Federal Drone Law


Ultimate Guide to Drone Laws from a Lawyer & Pilot [2019]

Interested in drone laws? It can be a pain to try and figure out what is applicable. That is why I created this page! :)

Where NOT to Look for Help With Drone Laws

Here is a tip, stay away from Facebook or anyone else who is a newbie to aviation. They tend to waste your time and provide bad guidance. Seriously, you should be very careful where you get information from – not everyone is qualified to give you information. You don’t install random pieces of software you find on the internet onto your computer. Why would you do that for the laws and legal advice?

For example, I was reading a drone book, by someone very popular on the internet and Youtube, which was just completely – flat out – totally- 100% wrong. The section on drone laws was just horrible. I think this person just hired a copywriter to write the book which resulted in utter garbage. If you were to rely on that bad advice, you could get in trouble and be on the receiving end of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Worse yet, on their Youtube channel, they continued to give out legal advice that was incomplete. Either they were keeping their readers in the dark about one critically important piece of advice or they were sincerely, and incorrectly, giving out advice which could result in legal consequences.

You should vet everyone before you give them your time. Here, vet me by looking at my bio.

Where to Look for Help With Drone Laws

You should look at resources in this order:

  1. The actual drone regulations (Part 107, Part 101, Part 47, Part 48, etc.) (Please keep in mind that the laws are constantly changing so even some of the regulations might be outdated.)
  2. The FAA’s website.
  3. My website! You can even use the search feature.
  4. Other competent drone lawyers or consultants (read the two articles below on how to find out as there are some really bad people out there).
  5. Your local Flight Standards District Office Aviation Safety Inspector, any FAA email on their website, etc.

I. United States Drone Laws

There are different levels of governmental authority in the U.S. We have a federated system where we are governed on certain things by the U.S. Federal Government and the state governments with those areas not enumerated to the U.S. government.

Additionally, the states have passed laws allowing counties, cities, and towns to regulate individuals.  At any given moment, a person can 3 or 4 levels of laws applying to them. For example, your drone operations could have the federal aviation laws, state drone laws, county drone laws, city or town laws, and maybe even HOA rules all applying to them.

Whether or not the states, counties, and cities can regulation drones is another big issue way outside of the scope of this article. As time goes on, things will shake out as to the scope of the drones laws the states, counties, cities, and towns can create. This will be determined by federal legislation or by federal case law determining what state drone laws are preempted and which drone laws are not.

A. Federal Drone Public Law

Public Law is law that has been passed by Congress and signed by the President. Sometimes people use the term “legislation” to describe the public law. Obamacare, HIPPA, etc. are all Public Laws. I created a directory of federal drone legislation that has been approved or proposed.  Most of the proposed drone legislation out there ends up never becoming law.

There has been two sets of laws specifically talking about drones:

There are other public laws that have been passed and which were codified in the United States Code. The Department of Justice enforces the Federal Criminal Code in Title 18 and the Federal Aviation Statutes in Title 49 of the United States Code.

There are some federal laws in Title 18 that could apply to drone operations such as  § 32 which would prohibit the destruction of the drone aircraft and  § 796 which prohibits the use of aircraft for photographing defense installations.

The Department of Justice attorneys have been involved at least twice with drone operators: (1) the Skypan case which was originally started in the federal district court in Chicago and (2) in the federal district court in Connecticut with the Haughwout case (the kid who attached a gun and later a flamethrower to a drone).

B. Federal Drone Regulations 

Regulations are created through the rulemaking process. There are many regulations that apply to drones and I have a federal drone regulations directory page to help people. Below is covering the agencies that enforce the laws but does not go in-depth on the regulations which is what the drone regulations directory page is designed to do.

1. Federal Aviation Regulations (Enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration)

We immediately think of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) when it comes to drone laws. The FAA enforces the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”) which apply to all sorts of things such as student training, airports, maintenance, flying, aircraft certification, rocket launches, etc.

The two parts of the FARs that apply to drone operators are Part 107 (for non-recreational operations) and Part 101 (for recreational operations). But that is NOT all!

All drones are required to be registered under Part 47 or Part 48.

I have created many articles on the federal aviation regulations. I have listed below the most popular ones.

drone-laws-FAA-TSA-DOT-FCC-ITAR-EAR2. Other Federal Agencies and Their “Drone Laws”

The FAA is not the only agency that regulates drones. There are also others! Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive.

NTSB. If you crash your drone, you are required to report to the National Transportation Safety Board! Additionally, you might need to file an aviation safety reporting system form which is administered by NASA! See my article on What are you required to do after a drone crash?

TSA. The Transportation Safety Administration administers the alien flight student program (governed by the alien flight student regulations). All FAA certificated flight instructors know this and have to be careful regarding providing training as well as doing security awareness training. As I read it, I think the TSA could assert jurisdiction over flight instructors training alien flight students.

DOT. The Department of Transportation has regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous material (i.e. drone medical delivery).

FCC. The Federal Communications Commission regulations radio transmitters, the frequencies they transmit on, and the power of the transmitter. Many people don’t even pay attention to that sticker that is on the back of your controller. Take a chance to read it over some time.   The FCC put out an enforcement advisory on “DRONE AUDIO/VIDEO TRANSMITTER ACCESSORIES MUST COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES TO BE MARKETED TO U.S. CUSTOMERS”  The FCC has gone after companies who have sold drone related equipment that were transmitting on frequencies they should not, were over the legal power limit, or were not certified.

DOC. You also have the Department of Commerce with the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) and the State Department with the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone published an article detailing multiple prosecutions under ITAR.

NOAA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sometimes gets involved because they have jurisdiction over national sanctuaries.  NOAA created frequently asked questions 
regarding NOAA’s regulated overflight zones of West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries.

Are model aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft System (drone) operations subject to NOAA regulated overflight zones?

A. Yes. Model aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) propelled by motors qualify as motorized aircraft under regulations of the sanctuaries, and therefore must adhere to sanctuary regulated overflight zones. As with traditional aircraft, UAS could operate above the sanctuaries’ minimum altitude limits, provided Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations allow them to fly at such altitudes. Current FAA rules impose altitude limitations on model aircraft and other Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

NPS. National Park Service has put out statements in the past prohibiting the operation of drones in national parks. Things have changed. It is hit or miss where you can fly at the different parks. Some locations have designated areas where you can fly but you have to check. Type in the name of the national park plus  “compendium” in Google and you should find some helpful results. Additionally, you should call ahead to see if anything has changed.

DOI. The Department of the Interior has regulations and you could get in trouble with some of them. 43 CFR § 9212.1 “Unless permitted in writing by the authorized officer, it is prohibited on the public lands to: . . . (f) Resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire; (g) Enter an area which is closed by a fire prevention order[.]”

 

B. State Drone Laws

All 50! I created a state drone law directory of all 50 states.  I also included some additional resources that would be helpful from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National League of Cities. There is also a link to a model state drone legislation from ALEC.

Want All the State Drone Laws in a PDF?

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Also, just like the federal agencies, state agencies have created regulations that can apply to drones as well. This is another reason you should contact an attorney licensed in that state for help.

II. International Drone Laws

There is no good reliable database of drone laws. I might create one as time goes on.

Below are the resources I have found on the internet that can assist you in finding the laws in a particular country.  I do not know how updated they are or accurate.  Use at your own risk.


New FAA Recreational Drone Laws [May 2019]

recreational-drone-laws

Are you interested in learning about the current U.S. recreational drone laws? 

On May 14, 2019 some documents were leaked regarding the FAA’s implementation of Section 349 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Section 349 basically changed some of the major provisions of the existing recreational drone laws. On May 16, the FAA sent out an email announcement which is why you are most likely reading this article.

Let’s take a look at how we ended up here.

Recreational Drone Laws Table of Contents:

 

Brief History of the Recreational Drone Laws:

For decades and decades model aircraft were flown with very little restrictions.

The earliest document the FAA published regarding model aircraft flying was Advisory Circular 91-57 which was published in 1981. In February 2007, the FAA published their policy statement indicating that AC 91-57 only applies to modelers and companies and people flying commercial cannot fly under it.

In February 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed which created Section 336 which prohibited the FAA from creating any new regulation governing model aircraft that fell into the criteria of Section 336. In June 2014, the FAA published there interpretation on Section 336 which further refined the model aircraft and non-model aircraft distinction by saying, “the aircraft would need to be operated purely for recreational or hobby purposes” and seem to start applying already existing manned aircraft regulations to model aircraft (the FAA thought that Section 336 prohibited creating new regulations to model aircraft, not applying already existing regulations that predated Section 336 to model aircraft). In August 2014, multiple lawsuits challenged this interpretation one of which was filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

Advisory Circular 91-57 was updated to AC 91-57A on September 2, 2015 which created more restrictions and also stealthy included a prohibition on flying in special flight rule areas (one of which was the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area). This was challenged by one of the three Taylor v. FAA lawsuits.

In December 2015, the FAA illegally created the Part 48 regulations which applied to the Section 336 protected model aircraft. These regulations were challenged in 1 of the Taylor v. FAA lawsuits. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Part 48 regulations as illegal in May 2017 but in December 2017, Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 overturned the court’s ruling. 

May 4, 2016, the FAA published their interpretation allowing for the education use of unmanned aircraft under 336. In July 2016, Congress passed the FAA Extension Safety, and Security Act of 2016 which criminalized unmanned aircraft flights near wildfires August 2016, the FAA published Part 101 Subpart E regulations for model aircraft flyers which was basically a copy-paste job of the previous Section 336 from the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. In October 2018, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 which did away with Section 336 and added many more restrictions to model aircraft flyers.

In April 2019, the FAA published an official withdrawal of their 2014 model aircraft interpretation.  May 17, 2019, the FAA will start implementing Section 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

Because of of the changes from the 2018 FAA Reauthorization, Part 101’s Subpart E model aircraft regulations have been superseded. A giant reset button has been pressed for model aircraft flyers laws.

Note: If you are drone manufacturer, the notification of the recreational drone laws as required by 49 USC Section 40101 will have to be updated since the FAA Reauthorization of 2018 changed things. 

 

Recreational Drone Law Summary:

  • Section 336 was repealed. 
  • Part 101 Subpart E’s regulations are NO LONGER VALID. These were the recreational drone laws we flew under for a while.
  • The recreational flyer must pass a test and keep proof of passing the test to show to FAA or law enforcement. The test will cover the recreational drone laws.
  • Must obtain authorization prior to flying in B, C, D, or E at the surface associated with an airport airspace and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
  • Recreational aircraft have to be registered and marked. Have to show registration to FAA or police if asked.
  • Flown strictly for recreational purposes.
  • The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer colocated and in direct communication with the operator.
  • Does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
  • In Class G airspace
    • The aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and
    • Complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions. This would include the 1,000’s of security flight restrictions all over the US that are listed here. Security flight restrictions can be punished with prison time. I talk about how to check for these security flight restrictions and temporary flight restrictions in the Rupprecht Drones’ Airspace and Chart Reading Course.
  • Unmanned aircraft, which includes model aircraft, cannot interfere with wildfire suppression efforts, law enforcement, or emergency response efforts. See 49 U.S.C. Section 46320 and 18 U.S.C. 40A
  • It’s a crime to fly in runway exclusion zones without authorization. See 49 U.S.C 39B. I talk about this law and other airspace laws in the Rupprecht Drones’ airspace course.
  • It’s also a crime to fly knowingly or recklessly interfering with, or disrupt the operations of, a manned aircraft in a manner that poses a imminent safety hazard to the occupant(s). See 49 U.S.C 39B.

 

Comparison of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 Major Changes :

Before

Now

Notice to airport manager and to tower if there is a tower.

Need authorization prior to flying in B, C, D#coa, or E2 airspace. Here is the authorization.

No test.

Need to pass a test and keep proof.

FPV racing was NOT considered lawful at one point and then uncertain until the FAA published their withdrawal.

FPV racing is permissible if the co-located visual observer keeps his eyes on the drone racing.

No altitude restriction

400 feet above ground level for G Airspace. B, C, D, and E2 airspace will be whatever the UASFM will allow.

Not clear if Section 336 prevented the FAA from applying preexisting flight restriction regulations that had not been used for decades to model aircraft. This is one of the issues raised in one of the Taylor v. FAA cases the court did not address in their ruling. Basically, were the manned aircraft regulations that existed for years also the recreational drone laws?

Must comply with airspace flight restrictions.

 

 

 

Actual Text of 49 U.S.C. Section 44809 (The New Recreational Drone Laws)

Section 349 and Section 350 of the FAA Reauthorization of 2018 created Title 49 of the United States Code Section 44809.

GENERAL LIMITATIONS:

(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (e), and notwithstanding chapter 447 of title 49, United States Code, a person may operate a small unmanned aircraft without specific certification or operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration if the operation adheres to all of the following limitations:

(1) The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.

(2) The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.

(3) The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer colocated and in direct communication with the operator.

(4) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.

(5) 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, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

(6) In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

(7) The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test described in subsection (g) and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.

(8) The aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of this title and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.

 

AIRCRAFT THAT DO NOT CONFORM TO THE GENERAL LIMITATIONS:

(b) OTHER OPERATIONS.—Unmanned aircraft operations that do not conform to the limitations in subsection (a) must comply with all statutes and regulations generally applicable to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.

 

RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES:

(c) OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES.—

(1) OPERATING PROCEDURE REQUIRED.—Persons operating unmanned aircraft under subsection (a) from a fixed site within 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, or a community-based organization conducting a sanctioned event within such airspace, shall make the location of the fixed site known to the Administrator and shall establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the air traffic control facility.

(2) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT WEIGHING MORE THAN 55 POUNDS.—A person may operate an unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds, including the weight of anything attached to or carried by the aircraft, under subsection (a) if—

(A) the unmanned aircraft complies with standards and limitations developed by a community-based organization and approved by the Administrator; and

(B) the aircraft is operated from a fixed site as described in paragraph (1).

 

FAA SHALL PERIODICALLY UPDATE OPERATIONAL LIMITATIONS:

(d) UPDATES.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator, in consultation with government, stakeholders, and community-based organizations, shall initiate a process to periodically update the operational parameters under subsection (a), as appropriate.

(2) CONSIDERATIONS.—In updating an operational parameter under paragraph (1), the Administrator shall consider—

(A) appropriate operational limitations to mitigate risks to aviation safety and national security, including risk to the uninvolved public and critical infrastructure;

(B) operations outside the membership, guidelines, and programming of a community-based organization;

(C) physical characteristics, technical standards, and classes of aircraft operating under this section;

(D) trends in use, enforcement, or incidents involving unmanned aircraft systems;

(E) ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that updates to the operational parameters correspond to, and leverage, advances in technology; and

(F) equipage requirements that facilitate safe, efficient, and secure operations and further integrate all unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.

(3) SAVINGS CLAUSE.—Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as expanding the authority of the Administrator to require a person operating an unmanned aircraft under this section to seek permissive authority of the Administrator, beyond that required in subsection (a) of this section, prior to operation in the national airspace system.

 

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION:

(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.

 

FAA CAN CREATE RULES OF GENERAL APPLICABILITY THAT GOVERN RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT:

(f) EXCEPTIONS.—Nothing in this section prohibits the Administrator from promulgating rules generally applicable to unmanned aircraft, including those unmanned aircraft eligible for the exception set forth in this section, relating to—

(1) updates to the operational parameters for unmanned aircraft in subsection (a);

(2) the registration and marking of unmanned aircraft;

(3) the standards for remotely identifying owners and operators of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft; and

(4) other standards consistent with maintaining the safety and security of the national airspace system.

 

FAA TO CREATE KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST FOR RECREATIONAL FLYERS:

(g) AERONAUTICAL KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator, in consultation with manufacturers of unmanned aircraft systems, other industry stakeholders, and community-based organizations, shall develop an aeronautical knowledge and safety test, which can then be administered electronically by the Administrator, a community-based organization, or a person designated by the Administrator.

(2) REQUIREMENTS.—The Administrator shall ensure the aeronautical knowledge and safety test is designed to adequately demonstrate an operator’s—

(A) understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge; and

(B) knowledge of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and requirements pertaining to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in the national airspace system.

 

COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED:

(h) COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘community-based organization’ means a membership based association entity that—

(1) is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue  Code of 1986;

(2) is exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;

(3) the mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;

(4) provides a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation addressing the assembly and operation of model aircraft and that emphasize safe aeromodelling operations within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of individuals and property on the ground, and may provide a comprehensive set of safety rules and programming for the operation of unmanned aircraft that have the advanced flight capabilities enabling active, sustained, and controlled navigation of the aircraft beyond visual line of sight of the operator;

(5) provides programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and

(6) provides assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites.

 

FAA IS REQUIRED TO PUBLISH CRITERIA AND PROCESS TO BECOME A COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION:

(i) RECOGNITION OF COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS.—In collaboration with aeromodelling stakeholders, the Administrator shall publish an advisory circular within 180 days of the date of enactment of this section that identifies the criteria and process required for recognition of community-based organizations.’’.

 

USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION:

(a) EDUCATIONAL AND RESEARCH PURPOSES.—For the purposes of section 44809 of title 49, United States Code, as added by this Act, a ‘‘recreational purpose’’ as distinguished in subsection (a)(1) of such section shall include an unmanned aircraft system operated by an institution of higher education for educational or research purposes.

(b) UPDATES.—In updating an operational parameter under subsection (d)(1) of such section for unmanned aircraft systems operated by an institution of higher education for educational or research purposes, the Administrator shall consider—


(1) use of small unmanned aircraft systems and operations at an accredited institution of higher education, for educational or research purposes, as a component of the institution’s curricula or research;

(2) the development of streamlined, risk-based operational approval for unmanned aircraft systems operated by institutions of higher education; and

(3) the airspace and aircraft operators that may be affected by such operations at the institution of higher education.


(c) DEADLINE FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF PROCEDURES AND STANDARDS.—Not later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may establish regulations, procedures, and standards, as necessary, to facilitate the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems operated by institutions of higher education for educational or research purposes.

(d) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:

(1) INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION.—The term ‘‘institution of higher education’’ has the meaning given to that term by section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)).

(2) EDUCATIONAL OR RESEARCH PURPOSES.—The term ‘‘education or research purposes’’, with respect to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system by an institution of higher education, includes—

(A) instruction of students at the institution;

(B) academic or research related uses of unmanned aircraft systems that have been approved by the institution, including Federal research;

(C) activities undertaken by the institution as part of research projects, including research projects sponsored by the Federal Government; and

(D) other academic activities approved by the institution.

(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—

(1) ENFORCEMENT.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.

(2) REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS.—Nothing in this section prohibits the Administrator from promulgating any rules or standards consistent with maintaining the safety and security of the national airspace system.

 

Actual text of Federal Register Announcement on the New Recreational Drone Laws

 

 

BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration
[Docket No. FAA-2019-0364]


Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft
AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice implementing the exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft.

SUMMARY: This action provides notice of the statutory exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft. It also describes the agency’s incremental implementation approach for the exception and how individuals can operate recreational unmanned aircraft (commonly referred to as drones) today under the exception.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions concerning this notice, contact Danielle Corbett, Aviation Safety Inspector, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, 490 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7225, Washington, DC 20024, telephone (844) 359-6982, email [email protected]


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
I. Background
Operators of small unmanned aircraft (also referred to as drones) for recreational purposes must follow the rules in 14 CFR part 107 for FAA certification and operating authority unless they follow the conditions of the Exception for Limited Recreational This document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 05/17/2019 and available online at https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-10169, and on govinfo.gov Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, discussed in this notice. The FAA refers to individuals operating under that statutory exception as “recreational flyers.”

On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-254). Section 349 of that Act repealed the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (section 336 of Pub. L. 112-95; Feb. 14, 2012) and replaced it with new conditions to operate recreational small unmanned aircraft without requirements for FAA certification or operating authority. The Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft established by section 349 is codified at 49 U.S.C. 44809.

With the repeal of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the regulations at 14 CFR part 101, subpart E, which implemented the Special Rule, are no longer valid, and the FAA intends to remove that subpart in the near future.

Section 44809(a) provides eight conditions that must be satisfied to use the exception for recreational small unmanned aircraft (those weighing less than 55 pounds). Some of those conditions (specifically the aeronautical knowledge and safety test as well as recognition of community-based organizations and coordination of their safety guidance) cannot be implemented immediately. Accordingly, the FAA is incrementally implementing section 44809 to facilitate recreational unmanned aircraft operations. The next section sets forth the eight statutory conditions, explains how the agency is implementing each of them, and provides guidance to recreational flyers.

Recreational flyers must adhere to all of the statutory conditions to operate under the Exception for Limited Recreational Operation of Unmanned Aircraft. Otherwise, the recreational operations must be conducted under 14 CFR part 107.

Although 49 U.S.C. 44809(c) permits operations of some unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds under additional conditions and as approved by the FAA, the FAA intends to publish guidance concerning operations of these larger unmanned aircraft in the near future.


II. Statutory Conditions and Additional Guidance

The eight statutory conditions are as follows:


1. The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.

Your unmanned aircraft must be flown for only a recreational purpose throughout the duration of the operation. You may not combine recreational and commercial purposes in a single operation. If you are using the unmanned aircraft for a commercial or business purpose, the operation must be conducted under 14 CFR part 107 or other applicable FAA regulations.

 

2. The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the FAA and community-based aeromodelling organizations (CBOs) to coordinate the development of safety guidelines for recreational small unmanned aircraft operations. 49 U.S.C. 44809(a)(2). CBOs are defined in section 44809(h) and must be recognized by the FAA in accordance with section 44809(i). Section 44809(i) requires the FAA to publish guidance establishing the criteria and process for recognizing CBOs. The FAA is developing the criteria and intends to collaborate with stakeholders through a public process.

Until the FAA establishes the criteria and process and begins recognizing CBOs, it cannot coordinate the development of safety guidelines. Accordingly, no recognized CBOs or coordinated safety guidelines currently exist, as contemplated by section 44809(a)(2). Additionally, the FAA acknowledges that aeromodelling organizations have developed safety guidelines that are helpful to recreational flyers. The FAA has determined that it is in the public interest to reasonably interpret this condition to allow recreational unmanned aircraft operations under the exception while the FAA implements all statutory conditions. The alternative would be to prohibit these operations or to require all operators of recreational unmanned aircraft to obtain a remote pilot certificate under 14 CFR part 107 and comply with the part 107 operating rules. Accordingly, to facilitate continued recreational unmanned aircraft operations during the implementation process, the FAA finds that operations conducted in accordance with existing safety guidelines of an aeromodelling organization satisfy this condition, provided those guidelines do not conflict with the other statutory conditions of section 44809(a).

Alternatively, during this interim period, the FAA directs recreational flyers to existing basic safety guidelines, which are based on industry best practices, on its website (faa.gov/uas):

  • Fly only for recreational purposes
  • Keep your unmanned aircraft within your visual line-of-sight or within the visual line of sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you
  • Do not fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace
  • Do not fly in controlled airspace without an FAA authorization
  • Follow all FAA airspace restrictions, including special security instructions and temporary flight restrictions
  • Never fly near other aircraft
  • Always give way to all other aircraft
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
  • Never fly near emergency response activities
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

You also should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines you are following if you are flying under the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.

The FAA will provide notice when it has issued final guidance and has started recognizing CBOs.

 

3. The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.

Either the person manipulating the controls of the recreational unmanned aircraft or a visual observer, who is near the operator and able to communicate verbally, must have eyes on the aircraft at all times to ensure the unmanned aircraft is not a collision hazard to other aircraft or people on the ground. Using a visual observer generally is optional, but a visual observer is required for first-person view (FPV) operations, which allow a view from an onboard camera but limit the operator’s ability to scan the surrounding airspace.



4. The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.

When flying an unmanned aircraft, you are responsible for knowing the aircraft’s altitude and its position in relation to other aircraft. You also are responsible for maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft by giving way to all other aircraft in all circumstances.

 

5. 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, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

Classes B, C, D, and E are collectively referred to as controlled airspace. The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control services and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, equipment, and operating requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. Generally, these classes of controlled airspace are found near airports.

Manned aircraft operations receive air traffic control services in controlled airspace and are authorized in controlled airspace as part of these services. Small unmanned aircraft operations do not receive air traffic services, but they must be authorized in the airspace because FAA air traffic control is responsible for managing the safety and efficiency of controlled airspace. For operations under part 107, the FAA has an online system, Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), to provide this real-time, automated authorization. Part 107 operators also can request airspace authorization through FAA’s DroneZone portal, but this manual process can take longer.

The FAA currently is upgrading LAANC to enable recreational flyers to obtain automated authorization to controlled airspace. The FAA is committed to quickly implementing LAANC for recreational flyers. The FAA also is exploring upgrades to DroneZone to enable access for recreational flyers.

Authorization to Operate Recreational Unmanned Aircraft at Certain Fixed Sites in Controlled Airspace

Until LAANC is available for recreational operations, the FAA is granting temporary airspace authorizations to operate at certain fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) that are established by an agreement with the FAA. For fixed sites that are located in controlled airspace two or more miles from an airport, operations are authorized up to the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) facility map (UASFM) altitudes. The FAA is reviewing fixed sites located within two miles of an airport and will make individualized determinations of what airspace authorization is appropriate. Aeromodelling organizations that sponsor fixed sites, regardless of their location within controlled airspace, can obtain additional information about requesting airspace authorization from the person identified in the “For further information, contact” section of this document.

During this interim period, you may fly in controlled airspace only at authorized fixed sites. The list of authorized fixed sites is available on the FAA’s website at www.faa.gov/uas and will be depicted on the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com. Agreements establishing fixed sites may contain additional operating limitations. If you fly at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the agreement, which is available from the fixed site sponsor.

As a reminder, existing FAA rules provide that you may not operate in any designated restricted or prohibited airspace. This includes airspace restricted for national security reasons or to safeguard emergency operations, including law enforcement activities. The easiest way to determine whether any restrictions or special requirements are in effect as well as the authorized altitudes where you want to fly is to use the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://uddsfaa.opendata.arcgis.com, and to check for the latest FAA Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). This information may also be available from third-party applications.

The FAA will provide notice when LAANC is available for use by recreational flyers.

Please do not contact FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorization because these facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.

6. In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace in which the FAA does not provide air traffic services.

You may operate recreational unmanned aircraft in this airspace up to an altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL).

Additionally, you may not operate in any designated restricted or prohibited airspace. This includes airspace restricted for national security reasons or to safeguard emergency operations, including law enforcement activities. The easiest way to determine whether any restrictions or special requirements are in effect where you want to fly is to use the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com, and to check for the latest FAA NOTAMs.

7. The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.

Section 44809(g) requires the FAA to develop, in consultation with stakeholders, an aeronautical knowledge and safety test that can be administered electronically. This test is intended to demonstrate a recreational flyer’s knowledge of aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating unmanned aircraft.

The FAA currently is developing an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and plans to engage stakeholders on its development through a public process.

The FAA acknowledges that satisfying this statutory condition is impossible until the FAA establishes the aeronautical knowledge and safety test. For the reasons discussed earlier in this document, the FAA has determined this condition will apply only after the FAA develops and makes available the knowledge and safety test. Accordingly, during this interim period, recreational flyers who adhere to the other seven conditions under section 44809(a), may use the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.


The FAA will provide additional guidance and notice when the aeronautical knowledge and safety test is available and the date on which adherence to this condition is required.

8. The aircraft is registered and marked and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.

Registration and marking requirements for small unmanned aircraft, including recreational unmanned aircraft, can be found at 14 CFR part 48, and online registration can be completed at faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/. Each unmanned aircraft used for limited recreational operations must display the registration number on an external surface of the aircraft. Recreational flyers also must maintain proof of registration and make it available to FAA inspectors or law enforcement officials upon request.

The FAA remains committed to facilitating safe operation of recreational unmanned aircraft to the maximum extent authorized by Congress, while effectively addressing national security and public safety concerns. The FAA is devoting resources to fully implement this new framework as expeditiously as possible.

This interim implementation guidance provides information to recreational flyers on how to comply with the statutory conditions for the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, codified at 49 U.S.C. 44809. Accordingly, the FAA has determined this interim implementation guidance does not independently generate costs for recreational flyers.

The FAA has updated FAA Advisory Circular 91-57B to reflect the interim guidance provided in this notice. The FAA will continue to provide updated direction and guidance as implementation proceeds. The FAA intends to follow up with regulatory amendments to formalize the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.

The guidance provided in this notice is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the Department or the FAA as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Regardless of whether you rely on the guidance in this document, you are independently required to comply with all existing laws applicable to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems. Conforming your actions with the guidance in this notice does not excuse or mitigate noncompliance with other applicable legal requirements.

Nevertheless, if your operation fails to satisfy the eight statutory conditions, as described in this notice, or if you are not operating under part 107 or other FAA authority, your operation may violate other FAA regulations and subject you to enforcement action. Additionally, if you operate your recreational unmanned aircraft carelessly or recklessly, the FAA may exercise existing authority to take enforcement action against you for endangering the national airspace system.

Please continue to check faa.gov/uas on a regular basis for the most current direction and guidance.


Issued in Washington, D.C. on May 8, 2019.
Robert C. Carty,
Deputy Executive Director,
Flight Standards Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-10169 Filed: 5/16/2019 8:45 am; Publication Date: 5/17/2019]

 

Text of Certificate of Authorization for Limited Recreational Purposes at Fixed Sites

Issued To:
Recreational flyers operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as defined under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 Section 349, Exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft (49 U.S.C. 44809).


This certificate is issued for the operations specifically described hereinafter. No person shall conduct any operation pursuant to the authority of this certificate except in accordance with the standard and special provisions contained in this certificate, and such other requirements of the Federal Aviation Regulations not specifically waived by this certificate.


OPERATIONS AUTHORIZED
Operation of an UAS, flown within visual line of sight and solely for limited recreational purposes: At fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) that are established by an agreement with the FAA, as listed at http://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/. Operations at the listed fixed sites are authorized up to the altitudes indicated on the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) facility map (UASFM).


LIST OF WAIVED REGULATIONS BY SECTION AND TITLE
N/A


STANDARD PROVISIONS
1. A copy of the application made for this certificate shall be attached and become a part hereof.
2. This certificate shall be presented for inspection upon the request of any authorized representative of the Federal Aviation Administration, or of any State or municipal official charged with the duty of enforcing local laws or regulations.
3. The holder of this certificate shall be responsible for the strict observance of the terms and provisions contained herein.
4. This certificate is nontransferable.

Note-This certificate constitutes a waiver of those Federal rules or regulations specifically referred to above. It does not
constitute a waiver of any State law or local ordinance.

SPECIAL PROVISIONS
Special Provisions 1 and 2, inclusive, are set forth in this authorization.

This certificate for operations authorized by 49 U.S.C. 44809 is effective from May 17, 2019, through December 31, 2019, and is subject to cancellation at any time upon notice by the Administrator or his/her authorized representative.
BY DIRECTION OF THE ADMINISTRATOR
FAA Headquarters, AJV-115

Scott J. Gardner

Acting Manager, FAA, Emerging Technologies Team

SPECIAL PROVISIONS


1. FLIGHT OPERATIONS:
a. This authorization can be rescinded by the FAA at any time and is issued in order to allow recreational operations to continue while the FAA evaluates and develops a long term plan for implementation of 49 U.S.C. 44809. This authorization should be considered temporary in nature and non-precedent setting for future recreational operations. Do not contact FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorization because these facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.


b. Any impacted air traffic control facility may disapprove, terminate, restrict, or delay UAS flight operations covered by this authorization at any time. Agreements establishing fixed sites may contain additional operating limitations. While flying at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the agreement, which is available from the fixed site sponsor.


c. This Authorization and the Special Provisions shall be in effect between civil sunrise and civil sunset local time.


d. Recreational operations are to be conducted in accordance with or within the programming of a Community Based Organization’s (CBO) set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA. Once the FAA has established the criteria and begins recognizing CBOs, those CBOs’ safety guidelines will be available for use. During this interim period, the FAA offers two means to satisfy this statutory condition; existing safety guidelines of aeromodelling organization, provided the guidelines do not conflict with other statutory conditions of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a), or the existing basic safety guidelines for recreational operations, which are available on the FAA website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/).


e. As the FAA continues to review additional recreational flyer sites, the authorized locations may change. Therefore, the recreational flyer is responsible for reviewing and complying with the authorized recreational flyer sites within the published UASFM at http://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/. Prior to each flight to ensure that no changes have been made to the map (i.e., altitude changes, airspace modifications, etc).

f. The recreational flyer must check the airspace they are operating in and comply with all restrictions that may be present in accordance with Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or the Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone. See https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/ for information on ordering charts.

g. The recreational flyer is responsible for avoiding operations in security areas or over sensitive locations identified in red. View current security areas, at http://uddsfaa. opendata.arcgis.com/. View current Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) at https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/.


h. Recreational flyers should also be familiar with the information contained in the most current version of the Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57.


i. The recreational flyer must operate the aircraft in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.


2. EMERGENCY/CONTINGENCY PROCEDURES – Lost Link/Lost Communications Procedures:

a. If the UA loses communications or loses its Global Positioning System signal, all emergency/contingency procedures should be planned to ensure that the unmanned aircraft remains within the recreational flyer site.

b. The recreational flyer must abort the flight in the event of unexpected hazards or an emergency.

 

 

Actual Leaked FAA Memo Regarding New Recreational Drone Laws

 

I contacted the FAA and this document was verified as legitimate.

 

Memorandum

Date: May 10 2019

To: Distribution

From: Aaron Barnett, Director, Operations-Headqunters, AJT-2

Subject: Mandatory Briefing Item: Pre-Duty Brief – Operational Personnel Sec 349 sUAS Implementation, due May 16, 2019

 

Due to changes in the law mandated by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, all hobbyist or recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operators are required to have authorization from Air Traffic to fly in controlled airspace. This new law puts restrictions in place that limit all recreational operations to less than 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace and requires approval for any operation in controlled airspace. This memo and attached pre-duty brief serves as interim guidance for the implementation of this new law.

Previously, recreational flyers could communicate with the lower or controlling facility and notify of “intent to fly.” The language in the previous law was vague and did not allow for or require, an intervention or approval from air traffic controllers. This new law will remove local air traffic controller involvement with recreational UAS operators and reduce distractions and phone calls while improving the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS).

Air Traffic Facilities should not authorize or approve any recreational flight. The purpose of this implementation plan is to diminish the need for calls to the towers from any recreational operator requesting to fly in controlled airspace. The authorization and restrictions for recreational UAS operators will be a National Authorization for fixed sites in controlled airspace as detailed below:

  1. Recreational UAS operators will be authorized to fly in controlled airspace at fixed sites that will be listed via multiple venues from Federal Register Notice (FRN), Advisory Circular (AC) and FAA Office of Communications (AOC) public releases.
  2. Approximately 350 Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) fixed sites are located in controlled airspace, but less than 200 are listed for recreational UAS use.
  3. These sites will be more than 2 miles from a runway surface and be required to operate in accordance with altitudes specified in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Map’s (UASFM).
  4. The authorizations will be in the form of a National Authorization with national restrictions that have been approved by Law, DOT and FAA HQ. Therefore, air traffic controller personnel or support staff should not make any phone calls or authorizations,

This is a significant change in how we have previously conducted business. Please be understanding when recreational UAS operators call; use the language in the attached pre-duty brief and refer them to www.faa.gov/uas for guidance on how and where to operate.

NOTE: In the summer, Low Altitude Authorization Notification Capability (LAANC) will accept and authorize recreational requests in UASFM values, but will not accept or authorize anything for altitudes higher than 400 feet or outside the UASFM.

Refer all Recreational Flyer or general inquiries to www.faa.gov/uas.

Action/Deadline:

Air Traffic Managers must ensure all operational personnel are briefed on the attached PowerPoint no later than May 16 as this briefing is a pre-duty requirement.

If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Henry Rigol, at [email protected] or (202) 267-8185, or William Stanton at [email protected] or (202) 267-4564, Air Traffic Services, Operational Integration, AJT-3.


Distribution:

Calvin Rohan, Acting Director, Air Traffic Operations, Eastern Service Area, AJT-EN/ES

Tony Mello, Director, Air Traffic Operations, Central Service Area, AJT-CN/CS

Jeff Stewart, Acting Director, Air Traffic Operations, Western Service Area, AJT-WN/WS

 

Actual Leaked Text of New Hobby Drone Law PowerPoint Pages

 

FAA Reauthorization Bill

Recreational Flyers

Old Law (2012 FAA Bill – Section 336)

  • Recreational/Hobbyist/Modeler required to notify tower if flying within 5 miles of the airport.
  • ATC could not approve operation – only accept notification. 
  • ATC could deny operations for safety reasons.

 

FAA Reauthorization Bill

Recreational Flyers

NEW LAW (2018 FAA Bill – Section 349)

  • Hobbyst UAS now called Limited Recreational Flyers
  • FAA Air Traffic facilities will no longer accept requests for recreational flyers to operate controlled airspace.
  • Controlled Airspace Access:
    • At fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) Have an established agreement with the FAA
    • Site locations published at http://uas-aa.opendata.arcgis.com/
    • Operations only authorized up to the altitudes indicated on the UAS facility map (UASFM)

 

FAA Reauthorization Bill

Recreational Flyers

Controlled Airspace Access Continued

  • Operations only between sunrise and sunset local time
  • Site must be made known to the facility
  • Impacted air traffic control facility may disapprove, terminate, restricted, or delay UAS flight operations covered by this authorization at any time
  • This authorization will be effective on 17 May 2019

 

ATC Facility Instructions

What do I do if I get a call from a RECREATIONAL, HOBBYIST, OR MODELER wanting to fly in my airspace?

  • Inform the caller that due to a recent change in the law, authorization is required to fly in controlled airspace and will no longer be given by ATC over the phone. The authorization can be found at www.faa.gov/uas.
  • Inform the caller that they can find areas where they are allowed to fly by visiting www.faa.gov/uas.
  • Refer any additional questions from sUAS operator to the Advisory Circular 91-57B or www.faa.gov/uas.

AGAIN – STARTING MAY 17th – NO MORE HOBBYIST/MODELER NOTIFICATION CALLS TO THE TOWER

 

How will Recreational Users Know About These New Procedures?

Recreational Flyers can find information on these changes and operating procedures under the new law:

-Advisory Circular 91-57B

 

 

 


Drone Sprayers: Uses, Laws & Regulations, Tips to Save Money (2019)

drone-spraying

Interested in a drone sprayer?

Drones are really just aerial platforms from which to do things. Most people associate drones as data collection platforms where you mount sensors such as cameras, LIDAR, etc., but drones can also be used for the delivery of all sorts of other things besides just drone package delivery or medical delivery. One great example is using the drone as a drone sprayer. Keep in mind that there are attachments for drones to do things other than just spraying (e.g. drone granule spreader).

As of 4/27/2019, I’ve helped 9 clients obtain exemptions for agricultural aircraft operations and 3 clients obtain agricultural aircraft operating certificates. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I distilled into this article some of the important points that I have used as I have assisted clients in successfully obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate their drone sprayers. If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

Table of Contents:

Drone Sprayer Examples:

I’m going to touch on the high points of each of these drone sprayer uses. Please keep in mind that each drone sprayer has is own set of unique problems, economics, laws, etc. My commentary is not an exhaustive discussion on the whole area.

A. Pollen Drone Sprayer

There is a problematic decline of bee population numbers around the United States which has been caused for various reasons. Dropcopter has stepped into this gap with a very innovative idea of using their drone sprayer to pollinate crops.

As a Digital Trends article put it,

“Pollination by drone isn’t the only alternative to insect pollination, but it may just be the most efficient current solution. Alternatives include using large tractor-mounted liquid sprayers or leaf blowers driven on quad bikes. Both of these are problematic due to the lack of reach and, in the case of liquid sprayers, the time-sensitive nature of the pollen once it gets mixed with liquid. Dropcopter’s drones, meanwhile, can cover 40 acres per hour, and can double the pollination window by also flying at night. This is one advantage they even have over bees since bees don’t fly at nighttime, when flowers remain open.”

It also appears that their Dropcopter can maybe increase yields. Dropcopter’s website says, “Dropcopter completed its patent pending prototype, and conducted the first ever UAS pollination of orchards crops, boosting crop set by 10%.” A study was completed and here are some pictures of the apples.

B. Drones for Spraying Insecticides (Mosquito Control, etc.)

Because of their ability to communicate diseases, fighting mosquitoes is a big thing around the U.S. Mosquito abatement organizations are seeking to actively use drones to help fight mosquitoes. Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the Drone Integration Pilot Program. The DOT picked ten winners, one of which is the Lee County Mosquito Control District located in Ft. Myers Florida. “The proposal focuses on low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveille the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.”  Lee County is not the only mosquito control district interested in using drones for spraying pesticides. Other control districts currently have drone sprayer programs underway.

If you are a government agency that fights mosquitoes or other pests, there is the potential for your operations to be done under a certain type of classification called a public aircraft operation which gives your operation more flexibility than non-government entities. See below for a discussion.  If you are interested in helping your mosquito control district use drone sprayers, contact me.

Mosquitoes are not the only insects you might be interested in fighting. Drone Volt created a mount to spray insecticide on hornet nests way up in trees.

C. Crop Dusting Drones (Herbicide, Fertilizer, Fungicide, etc.)

Drone sprayers seem like a good choice to be crop dusting drones but there are MANY variables here that affect whether it is a good decision for your situation or not. Factors that influence whether this makes sense or not are:

  • Type of crop,
  • Value of the crop,
  • Ground size of the crop,
  • Droplet size requirements to be placed on the crop,
  • How quickly you need to spray a particular chemical on a crop (is there a window of time?), and
  • How much liquid you need to spray.

For large areas of land, manned aircraft and ground spraying rigs make more sense based upon cost per acre compared to crop dusting drones. Read my section below on the economics to understand this fully.  For smaller pieces of land or land that is inaccessible to ground rigs or manned aircraft, it might make sense to use crop dusting drones.

D. Drone Tree Seed Planter

Drone Seed is looking to corner the market on precision forestry.  Not only can it do a potentially dangerous job of planting trees on the slopes of steep inclines but it can also potentially do it faster than by workers on foot.

E. Wind Turbine De-Icing Drone Sprayer

The Verge did an article on the company Aerones which built a large drone sprayer with some serious lifting capacity to fly up and spray de-icing fluid on wind turbine blades.  The Verge article explained:

“The craft has a tether line supplying water, which it sprays at up to 100 liters a minute (with optional de-icing coating), and another for power, meaning it can stay aloft indefinitely. Cleaning by drone costs around $1,000, compared to $5,000 and up for cleaning by climbers.

The process is good for general maintenance, but also helps increase power efficiency. If snow and ice build up on a turbine’s blades, it slows the rate at which they produce power and can even bring it to a complete halt. Aerones adds that using a drone for de-icing is both quicker and safer than sending humans up using a cherry picker”

Drone Sprayer Economics

There is far more hype to this area that is being driven by possibilities rather than economics.

Drones are mobile platforms to spray from. There are other mobile platforms such as:

  • Manned aircraft (airplanes and helicopters)
  • Ground spraying rigs (tractor pulled, truck mounted, etc.)
  • Humans (Backpack sprayer)

Each of these platforms has pros and cons that need to be weighed against the benefits of the drone sprayer. For the discussions below, I’m assuming someone would be purchasing something like the HSE or DJI drone sprayers.

1. Manned Aircraft (Airplanes & Helicopters) vs. Drone Sprayers

Manned Aircraft: Most drone sprayers cannot carry a large payload compared to manned aircraft.  Manned aircraft also are lower in cost per acre than drone sprayer operations. For crop spraying,  drone sprayers won’t be used for large acres of land because the spraying rate per day is also way too small compared to manned aircraft which can spray thousands of gallons in one day. This is a major point people miss. There are narrow windows of time to spray crops due to all sorts of things such as weather, chemical being sprayed, growth cycle, etc. Simply put, drone sprayers cannot spray fast enough because their tanks are small.

Drone Sprayers: Drones have the ability to service clients who have smaller amounts of land or area inaccessible to manned aircraft.

2. Ground Spraying Rigs (Tractor Pulled, Truck Mounted, etc.)

Ground Spraying Rigs: They do not have to deal with the FAA and all those hassles. They can also hold much more spraying material than a drone.

Drone Sprayers: Drone sprayers can access areas that ground spraying rigs cannot, such as uneven, steep, or inaccessible terrain or sensitive environments where the ground vehicles would damage the area or crops. Drone sprayers are lower in cost to purchase and maintain.

3. Humans (Backpack Sprayer)

Backpack Sprayer:  Super cheap to purchase ($90) compared to a drone sprayer. No FAA problems.

Drone Sprayers: You can access areas with less danger to your employees. (Slip and fall anyone? Hello workers’ compensation claims.) Potentially more time efficient. Less exhausting than walking around with a hand pump sprayer. Depending on batteries and how quickly you can refill, this can be more time efficient than backpack sprayers.

So Where Do Drone Sprayers Fit In?

When you go to the home improvement store to buy some paint, you’ll notice that there are small spray paint cans, low cost electric paint sprayers, and large metal heavy duty commercial sprayers. By analogy, drone sprayers fill a sweet spot that is similar to low cost electric paint sprayers.

You have to focus on the strengths of drone sprayers to see where they shine:

  • Able to get into locations that manned aircraft, ground spraying tractors, or hand sprayers cannot access.
  • Safer than hand spraying.
  • Lower acquisition costs versus larger pieces of equipment (ground spraying tractors) or manned aircraft. Do you really need to buy that ground spraying rig?
  • Easy and low cost to transport and deploy. (Ground spraying rigs you have to drive or tow there.  Manned aircraft you have to fly to the location).
  • Able to service smaller clients that would not have hired a manned aircraft.

Can You Give Me Some Drone Spraying Examples?

  • High value crops that tend to cover smaller acres of land (vineyards, apple orchards, almond orchards, etc.).
  • Spraying pollen on higher value crops to increase crop yields.
  • Crops on terrain that is too inaccessible or inconvenient to get to with a ground sprayer yet is too small to justify hiring a manned aircraft spraying operation.
  • Herbicide spraying on rocky embankments near a water reservoir where you don’t want to endanger your employees or you have a hard time getting to the rocky areas with the ground rig.
  • Mosquito abatement in areas that ground vehicles (or boats) cannot easily get to and that don’t justify the use of manned aircraft.
  • You’re a company that is running an in-house operation testing out aerial application of chemicals or on a particular type of plant.

What About Costs? How Much Does a Spraying Drone Operation Cost?

Yes, those examples didn’t really take into account the total drone sprayer operational costs.  Here are some rough numbers you can use to go off of:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Related:
    • FAA Registration ($5 per drone). Good for 3 years.
    • FAA Remote Pilot Certificate Knowledge Exam ($150 per remote pilot). Aeronautical test knowledge is good for 24 months.
    • Study Material for Remote Pilot Test (Free-$250)  (I have a huge free study guide for the test located here).
    • If you are spraying anything other than just pure water,
      • You’ll need a Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operator Certificate ($0 per operator but will take time). Indefinite.
      • Exemption ($0 per operator but will take time and legal knowledge.) Lasts 2 years.
    • Need to spray at night? Part 107 night waiver.  ($0) Lasts 4 years.
  • Drone Sprayer Insurance. I can’t estimate this because there are many factors here.   Read my article on drone insurance before you buy some.
  • Crop Dusting Drone Sprayer & Equipment.  ($5,000-40,000)
  • Spraying Pesticide? You’ll need a state restricted use pesticide license. (Around $100 to $250). Things can cause this to fluctuate so you’ll have to check your state.)

If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

Now before you start making business plans. You need to know that these drones are considered aircraft. Aircraft are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). In addition to the FAA, other U.S. Federal laws may apply to your operation.

United States Drone Spraying Law

A. Federal Drone Spraying Law

1. Federal Aviation Regulations

Just at the get go, if you are a government agency, some of these regulations might NOT apply to you. This is completely beyond the scope of this article but I have talked about it more over here.

Part 107

Most commercial drone operators follow Part 107. There are other legal methods of getting your aircraft airborne legally but this is the most time and cost efficient. Basically, Part 107 requires the drone sprayer to be registered, the pilot to have a remote pilot certificate, and for the operations to be done according to the restrictions listed in Part 107. Click here to read up on the complete summary of what Part 107 says.

Here are the two most important things you need to know about Part 107 in relation to spraying drones:

  1. Part 107 is only for drones that weigh on take-off less than 55 pounds and
  2. You cannot carry hazardous material on the drone.

Now these are not deal breakers but you’ll need exemptions from these restrictions. Exemptions do not cost anything to file with the FAA but they do take time and legal knowledge to make sure you have identified all the regulations you need to be exempted from. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, you can hire people, like me, to help you with this.

Also keep in mind that for 55 pound + exemptions, there are documents and data the FAA will want you to submit in support with the exemption. This data might NOT be supplied by the drone sprayer manufacturers, which means you need to create it or find someone who has. See tips below for more on this topic.

Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations. 

Part 137 specifically defines the applicability of this Part of the Code of Federal Regulations. Agricultural aircraft operation means the operation of an aircraft for the purpose of:

  1. Dispensing any economic poison,
  2. Dispensing any other substance intended for plant nourishment, soil treatment, propagation of plant life, or pest control, or
  3. Engaging in dispensing activities directly affecting agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation, but not including the dispensing of live insects.

Part 137.3 defines economic poison:

Economic poison means (1) any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, and other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living man or other animals, which the Secretary of Agriculture shall declare to be a pest, and (2) any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.

Most spraying operations fall into the applicability of Part 137 and because of such, they’ll need exemptions from sections of this part. Why? Part 137 was created a long long time ago. The regulations designed for manned aircraft do not make sense with drone sprayers. Conveniently, if you are already getting an exemption from the prohibition in Part 107 to not carry hazardous materials (like economic poisons), you can just add the sections of Part 137 that you need exempting from all into one request for exemption document.

Here is a major point that people miss. In addition to the exemption to do agricultural aircraft operations, the operator will need to obtain an agricultural aircraft operator certificate. You can thankfully pursue both the exemption and certificate in parallel to speed things up but you’ll need the exemption approval before you get inspected by the FAA as the final step in getting your agricultural aircraft operator certificate.

2. Other Federal Regulations

Keep in mind the FAA isn’t the only federal agency you might have to deal with. There is also the Environmental Protection Agency and also the Occupational and Health Safety Administration which have regulations that apply.  Discussing these regulations is way outside the scope of this article but I wanted to mention this.

B. State & Local Drone Spraying Laws

There are state and local laws that apply to aerial application spraying (manned and unmanned spraying). This is a very broad area but just know that states require you to obtain some type of restricted use pesticide license to spray any economic poisons and typically you need the certification in the category you are performing the work (aerial application).

Some states require you have your drone sprayer registered with the FAA and even the state. The state won’t issue any state registration until you also show some drone insurance on your drone sprayer. This means you won’t be able to do some type of hourly insurance set up but will have to obtain annual insurance and request a certificate of insurance to show to the state.

Local laws also might apply depending on what you are spraying, when you are spraying, and where you are spraying.

Drone Sprayers (and Spreaders) for Sale

Right now, there are some companies that are manufacturing spraying drones. The drone sprayers listed below are ones I’m familiar with. I didn’t do an exhaustive search for all that is out there.

Very important point: if any of the manufacturers or resellers refer you to other companies for legal or consulting assistance, ask them if they are receiving referral fees from that person or companies. You want to find out if the recommendation was because the consultant or attorney was the best person for the job, not because they were giving kickbacks. As a Florida-barred attorney, I’m prohibited from providing referral fees to not attorneys and have never done so.

Some of these companies also have foggers and spreaders that mount onto the aircraft.

Keep in mind you don’t just buy the drone sprayer. You’ll be also thinking about purchasing a transport case, extra batteries, training, etc.

Tips on Starting a Drone Sprayer Operation (Read This Before You Buy)

1. Work With an Attorney

A. Attorney Client Relationship Protects Sensitive Conversations.  The attorney-client privilege protects conversations between the client and the attorney. This allows for open conversations regarding the legality of the operations.  “Was I supposed to do……..”  or “We just received a letter of investigation” are supposed to be brought up in the open and honest attorney-client discussion. There are alot of regulations that apply. Do you really want to rely on a non-attorney to give you legal advice? You’re the one getting the fines, not the consultant.

Please note that it is ATTORNEY client relationship and not consultant client relationship. The FAA, federal and state law enforcement, plaintiff’s attorneys, etc. can subpoena your consultant to testify against you. They can’t do that with an attorney except for really rare situations. The consultant is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either tell the truth and goof you up, lie and risk jail, or refuse to answer and go to jail.  The answer is simple – you’ll get goofed over every time.

B. An attorney can actually provide legal advice – lawfully. You’re going to need a lot of answers regarding the laws. Almost all the states I know of require that people who provide legal advice be licensed attorneys in that state. Only attorneys can provide legal advice. If anyone claims they are an attorney, check the state bar directory in which they live to see if they are a current member in good standing. For example, if you go to the Florida Bar’s member search page, you can search for me and see that I’m eligible to practice law and in good standing with the Florida Bar.

I know of a person running around in the industry right now that calls themselves an attorney but that person is actually a disbarred attorney who was disbarred because of dishonest conduct towards the client. It will look pretty bad to your boss if you hire a so-called attorney who turns out to not be a LICENSED attorney.

C. They have a duty to you. – This is an important one. Yes, we all understand the idea of giving secrets away to a competitor is a big no-no. But consider this….as a Florida Bar attorney, I’m actually prohibited from paying out to any non-attorney or drone manufacturers any referral fees. This means that if I recommend something or someone, I’m recommending it because it is good, not because I’m getting paid for it. Furthermore, this means that people who refer to me are sending you to me because I’m the best person to help, NOT that I’m giving them a kickback.  

D. Protection. Most attorneys have legal malpractice insurance which is there to protect you in case there is a mistake.  I don’t know of any consultants that have legal malpractice insurance to protect you if they advise you incorrectly on the aviation regulations or the other laws that apply to this area. Furthermore, attorneys go through background checks to get barred. Consultants don’t have to get checked out.

2. Are You Planning on Flying 55 Pounds or Heavier in the United States? 

A. Limited Payload. To fly under Part 107, your drone sprayer needs to weigh under 55 pounds on take-off. It could have the capability to fly heavier, but you need to keep it under. This is an important point because you could purchase a drone sprayer capable of flying over 55 pounds but you’ll be forced to limit the amount of liquid in your tanks for the drone and liquid together to be under 55 pounds at take-off.

B. More Costs & Different Rules. The amount of effort to fly a drone sprayer weighing 55 pounds or heavier is much more considerable than just flying under Part 107 without an exemption. Keep in mind you cannot just get a remote pilot certificate and fly a 55+ drone sprayer. The pilot will need the more costly sport pilot certificate and will be operating under a completely different set of regulations than Part 107. This means your up front costs WILL be higher for flying a 55+ drone than for an under 55 drone.  This also means that if you want to scale out the drone spraying operation, you’ll need to pay for training to get the employee a sport pilot certificate or recruit people that already have this license or higher.  It might make sense for your operation to have multiple under 55 pound drone sprayers and maybe one or more 55+ drone sprayers for larger jobs.

C. Lack of Reliability Data. This is actually the worst one.  For a 55+ exemption, the FAA will ask for information on the drone sprayer, such as how many total hours have been flown on it to show engineering reliability.  This is different than manuals. Is there any supporting data that shows this type of air frame is safe? This means you’ll most likely have to obtain the drone sprayer data yourself or find someone who already has. Maybe in the future the FAA will approve other 55+ exemptions based upon someone doing the previous leg work on the same make and model of drone sprayer but I have yet to see that.

D. Registration Planning. The easy online method of registering the drone sprayer under Part 48 is for only drone sprayers that will be operated under 55 pounds. This means you’ll have to go through the headache of de-registering under Part 48 and re-registering under Part 47 which is a pain in and of itself. Proper planning would say if you plan on going 55+ with your drone sprayer, just register under Part 47 which is good for both under 55  and 55+ operations.

Conclusion

Drone sprayers provide great opportunities for certain types of operations but not all situations. To help you achieve your drone sprayer goals quickly and legally, it is best to work with someone who has familiarity with the area.

If you are planning on navigating this difficult area, contact me. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am currently assisting clients in these matters and HAVE successfully obtained exemption approvals for clients to do drone spraying.  I’m also familiar with the non-aviation related legal issues that are extremely important for drone sprayer operations.


Section 107.73 Initial and recurrent knowledge test. (2018)

part-107-intial-and-recurrent-knowledge-test

Are you interested in the Part 107 initial or recurrent knowledge test?

In this article we will discuss (1) the Part 107 initial knowledge test, (2) the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test, (3) the differences between both tests, (4) practice Part 107 initial and recurrent knowledge test, (5) actual language from 107.73, and (6) the FAA’s commentary on knowledge tests from the preamble to the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule.

This article on the initial and recurrent knowledge test is part of an overall set of articles on each of the Part 107 drone regulations. Use these links below for navigation between the regulation pages.

Previous Regulation (107.71)Back to Drone Regulations DirectoryNext Regulation (107.74)

Table of Contents:

 

Part 107 Initial Knowledge Test

If you want to fly commercial in the United States, you’ll most likely be flying under Part 107 which requires a remote pilot certificate. To obtain for the first time a remote pilot certificate, you’ll need to take and pass a Part 107 initial knowledge test. If you are a current Part 61 certificated manned pilot, you have an option of going another method. See my step-by-step instructions page on how to obtain your remote pilot certificate.

The Part 107 initial knowledge test contains 60 questions and you have 120 minutes to take it. The subject areas on the exam are: (1) regulations, (2) airspace, (3) weather, (4) loading and performance, and (5) operations. You’ll need to pass the exam with a score of 70% or higher.

Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test

Individuals who have obtained their remote pilot certificates have to maintain their aeronautical knowledge currency by doing 1 of 3 methods. Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

(a) Passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a);

(b) Passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(b); or

(c) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, passed either an initial or recurrent training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) or (b) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”

One of the methods is to take the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test. This article is focused specifically on the initial and recurrent knowledge test. I have addressed elsewhere other issues like:

The recurrent knowledge test consists of 40 questions. You have 1.5 hours to take the exam. The subject areas consist of regulations, airspace, and operations.

Differences Between the Initial & Recurrent Knowledge Test

The initial has 60 questions while the recurrent knowledge test has 40 questions.

The initial gives you 120 minutes while the recurrent knowledge test is 80 minutes.

Since the number of questions decreased and also the number of subjects tested with the recurrent knowledge test, this might cause confusion as to how to spend your time studying. There are two ways at looking at how you should focus your time: (1) comparing using the airmen certification standards and (2) using the actual subject areas of the regulations.

Comparison Using the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)

Here is a table I created comparing the initial to the recurrent knowledge test using the ACS.

Please note that while Area I and Area II are being tested completely, in the recurrent knowledge exam, tasks  A. Radio Communications Procedures and E. Physiology are not tested so it’s really not ALL of Area V.

Comparison Using the Regulations

Another way of determining how to spend your time studying is looking at what the FAA really wants you to know based upon what the regulations specifically list. Section 107.73 and 107.74 list out specific areas.

Remember that the current manned pilots aircraft pilots have another way of getting current. They can take the online training courses. I took the topics from the initial and recurrent knowledge test and the topics from the initial and recurrent online training course and compared them in a table below.

 

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

The FAA is really emphasizing the first 4 subjects. You should know those areas like the back of your hand.

The 5th, 6th, and 7th lines also give you a clue that you MUST know that if you are going for an initial or recurrent knowledge test.

Part 107 Initial Knowledge Practice Test Questions

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Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test Practice Questions

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