send authorization and
notification records (and or mapped data) to the FAA for display to ATC. Finally, the
TPP will manage Part 107 operator secondary requests for authorization once automatic
denial has been provided.

The level of governance for TPPs has not been determined. All interfaces to the FAA
where a TPP is exchanging information with the FAA will be tested, proven, controlled
and securely managed. There is currently no plan by the FAA to “authorize” or certify a
provider. However, a mechanism might be developed whereby the services provided by
a TPP will be monitored for performance and to collect metrics (e.g. numbers and types
of authorizations processed and associated error rates).

7.3 Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP)/FAA Processor

In the operating concept, the FAA will provide a standard gateway for processing
messages between third party providers and FAA end users (e.g. ATC or Service
Centers). The FAA will also provide processing services to display information to meet
the FAA users’ needs. The gateway serves as a routing function for display and storage.

7.4 FAA ATC

In the operating concept, air traffic control personnel at a facility (or at a centralized
location) will have an ability to see authorizations, notifications, and waivers as
processed by a third party provider and sent to ATC.2 TPP will not be able to process
waivers, but will have an ability to allow the operator to enter the waiver information for
FAA review. Processing of authorizations may be accomplished at a centralized location
or at individual facilities. If processing of authorizations occurs at a centralized location
(e.g., FAA regional service centers), ATC personnel at affected facilities will have
situational awareness of the authorizations and notifications and will be provided with an
ability to override requested operational actions. ATC personnel will have the ability to
review all actions (Authorizations, Notifications, Waivers) affecting their respective
airspace and will have the ability to reject, accept, acknowledge, or perform additional
review. The method(s) of providing authorization, notification, and waiver information
to ATC personnel has not been determined. Early implementation may be accomplished
by email, or internet access if internet access is available. Operational procedures
detailing the interaction of ATC with the authorization and notification system have not
been determined.

7.5 FAA Map Provider and Special Instructions

In the operating concept, the FAA will provide the UASFM data to be used in
determining authorization and notification. Map data will be made available through
automation. The FAA mapping organization will provide map data on a periodic basis,
initially on a 56 day update cycle, using ESRI standard formats and functionality, with a
long term goal of providing real-time updates. The mapping organization will also
collect available information on other airspace limitations imposed by existing
NOTAMS, TFRs or regulation.

 


Drone Business Resources & Tools to Build Your Business

Loading

Email:

Streak and Boomerang for Gmail

Mailchimp

Converktit

 

Web Hosting:


Ultimate Drone Logbook Guide (Drone Logbook Templates, Drone Flight Logbooks, Drone Logbook PDF, etc.)

Do one of the following drone logbook statements accurate describe you?

  • “What does the FAA want me to log? I don’t want to get in trouble.”
  • “Where do I log it?”
  • “Should I do paper or electronic?”
  • “I’m confused with all the different terms.”

If any of the above describe you, you are in the right place. We are are going to dive into all of the issues surrounding drone logbooks. This article will be applicable to recreational and commercial drone operators.

There are primarily two types of logbooks: (1) pilot drone logbooks where the pilot logs experience and training and (2) drone aircraft/maintenance logbooks. There are two modes of logbooks: (1) paper and (2) electronic.

 

Table of Contents:

 

 

I. Drone Logbook Law

A. Logbook Definitions

Before we dive in, let’s discuss some terms that some of you might have heard floating around:

  • Acting pilot in command
  • Logging pilot in command,
  • Remote pilot in command,
  • Flight training,
  • Ground training,
  • Authorized Instructor,
  • Pilot,
  • Operator, etc.

 

B. Brief History of Where the Logbook Definitions Came From

Section 61.51 is the most important section for Part 61 pilots on logbooks and specifically lays out some definitions and the requirements to log that time. These specific terms and requirements were created for pilots to accurately describe their training and experience to meet eligibility requirements to obtain an airmen certificate or added rating. This was how manned aircraft pilots were doing it. Then drones came on the scene.

We had to fit the square in the round hole in September 2014 with the first batch of 333 exemptions were released. There continues to be a provision in the 333 exemptions that mentions that the pilot may log time in accordance with 61.51(b) to show pilot in command (“PIC”) qualifications to operate under the 333.

Then on August 29th, 2016, Part 101 and Part 107 became law which gave us the term remote pilot in command.That is interesting to note since for a while it was a “must” log until November 2016 where the FAA unilaterally updated 5,000+ exemptions and now they say “may” log in a manner consistent with 61.51(b).

So how do we sort this all out when it comes to logging since we have different terms in different parts of the regulations?

 

C. How to Make Sense of What to Use in Your Drone Logbook

Part 61 is how you get manned aircraft certificates while Part 91 is how you lose that manned aircraft certificate (by violating those operating regulations). The Section 333 exemptions adopted the standards in 61.51(b) and then later were changed to say “may.”

Part 107 created this neatly contained part of regulations which spells out what you need to do to obtain your remote pilot certificate and how to operate under it. You only need to pass a computer-based knowledge exam to fly unmanned aircraft so definitions are not even needed to define knowledge, experience, or training in a logbook to obtain a certificate under Part 107. The definitions only really mattered in a Part 61 & Part 91 situation where training and experience needed to be logged accurately.

Furthermore, 14 CFR 61.8 says, “Any action conducted pursuant to part 107 of this chapter or Subpart E of part 101 of this chapter cannot be used to meet the requirements of this part.” You cannot even use the drone time towards obtaining a Part 61 airmen certificate or rating. What a bummer. :(

Moreover, most of the terms are not even accurately being used! If you look carefully at the definitions, you’ll notice that almost all of them 99% of the time cannot be applied to Part 107 remote pilots under a strict reading of the legal definitions. Sure. Everyone will know what you mean but they are not legally accurate usages. But then again, in 107 world, many of these definitions don’t matter.   You could call the time flying your Star Wars tie fighter drone “Lord Vader time” because you aren’t using that time to go for a certificate or rating.

Here is a helpful graph of the different definitions, their location, and how a person flying under Part 101 or Part 107 should treat the definition.

D. Graph of Different Drone Logbook Terms

 

Term

Location in the LawHow to treat it.Definition

Operating Under Part 61 & Part 91

(Acting) Pilot in command

14 CFR 1.1

This is a term regarding ACTING as PIC. PICs acting as PIC can log it. The reason why there are different terms is because sometimes you can log PIC without being acting PIC. See Logging Pilot-In-Command Time article for AOPA.  If you are operating under 107 or 101, this does NOT even apply to you.

“Pilot in command means the person who:

(1) Has final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight;

(2) Has been designated as pilot in command before or during the flight; and

(3) Holds the appropriate category, class, and type rating, if appropriate, for the conduct of the flight.”

(Logging) Pilot in Command

14 CFR 61.51(e)

Only applicable for sport, recreational, private, commercial, or ATP when rated for the category and class of aircraft. Very rarely will the pilot have the same category and class rating as the unmanned aircraft being flown that is also in compliance with 14 CFR 61.51(j). Even if you get the rare perfect scenario, 14 CFR 61.8 says you can’t even use the PIC time for anything under Part 61 so why bother?“(e) Logging pilot-in-command flight time. (1) A sport, recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot may log pilot in command flight time for flights”

Solo Flight Time

14 CFR 61.51(d)

No one can log this because you can’t get in an unmanned aircraft; otherwise, it wouldn’t be unmanned. I guess a woman could get inside one and it still be unmanned but I don’t know if the FAA will still consider that an unmanned aircraft. 😊“(d) Logging of solo flight time. Except for a student pilot performing the duties of pilot in command of an airship requiring more than one pilot flight crewmember, a pilot may log as solo flight time only that flight time when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft.”

Flight Training

14 CFR 1.1

You cannot log this because once again, you are not “in flight in an aircraft[.]”“Flight training means that training, other than ground training, received from an authorized instructor in flight in an aircraft”

Ground Training

14 CFR 1.1

Only authorized instructors (see below) can log this in the logbooks of their students. But there are no truly authorized flight instructors for drones.“Ground training means that training, other than flight training, received from an authorized instructor.”

Authorized instructor

14 CFR 1.1

Here is the problem, ground and flight instructors are “authorized within the limitations of that person’s flight instructor certificate and ratings to train and issue endorsements that are required for” a list of airmen certificates and ratings, but the remote pilot certificate is NOT EVEN ON THE LIST! See 61.215 and 61.193. In other words, ground and flight instructors are not “authorized” to train remote pilots. Sure, flight instructors can train people all day long. It isn’t like the instructor is prohibited from training people, it is just the FAA is not giving its official approval of the competency of the flight instructor to give training to people seeking their remote pilot certificates. But you don’t need the official approval from the FAA for the training because the computer based knowledge exam is what the FAA has officially approved to determine aeronautical knowledge of the remote pilot applicant.“Authorized instructor means—

(i) A person who holds a ground instructor certificate issued under part 61 of this chapter and is in compliance with §61.217, when conducting ground training in accordance with the privileges and limitations of his or her ground instructor certificate;

(ii) A person who holds a flight instructor certificate issued under part 61 of this chapter and is in compliance with §61.197, when conducting ground training or flight training in accordance with the privileges and limitations of his or her flight instructor certificate; or

(iii) A person authorized by the Administrator to provide ground training or flight training under part 61, 121, 135, or 142 of this chapter when conducting ground training or flight training in accordance with that authority.”

“Pilot” vs. “Operator”

The FAA said this very well in now Cancelled Notice 8900.259, “The terms “pilot” and “operator” have historical meanings in aviation, which may have led to some confusion within the UAS community. As defined by the FAA in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 1, § 1.1, the term “operate,” “…with respect to aircraft, means use, cause to use or authorize to use aircraft, for the purpose… of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control….” This means that an operator is the person or entity responsible for the overall aircraft and that may include a broad range of areas, such as maintenance, general operations, specific procedures, and selecting properly trained and certified flightcrew members to fly the aircraft. The pilot in command (PIC), also defined in § 1.1, is the final authority for an individual flight. Pilots are persons appropriately trained to fly aircraft.”   Additionally, the FAA said in the preamble to the small unmanned aircraft rule, “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.” (emphasis mine).

This is What a 107 Remote Pilot Can Log, But Is NOT Legally Required to & Really Does Not Matter

Remote Pilot in Command14 CFR 107.12 & 107.19.Applicable only to unmanned aircraft systems operations.

Advisory Circular 107-2 at 4.2.5 says it nicely, “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.

 

E. Recreational Drone Operations 

A recreational drone operator cannot accurately rely on memory to determine when to change out batteries or propellers. Additionally, memory is a poor way to recall if preventive maintenance checks were done.

One can argue that flying a drone over and over again without logging the time the propellers have been used to be “careless and reckless” which is contrary to the Academy of Model Aeronautics Safety Code and the Drone Users Group Network Safety Guidelines. RCAPA’s general safety guidelines require that the drone be “airworthy” prior to flight. A logbook is a reliable way to determine time on properly for a drone operator to make a decision on the airworthiness of the aircraft.

Whether the above argument holds any water in a court of law is another discussion but this is more food for thought than listing potential arguments the FAA might throw at a recreational operator.

 

F. Commercial Drone Operators (Section 333 & Part 107). 

1 . Section 333 Operators

The FAA requires that commercial operators who have 333 exemptions and “blanket” COA’s to file monthly reports. Additionally, those commercial operators operating under the 333 are required to log their flights according to 14 CFR 61.51(b) which says:

(b) Logbook entries. For the purposes of meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, each person must enter the following information for each flight or lesson logged:

(1) General—

(i) Date.

(ii) Total flight time or lesson time.

(iii) Location where the aircraft departed and arrived, or for lessons in a flight simulator or flight training device, the location where the lesson occurred.

(iv) Type and identification of aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, as appropriate.

(v) The name of a safety pilot, if required by §91.109 of this chapter.

(2) Type of pilot experience or training—

(i) Solo.

(ii) Pilot in command.

(iii) Second in command.

(iv) Flight and ground training received from an authorized instructor.

(v) Training received in a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device from an authorized instructor.

(3) Conditions of flight—

(i) Day or night.

(ii) Actual instrument.

(iii) Simulated instrument conditions in flight, a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.

(iv) Use of night vision goggles in an aircraft in flight, in a flight simulator, or in a flight training device.

2. Part 107

Section 107.49  says:

Prior to flight, the remote pilot in command must . . .

(c) Ensure that all control links between ground control station and the small unmanned aircraft are working properly;

(d) If the small unmanned aircraft is powered, ensure that there is enough available power for the small unmanned aircraft system to operate for the intended operational time; and

(e) Ensure that any object attached or carried by the small unmanned aircraft is secure and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.

How can a remote pilot comply with 107.49(c)-(e) if the remote pilot is not logging aircraft problems and maintenance? The FAA said it nicely in Advisory Circular 107-2, “Maintenance and inspection recordkeeping provides retrievable empirical evidence of vital safety assessment data defining the condition of safety-critical systems and components supporting the decision to launch.”

But here is the problem with drones, they are aircraft, but the drone manufacturers don’t treat them like aircraft. We don’t have any warnings being issued on certain parts like we have with the airworthiness directives in manned aviation. Yes, GoPro did a recall because of their batteries which is a good start. The technology changes so much that the mean time between failures is not known for many parts of the drones. People just buy the Phantom 4 before the Phantom 2 or 3 broke. No one is sharing the data of the aircraft failures. Why would you want to and be called an idiot on the internet? So really any preventative maintenance being done, while appearing safe, is really going to be just best guesses.

Section 107.7 says, “A remote pilot in command, owner, or person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system must, upon request, make available to the Administrator: . . .(2) Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”

If you study Part 107 carefully, you’ll notice no log books are required to be kept; however, if you obtain a Part 107 waiver, such as a night waiver, the waiver requires the responsible person to have documented night training the remote pilot in command and visual observer have received and that documentation must be available upon request from the FAA. This is what section 107.7 means by “Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”

 

II. Reasons Why You Should Have a Drone Logbook

Legal Compliance. You might need to document training received for some waivers. Additionally, you might want to log aircraft maintenance to prove that you attempted to maintain the aircraft in an airworthy manner.

Marketing. Showing a completed logbook to a potential customer is a great marketing point. Like the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” a good logbook is worth a thousand flights. You can quickly demonstrate your flight experience by flipping through the pages. Furthermore, a well-kept and orderly logbook gives the impression that you are a professional.

Insurance. When you apply for insurance, they will ask you to fill out a form that is going to ask for all sorts of information. A logbook will assist you in filling out the form so you can receive the most accurate quote.

Maintenance. You cannot accurately rely on your memory to recall if you did something or not. Has that problem you observed gone away? Is it getting worse? Logging helps you notice trends and also allows you to rule out certain things when hunting for the cause of a problem.

III. Paper vs. Electronic Drone Logbooks 

  • Paper Drone Logbooks
    • If you are operating under a Section 333, 14 C.F.R. § 61.51(i) says, “Persons must present their pilot certificate, medical certificate, logbook, or any other record required by this part for inspection upon a reasonable request by” the FAA, an authorized representative from the National Transportation Safety Board, or any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer. If your electronic logbook is on your device, do you really want to give law enforcement or the FAA your device? Furthermore, how are you to get the data off that device? A paper log book can be easily inspected by law enforcement officials without them prying into your privacy.
    • Fixed costs (unless you go through paper like crazy)
    • No battery, no software, no firmware, no bad cell reception.
    • If you are investigated, whoever is investigating is going to have to obtain the logbook itself as opposed to just subpoenaing the electronic logbook company to turn over all your info.
    • No data theft.
    • Some countries require paper logbooks.
    • It is easier to allow a potential client flip through the pages than reading on your small cell phone with greasy smudge stains.
    • Harder to “cook the books” with paper.
    • Easier to transfer to another person who purchases a drone from you.
  • Electronic Drone Logbooks or Drone Logbook Apps
    • Totaling up the numbers is soooo much easier.
    • Accurate total numbers.
    • Less time spent on managing the logbooks.
    • You can customize these as you need.
    • Some plans have monthly fees.
    • The data is less likely to be lost compared to a paper copy which has to deal with fire, flood, hurricanes, bad memories, etc.
    • You can have data breaches.
    • Law enforcement or personal injury attorney can subpoena the records from the database.

IV. What Drone Logbooks Are on the Market?

A. Drone Logbooks Apps

Here are the more popular electronic drone logbooks. Some allow you to log pilot experience as well as aircraft time and maintenance. Most have a basic free version and the availability to add plans with extra features for a price.

B. Drone Flight Logbook Templates, Excel, or PDF

Basically, everything I saw on the internet looked bad so I decided to allow people to download the template of the Drone Operator Logbook. If you like this logbook, you can just buy the paperback version of it on Amazon (link below) and save on printing since Amazon sells mine for around $10.

To download the logbook template, simply sign up for the newsletter with your email and it should be sent to your email.

C. Paper Drone Logbooks

Here are the more popular paper drone logbooks.

V. Review of the 3 Most Popular Paper Drone Logbooks on the Market

A.  ASA’s The Standard UAS Operator Logbook

ASA's The Standard UAS Operator Logbook

Pros:

  • Compact.
  • Hardcover so you can easily write in it.
  • You could use it with a Section 333 exemption because it is 61.51(b) compatible.

Cons:

  • Some of the columns don’t make sense. For example, there is a “to” category and a “from” category.  We are flying drones here guys. We don’t fly these anywhere else but right where we are standing. Another example is that there is a column for rotor,  fixed wing, and a blank column. What in the world would you put in that blank column? Powered lift or lighter than air?  Another column says instrument time.
  • Small so you can’t write a lot of information in it.

B.  UAS Pilot Log Expanded Edition

UAS Pilot Log Expanded EditionPros

  • It has this cool graph on the side.  This is great for sketching things out. But you could just get regular paper and sketch things out if you need.
  • There is an “eh ok” checklist built into every page.
  • The gutter in between the pages might allow for it to be hole punched.

Cons

  • It does not have rows or columns for the 61.51(b) elements. While 61.51 isn’t a standard for 107 or 101 flyers, if you choose to adopt it, you’ll have to remember to put things in.
  • There are not many columns to log different types of time.
  • It has a pre-flight checklist but no post-flight checklist.

C.  Drone Operator’s Logbook

Brief note on the differences between V 1.2 and V 1.3 of my logbook. The text in the instruction up front was updated to reflect the changes since Part 107 is now law. Also, I changed the top quick notes section of each page from “FAR Required” to “61.51(b)” and “333 Required” to Section 333 to reflect the FAA’s new “may” language in the exemptions. I added more places to log battery cycles in the bottom from 6 to now 12.
 drone-logbook-example
Pros:
  • 61.51(b) elements are included in case you want to adopt this standard.
  • You can log battery discharges right on each page.
  • There is a TON of room on each page. You can easily log all your notes. Since it is also large, you can get regular writing paper and sketch out the job sites and then staple them to the page where you logged the flight.
  • This logbook is large enough to also double as a maintenance logbook for your aircraft. When you make any repairs, staple in the receipts and make detailed so you can better diagnose problems or obtain a higher resell value for the aircraft because you can prove what was done to it. I would suggest if you want to use it as a maintenance logbook, that you buy a separate logbook just for the aircraft in case you fly multiple aircraft.
  • Each page has a “cheat sheet” of things to jog your memory on what you might want to log on each line.
Cons:
  • It is a softcover so writing might be difficult.
  • It is the largest of the logbooks (but you get a lot of room to write). It might be difficult to fit into a plastic sleeve that would fit in a 3 ring binder. However, I think the way around this is to just buy one of the plastic 3 ring expansion envelopes like this one.
  • Some have complained that the gutter is too small which makes it difficult to hole punch the logbook.

VI. How to Fill Out My Drone Logbook.

 

drone-logbook-example

Starting at the top, there are two rows with asterisks which are references for the Type of Flight and Notes sections. There is also a handy time conversion.

DATE: The date of the flight.

AIRCRAFT/MAKE & MODEL: Put the make and model of the aircraft.

IDENT/Exemption #: In this column, you can put the registration of the aircraft. You can also put in an exemption number if you want.

LOCATION. Blanket COA reporting must list the city/town, state, and coordinates in decimal, minute, second format, (DD, MM, SS.S) N (DD, MM, SS.S) W, in the COA reports. Tip: Open up the iPhone compass app and it will display the GPS coordinates in the proper format at the bottom of the compass. 107 remote pilots or 101 recreational flyers are not required to log this but may adopt to.

BLANK COLUMN. If you are operating under your 333 exemption still, track your plan of activities (POA) submissions and NOTAM filing. You can also track invoice number, the pre & post voltage of batteries, takeoff or landing damage, equipment malfunctions, or lost link events.

TYPE OF FLIGHT. 61.51(b) lists terms like solo/pilot in command/flight, ground training, training received, or simulator training received. Notice the * reminds you to look at the top of the page for suggestions.  333 exemptions allow logging of (training/ proficiency/ experience). Optional entries could be ($/testing/recreation).

NOTES.  Here are some suggestions: memory cards [1,2,3], batteries [A,B,C], the name of the visual observer (“VO”), NOTAM filed, the ID of the COA you are flying under, did you file the plan of activities?, Invoice #, pre/post voltage on the batteries, and SQWK (which means you documented in the SQWK section the problems and fixes).If you are a Section 333 operator and you experienced takeoff or landing damage, equipment malfunctions, or lost link events, you MUST report this to the FAA via COA reporting.

D/N. day or night?  # of TO/L. Number of take-offs and landings (hopefully they are the same number :)  COA reports want “Number of flights (per location, per aircraft)”

Total Flight. Use a new battery for each line and enter the time after each flight. A convenient list of numbers is located on each page to help determine the most accurate entry. .1=6s  .2=12s  .3=18s .4=24s .5=30s .6=36s .7=42s .8=48s .9=54s  For each battery, make sure you log cycles at the bottom with tick marks. This way you can keep track of when to fully discharge the drone battery based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

SQWK. Squawk section where you list any issues you discovered during flight. Instead of putting all of this in the notes section, just write “sqwk” and you’ll know to look at the bottom. In that section, You look for the number corresponding to the line number because all of the squawks go into the bottom box.

You can keep track of firmware updates by listing them below the battery section.

When you are finished with a page, add all the numbers up, sign the page, and cut off the corner of the page. This makes it easy to find the most current tab using your thumb.

Conclusion

I would highly suggest you do not just go and do nothing after reading this. You should log your flights so as to track any maintenance that needs doing as well as collecting data to know when you need to change our certain parts or the entire drone.

Get a logbook, a piece of paper, a word document, one of the logbooks mentioned above, ANYTHING!  Just do it now. Don’t push it off. You won’t do. Start doing something. Today.

Stay safe. :)


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.

The Reporting Requirements to Make to the NTSB.

Keep in mind the you must IMMEDIATELY notify the NTSB and one quick way you can do this is by contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. Contacting the ROC satisfies 49 CFR 830.5. The below text comes from the NTSB Advisory on Drones which you can download here.

NTSB Advisory to Operators of Civil Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the United States

INTRODUCTION

The use of small civil unmanned operating systems (sUAS) is growing rapidly, with changes happening on a nearly daily basis.  In particular, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary issued a new final rule on the operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems[3] and the FAA recently issued a new “blanket Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)” for commercial Section 333[4] and Public Aircraft operators.

The new Part 107 rule, the FAA Blanket COA,[5] and other FAA authorizations for UAS operation, direct UAS operators to provide expedited notification to the FAA in the event that any of a series of enumerated occurrences take place during the operation of a UAS.  Included in these instructions are reminders that the FAA procedures “are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) under 49 CFR §830.5.”  By means of this Advisory, the NTSB reminds operators of any civil UAS, other than those operated for hobby or recreational purposes, of the NTSB’s accident and incident reporting requirements in Part 830 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations.

BACKGROUND

In August of 2010, the NTSB revised its Part 830 regulations to clarify that its accident and incident notification requirements apply to unmanned aircraft as well as conventional manned aircraft.[6]  Section 830.5 instructs operators of civil aircraft and certain public aircraft to immediately, and by the most expeditious means available, notify the NTSB when an accident or listed incident occurs.

An accident will result in the NTSB’s initiating an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.  In order to minimize the burden on operators of a small UAS and the NTSB, we have exempted from the definitions of “aircraft accident” and “unmanned aircraft accident” in section 830.2 of the NTSB regulations those events in which there is only substantial damage to the aircraft (no injuries), and the aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 300 pounds. This is what happened with the Facebook drone. You can read the NTSB crash report.

Although any of the incidents enumerated in section 830.5 would require the operator to notify the NTSB, the agency at its discretion may decide to conduct a full investigation with probable cause.

REQUIREMENTS

A civil UAS operator must immediately and by the most expeditious means, notify the NTSB of an accident or incident.  An unmanned aircraft accident is defined in 49 C.F.R. § 830.2 as an occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which:

(1) Any person suffers death or serious injury; or

(2) The aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 300 pounds or greater and sustains substantial damage.

Section 830.2 also provides definitions of what constitutes “serious injury” and “substantial damage”.

Operators must consider that the rest of the reporting requirements for serious incidents listed in section 830.5 apply regardless of UAS weight.  Listed serious incidents that apply to small UAS include the following events:

  • Flight control system malfunction or failure: For an unmanned aircraft, a true “fly-away” would qualify. A lost link that behaves as expected does not qualify.
  • Inability of any required flight crewmember to perform normal flight duties as a result of injury or illness.  Examples of required flight crewmembers include the pilot, remote pilot; or visual observer if required by regulation.  This does not include an optional payload operator.
  • In-flight fire, which is expected to be generally associated with batteries.
  • Aircraft collision in flight.
  • More than $25,000 in damage to objects other than the aircraft.
  • Release of all or a portion of a propeller blade from an aircraft, excluding release caused solely by ground contact.
  • Damage to helicopter tail or main rotor blades, including ground damage, that requires major repair or replacement of the blade(s).
  • An aircraft is overdue and is believed to have been involved in an accident.

EXAMPLES

Below are examples of potential events.

  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and crashes into a tree, destroying the aircraft:  Not an accident, (though substantial damage, too small, and no injuries), but the operator is required to notify the NTSB of a flight control malfunction. NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and strikes a bystander causing serious injury:  Accident (resulted in serious injury). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB. The NTSB must investigate the accident and determine a probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS hits a tree due to pilot inattention on a windy day:  Not an accident (too small, even if substantial damage). However, the operator is required to notify the NTSB if other criteria of 830.5 are met.  NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A large, experimental UAS (400 lbs) has a structural failure and crashes in a remote area:  Accident (substantial damage and gross takeoff weight of 300 lbs. or greater). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB.  NTSB must investigate and determine a probable cause.

drone-crash-flowchart

We’d also like to remind unmanned aircraft operators that none of Part 830 is intended to apply to hobbyist or recreational operators as described in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012[7] and applicable FAA guidance.

We hope this advisory serves as a useful reminder to the UAS community that the NTSB remains committed to performing its long-standing mission to support air safety through accident and incident investigation, while placing a minimum burden on this growing industry.

This guidance applies to any unmanned aircraft operated under Part 107, 333, civil COA, experimental certificate, etc.  UAS operators should note that they may have additional reporting requirements to the FAA, military, or other government agencies depending on the applicable regulations under which they are operating.

For further information or questions, you may contact:

Bill English

National Transportation Safety Board

Major Investigations (AS-10)

[email protected]

 

What happens after I call the NTSB phone number?

After contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour ROC, your notification will be taken and forwarded to the appropriate NTSB division for processing. The reported event will be evaluated and a determination will be made whether or not the NTSB will investigate the event. All aircraft accidents as defined by 49 CFR 830.2 are investigated in some capacity, as are select incidents. If an investigation is opened into an event, an investigator will then contact the operator/reporting party to request additional information.

While I’m waiting, do I have to protect the aircraft wreckage?

49 CFR § 830.10 says,

(a) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident for which notification must be given is responsible for preserving to the extent possible any aircraft wreckage, cargo, and mail aboard the aircraft, and all records, including all recording mediums of flight, maintenance, and voice recorders, pertaining to the operation and maintenance of the aircraft and to the airmen until the Board takes custody thereof or a release is granted pursuant to §831.12(b) of this chapter.

(b) Prior to the time the Board or its authorized representative takes custody of aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo, such wreckage, mail, or cargo may not be disturbed or moved except to the extent necessary:

(1) To remove persons injured or trapped;

(2) To protect the wreckage from further damage; or

(3) To protect the public from injury.

(c) Where it is necessary to move aircraft wreckage, mail or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage and any significant impact marks.

(d) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident shall retain all records, reports, internal documents, and memoranda dealing with the accident or incident, until authorized by the Board to the contrary.

I called the NTSB phone number. I am currently waiting for an NTSB investigator to contact me. Is there anything I can do now to assist the investigation?

If the event meets the criteria of 49 CFR 830 and is determined to be an aircraft accident, the NTSB investigator assigned to the case will require the operator to complete NTSB Form 6120.1 – Pilot Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report. 49 CFR 830.15 requires you file the form “within 10 days after an accident, or after 7 days if an overdue aircraft is still missing.” Should you be directed to complete Form 6120.1 – “Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report”, please do as follows:

  • Obtain the form from the requesting NTSB office or download a form-fillable PDF version.
  • The form-fillable version can be edited and saved repeatedly, or simply printed and filled out manually using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent software).
  • DO NOT submit the form until you are contacted by an investigator and are provided with instructions regarding where to send the form. Forms can be submitted by email, FAX, or post mail.
  • Keep in mind that Form 6120.1 has many boxes and fields that are not very applicable to drone pilots. Just do the best you can in filling it all out. The investigator will contact you if there are any questions.

Filing of this report with the assigned investigator satisfies the requirements of 49 CFR 830.15 – Reports and statements to be filed. DO NOT submit a report form in-lieu of providing an initial notification of an aircraft accident to the NTSB ROC.

The Reporting Requirements to Make to the FAA

There are two types of reporting made to the FAA: (1) when there has been a deviation from the regulations and requested to report, and (2) when there has been an accident.

1. Upon Request Following a Deviation Due to an Emergency

107.21 In-flight emergency.

(a) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the remote pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent necessary to meet that emergency.

(b) Each remote pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (a) of this section must, upon request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

2. After an Accident (Within 10 Days)

The FAA gives you 10 days to respond. I would highly suggest you take this time to contact an attorney. Remember that the FAA can prosecute you if you did something stupid.

107.9 Accident reporting.

No later than 10 calendar days after an operation that meets the criteria of either paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, a remote pilot in command must report to the FAA, in a manner acceptable to the Administrator, any operation of the small unmanned aircraft involving at least:

(a) Serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness; or

(b) Damage to any property, other than the small unmanned aircraft, unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:

(1) The cost of repair (including materials and labor) does not exceed $500; or

(2) The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of total loss.

The FAA provided more guidance on this regulation on page 4-3 in their Advisory Circular 107-2:

“1. At least serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness. A serious injury is an injury that qualifies as Level 3 or higher on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM). The AIS is an anatomical scoring system that provides a means of ranking the severity of an injury and is widely used by emergency medical personnel. Within the AIS system, injuries are ranked on a scale of 1 to 6, with Level 1 being a minor injury, Level 2 is moderate, Level 3 is serious, Level 4 is severe, Level 5 is critical, and Level 6 is a nonsurvivable injury. The FAA currently uses serious injury (AIS Level 3) as an injury threshold in other FAA regulations.”

“Note: It would be considered a “serious injury” if a person requires hospitalization, but the injury is fully reversible (including, but not limited to, head trauma, broken bone(s), or laceration(s) to the skin that requires suturing).”  [“In addition to serious injuries, this rule will also require accident reporting for accidents that result in any loss of consciousness because a brief loss of consciousness may not rise to the level of a serious injury.”[8]]

“2. Damage to any property, other than the small UA, if the cost is greater than $500 to repair or replace the property (whichever is lower).”

“Note: For example, a small UA damages a property whose fair market value is $200, and it would cost $600 to repair the damage. Because the fair market value is below $500, this accident is not required to be reported. Similarly, if the aircraft causes $200 worth of damage to property whose fair market value is $600, that accident is also not required to be reported because the repair cost is below $500.”

Why is the $500 number important?

When you do your pre-flight walk around, you should be figuring out what is $500 and cheaper in in the area. The FAA said, “Property damage below $500 is minimal and may even be part of the remote pilot in command’s mitigations to ensure the safety of the operation. For example, a remote pilot in command may mitigate risk of loss of positive control by positioning the small UAS operation such that the small unmanned aircraft will hit uninhabited property in the event of a loss of positive control.”[9]

 

What Do I Report to the FAA?

Remember that the NTSB try to find causes to promote safety and does NOT do enforcement actions while the FAA DOES do enforcement actions.  The FAA gave us a clue as to how they will handle this going forward, “the confined-area-of-operation regulations discussed in section III.E.3 of this preamble, such as the general prohibition on flight over people, are designed with the express purpose of preventing accidents in which a small unmanned aircraft hits a person on the head and causes them to lose consciousness or worse. Thus, if there is a loss of consciousness resulting from a small UAS operation, there may be a higher probability of a regulatory violation.”[10]

You are really between a rock and hard place if there is a crash. Why? Because law enforcement or someone else will likely report the accident to the FAA. If you don’t report, you will get in trouble.  If you do report, you COULD get in trouble. You might want to contact an attorney during this 10 day period before you file the report.  Remember that everything you report can and will be used against you.

Submitting the Report. The accident report must be made within 10 calendar-days of the operation that created the injury or damage. The report may be submitted to the appropriate FAA Regional Operations Center (ROC) electronically or by telephone. Electronic reporting can be completed at www.faa.gov/uas/. Reports may also be made to the nearest jurisdictional FSDO (http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/). The report should include the following information:

  1. sUAS remote PIC’s name and contact information;
  2. sUAS remote PIC’s FAA airman certificate number;
  3. sUAS registration number issued to the aircraft, if required (FAA registration number);
  4. Location of the accident;
  5. Date of the accident;
  6. Time of the accident;
  7. Person(s) injured and extent of injury, if any or known;
  8. Property damaged and extent of damage, if any or known; and
  9. Description of what happened.

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

Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) aka “The NASA Report.”

The ASRS system is run by NASA which is why this report is nicknamed the “NASA Form” or the “NASA Report.”  “The FAA also notes that the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is available for voluntary reporting of any aviation safety incident or situation in which aviation safety may have been compromised. The FAA offers ASRS reporters guarantees and incentives to encourage reporting by holding ASRS reports in strict confidence and not using ASRS information against reporters in enforcement actions. Further, the FAA agrees that data collection is a valuable tool for determining a baseline for performance, reliability, and risk assessment. The FAA plans to develop a tool where remote pilots of small UAS can voluntarily share data which may not meet the threshold for accident reporting. This would provide a means for evaluation of operational integrity for small UAS.”[11]

Unfortunately, the FAA said, “The FAA disagrees that SMS and ASRS systems should be covered on the [Part 107] knowledge test[]. . . . because ASRS is not currently required knowledge for part 61 pilot certificate holders.” This means you aren’t required to KNOW this but you SHOULD. On top of the FAA NOT requiring you to know this, they mention NOTHING about this report in AC 107-2. Remember, this report benefits you more than the FAA.

Keep in mind that the report goes to NASA, not the FAA. NASA is a completely separate agency from the FAA, just like NTSB. “There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 34 years of the ASRS under NASA management.”

Why Should I file a “NASA Report?”

Advisory Circular 00-46E says,

“The FAA considers the filing of a report with NASA concerning an incident or occurrence involving a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII or the 14 CFR to be indicative of a constructive attitude. Such an attitude will tend to prevent future violations. Accordingly, although a finding of violation may be made, neither a civil penalty nor certificate suspension will be imposed if:

(1) The violation was inadvertent and not deliberate;

(2) The violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or action under 49 U.S.C. § 44709, which discloses a lack of qualification or competency, which is wholly excluded from this policy;

(3) The person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII, or any regulation promulgated there for a period of 5 years prior to the date of occurrence; and

(4) The person proves that, within 10 days after the violation, or date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA.

There are no limitations on how many NASA Reports you can file. Immunity will not be granted if you received an enforcement action and have been found in violation of the FAR’s within the previous 5 years from the date of occurrence.

 

So I should always file a NASA Report? It looks like a “get out of jail free card.”

No! If you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, then that information will NOT be
deidentified before NASA sends the information to the Department of Justice for criminal actions or the FAA and NTSB for accidents.  This means the report you filed with your name, phone number, address, and a whole bunch of other goodies is going to be sent over to the guys who can prosecute you! How convenient. So if you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, ESPECIALLY if you are unsure if you fall into one of those categories or not, you should contact me. Flying intentionally into a 99.7 TFR is a criminal penalty.

Keep in mind that this is a waiver from disciplinary action. You will still have a violation show up on your pilot record.

Great. So there aren’t any other issues with reporting?

Potentially. Section 91.25 says, “The Administrator of the FAA will not use reports submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (or information derived therefrom) in any enforcement action except information concerning accidents or criminal offenses which are wholly excluded from the Program.” The problem is that is Part 91 and NOT part 107. The FAA didn’t include a Part 107 equivalent.

We know that NASA won’t give over the info. The FAA can find out a lot of info on their own and can initiate an enforcement action. The idea of the NASA Form was to prevent the imposition of a civil penalty or suspension when the FAA got the info on their own. The FAA indicated in the Part 107 preamble they would continue to honor the program. However, they could change their mind in the future, it isn’t a regulation, and go after people who have filed a NASA Form, but they would get insane amounts of pressure from the safety community to not do that. I’m just making you aware of this situation.

I hope this helps you guys understand what you need to do and when you need to contact me after a crash. Keep in mind that this was only about the FAA and NTSB, not about other potential liability issues that could come about as a result of the crash.

Continue to the Next Topic: Temporary Flight Restrictions (Civil and Criminal Punishments)

FREE Drone Pilot License PDF Study Guide!

  • 100 + pages.
  • 65 practice questions with answers and explanations.
  • 22 custom sample questions.
  • 6 "cram" pages.

[1] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/speeches/rsumwalt/Documents/Sumwalt_141020.pdf

[2] Id. citing 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b).

[3] See 81 Fed. Reg.  42063 (June 28, 2016).  This action fulfills Congress’s direction in section 332(b) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-95, for the Secretary of Transportation and the FAA to issue a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems that will allow for civil operations of UAS in the National Airspace System.

[4] Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 provides that “[i]f the Secretary of Transportation determines that … certain unmanned aircraft systems  may operate safely in the national airspace system,  the Secretary  shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.”

[5] The FAA Blanket COA for any Operator issued a Valid Section 333 Grant of Exemption (FAA Form 7711-1).

[6] 75 Fed. Reg. 51955 (August 24, 2010).

[7] Section 336(c) states that the term the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

[8] Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42, 178 (June 28, 2016).

[9] Id. at 42,178.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at 42,179.