Federal Drone Law


Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency. (2019)

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Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

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.

My Commentary on Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

Think of these as multiple doors. A Part 61 certificated pilot could go through all three doors. An already certificated remote pilot could go through (a) and (b).

Currency (Every 24 Months You Have to Prove Your Aeronautical Knowledge)

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.”

You need 1 of the following within the previous 24 calendar months to operate under Part 107; however, if you don’t meet this, you are grounded from flying under Part 107 but you still could fly recreationally under Part 101.

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

No, you don’t lose your remote pilot certificate. It really shouldn’t be termed recertification as you are NOT getting a certificate again or having to worry about losing the certificate. You just cannot exercise the privileges of the remote pilot certificate.

Everyone typically gets confused by what I just said. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Bob passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on September 15, 2016 and received his remote pilot certificate. This means Bob needs to do (a),(b), or (c) no later than September 30, 2018. Otherwise, he’ll have to stop flying under Part 107 until he does (a), (b), or (c).
  • Tony passed the exam with Bob on September 15, 2016.   He received his remote pilot certificate. He did not take the recurrent exam until October 10, 2018 and passed in the afternoon at 1:34PM. Tony could not fly from October 1-10 up till he passed the test around 1:33-34PM. Once he passed, he was good to go for another 24 months (October 31st, 2020 @ 11:59 PM).
  • Sam, who also passed with Bob and Tony on September 15, 2016, received his remote pilot certificate but didn’t really do much drone flying because of life circumstances. He managed to pass the recurrent knowledge exam on December 14, 2019. He is good until December 31st, 2021.

Important point.  Please note that when calculating recency, you are going off of when you did (a), (b), or (c) above, NOT when you received your remote pilot certificate or what is dated on your certificate.

How do I check if someone else is current?

You would think the FAA would have just put expiration dates on the remote pilot certificates like they do with my flight instructor certificate but no. If you search the FAA airmen registry, you’ll just see date of issue but not when currency expires.

If you are checking a person’s currency (like if you are hiring a person or if you are a police officer stopping a drone flyer) you need to ask them for:

  • Method 1: their remote pilot certificate AND initial or recurrent knowledge exam test report or
  • Method 2: their Part 61 pilot certificate (but not student pilot certificate), how they meet the flight review requirements of 61.56, AND their initial or recurrent online training course certificate.

You find the date in method 1 or 2. You add two years and then find the last day of the month. It is important to know this as there might be some scam artists out there trying to save $150 by not taking a knowledge exam and hoping people don’t check.

If they lost their knowledge test, they can obtain it. Starting January 13, 2020, everyone will need to use their FTN to take the initial or recurrent knowledge test. The FAA PDF says, “Ability for the applicant to reprint lost/destroyed AKTRs from the testing vendor’s website. For all knowledge tests taken before January 13, 2020, applicants must contact the FAA Airmen Certification Office (AFB-720) for replacement, embossed copies of lost/destroyed AKTRs.” The FAA put out a FAQ document on the FTN situation here https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/acts/media/ftn_faqs.pdf

Dude are you saying I should bring along my knowledge exam with my remote pilot certificate with me when I fly?

Well, it is a good idea in case that someone you are dealing with also read my article and wondering if you really are current.

Now you might have noticed that you can take the initial or recurrent knowledge exams. The initial knowledge test is 60 questions over 2 hours while recurrent is 40 questions over 1.5 hours. They both require a passing score of 70% and will cost $150 to take.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

 

Aeronautical Knowledge Tests (Initial and Recurrent). It is important to have and retain the knowledge necessary to operate a small UA in the NAS. This aeronautical knowledge can be obtained through self-study, taking an online training course, taking an in-person training course, or any combination thereof. The FAA has published the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standard (https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/acs/) that provides the necessary reference material.

Note: The below information regarding initial and recurrent knowledge tests apply to persons who do not hold a current part 61 airman certificate.

6.6.1 Initial Test. As described in paragraph 6.4, a person applying for remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test given by an FAA-approved KTC. The initial knowledge test will cover the aeronautical knowledge areas listed below:
1. Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small UA operation;
3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small UA performance;
4. Small UA loading and performance;
5. Emergency procedures;
6. Crew Resource Management (CRM);
7. Radio communication procedures;
8. Determining the performance of small UA;
9. Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol;
10. Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) and judgment;
11. Airport operations; and
12. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.

6.6.1.1 A part 61 certificate holder who has completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may complete an initial online training course instead of taking the knowledge test (see paragraph 6.7).

6.6.1.2 Additional information on some of the knowledge areas listed above can be found in Appendix B.

6.6.2 Recurrent Test. After a person receives a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating, that person must retain and periodically update the required aeronautical knowledge to continue to operate a small UA in the NAS. To continue exercising the privileges of a remote pilot certificate, the certificate holder must pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. A part 61 pilot certificate holder who has completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may complete a recurrent online training course instead of taking the knowledge test.

6.6.2.2 The recurrent aeronautical knowledge test areas are as follows:

1. Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
2. Airspace classification and operating requirements and flight restrictions affecting small UA operation;
3. Emergency procedures;
4. CRM;
5. ADM and judgment;
6. Airport operations; and
7. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.

6.6.3 Test Providers. KTCs will administer initial and recurrent examinations provided by the FAA. In order to take an aeronautical knowledge test, an applicant will be required to schedule an appointment with the KTC providing proper government-issued photo identification to the KTC on the day of scheduled testing. The location of the closest KTC can be found at http://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/media/test_centers.pdf.

Aeronautical Knowledge Training Course (Initial and Recurrent). This section is applicable only to persons who hold a part 61 airman certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, and have a current flight review.

6.7.1 Initial Training Course. As described in paragraph 6.4, a pilot applying for a remote pilot certificate may complete an initial training course instead of the knowledge test. The training course can be taken online at www.faasafety.gov. The initial training course will cover the aeronautical knowledge areas listed below:
1. Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
2. Effects of weather on small UA performance;
3. Small UA loading and performance;
4. Emergency procedures;
5. CRM;
6. Determining the performance of small UA; and
7. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.
Note: Additional information on some of the knowledge areas listed above can be found in Appendix B.

6.7.2 Recurrent Training Course. After a pilot receives a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating, that person must retain and periodically update the required aeronautical knowledge to continue to operate a small UA in the NAS. As a renewal process, the remote pilot must complete either a recurrent training course or a recurrent knowledge test within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. Figure 6-2, Recurrent Training Course Cycle Examples, illustrates an individual’s possible renewal cycles.

The recurrent training course areas are as follows:
1. Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
2. Emergency procedures;
3. CRM; and
4. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

The FAA took a risk-based approach to defining the airman certification requirements for small UAS remote pilots, and in light of the contained nature of operations, opted not to propose specific training, flight experience, or demonstration of proficiency in order to be eligible for a certificate. A remote pilot certificate applicant’s knowledge of small UAS, as well as regulations concerning safe operations in the NAS, can adequately be evaluated through an initial and recurrent knowledge tests. A person whohas acquired the pertinent knowledge will pass the knowledge tests while a person who has not done so will fail the test.

In response to commenters’ concerns about rote memorization, the FAA notes that in addition to passing the initial knowledge test, remote pilot certificate holders will also have to pass a recurrent knowledge test every two years to ensure that they have retainedthe knowledge necessary to safely operate in the NAS. Further, remote pilot certificate holders will also be subject to continuing FAA oversight. The FAA emphasizes that under  49 U.S.C. 44709 and § 107.7(b), the FAA may reexamine a certificated remote pilot if it has sufficient reason to believe that the remote pilot may not be qualified to exercise the privileges of his or her certificate.137 Because the qualification framework for the remote pilot certificate is based on aeronautical knowledge, a reexamination under section 44709 and § 107.7(b) would be limited to the certificate holder’s aeronautical knowledge. The reexamination may be conducted using an oral or written knowledge test.

A prescriptive formal training requirement is not necessary in this rule. Instead, this rule will allow remote pilot certificate applicants to attain the necessary aeronautical knowledge through any number of different methods, including self-study, enrolling in a training seminar or online course, or through one-on-one instruction with a trainer familiar with small UAS operations and part 107. This performance-based approach is preferable because it will allow individuals to select a method of study that works best for them. These methods of study will then be validated by whether or not the individual is able to pass the knowledge test. As noted in OMB Circular A-4, performance-based standards are generally preferable in a regulation because they allow the regulated parties “to choose the most cost-effective methods for achieving the regulatory goal and create an incentive for innovative solutions.”

The FAA will publish Advisory Circulars to assist remote pilots in operating small UAS safely in the NAS. The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) will also host online training courses. These training courses could be used as one method of studying for the knowledge test. Lastly, because there is already a robust network of nearly 700 testing centers located throughout the country set up to administer FAA knowledge tests, the FAA has opted not to establish new standards for small UAS remote pilot testing centers.

f. General Requirement for Initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test

The NPRM proposed requiring applicants for a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test to demonstrate that they have sufficient aeronautical knowledge to safely operate a small UAS. The FAA adopts the provisions as proposed with three changes. First, as discussed in III.F.2.i below, the FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete an initial knowledge test as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of their part 61 pilot certificate and complete an online training course within the preceding 24 months. Second, as discussed in III.F.2.h below, the FAA will require that pilots with military experience operating unmanned aircraft pass an initial knowledge test in order to obtain a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating, and pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months subsequent in order to continue to exercise the privileges of that certificate.

Many commenters, including National Association of State Aviation Officials, NAAA, ALPA, and NAMIC, supported the FAA’s proposal to require an initial aeronautical knowledge test in order to operate a small UAS. Conversely, several commenters opposed the initial aeronautical knowledge test. Commenters argued that initial testing is “overkill” and the FAA should treat small UAS pilots like part 103 ultralight vehicle pilots and not require airman certification or testing. The commenters further argued that all testing is unnecessary and inappropriate.

The FAA disagrees with the commenters who asked that the knowledge test be abolished. Title 49 U.S.C. 44703 requires the FAA to ensure that an airman certificate applicant is qualified and able to perform the duties related to the position to be authorized by the certificate.

Here, in order to meet its statutory obligation to determine that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate possesses the knowledge necessary to safely operate in the NAS, the FAA is requiring that those persons pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test. Knowledge testing is the most flexible and efficient means for ensuring that a remote pilot possesses the requisite knowledge to operate in the NAS because it allows the applicant to acquire the pertinent knowledge in whatever manner works best for him or her. The applicant can then take and pass the aeronautical knowledge test to verify that he or she has indeed acquired the pertinent areas of knowledge.

NAFI recommended that an applicant should be required to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. SkyView Strategies suggested that to protect the public from a poorly prepared UAS operator who receives a passing grade but gets important questions wrong, the UAS operator should be required to present to a flight training instructor his or her written test results, noting areas where knowledge is lacking.

The FAA disagrees with the recommendation that an applicant should be required to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. While an instructor endorsement is generally required for part 61 pilot certificates, the significantly reduced risk associated with small UAS operations conducted under part 107 would make this framework unduly burdensome in this case. Instead, a stand-alone knowledge test is sufficient to verify the qualification of the remote pilot certificate applicant. Because the aeronautical knowledge test will determine whether an applicant possesses the knowledge needed to safely operate a small UAS, a separate flight instructor endorsement should not be required to take the knowledge test. The FAA also notes that the costs associated with failing and having to retake the knowledge test will provide an incentive to applicants to pick a method of study that maximizes the chance of them passing the aeronautical knowledge test on the first try.

The FAA also does not agree that a certificate applicant should be required to present to a flight instructor his or her knowledge test results for remedial training. The FAA maintains that if a candidate is “poorly prepared,” then that person is unlikely to pass the knowledge test.

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture suggested that a more appropriate “aeronautical knowledge exam” needs to be developed with input from UAS users. It further suggested that the FAA should periodically revisit the scope of the aeronautical knowledge test as operational experience data increases. FAA knowledge test banks are continuously updated to address changes to the industry, safety, and special emphasis areas. While the FAA responds to industry and user community feedback, the small UAS knowledge test bank is developed internally within the agency to protect the integrity of test.

g. General Requirement for Recurrent Aeronautical Knowledge Test
The FAA proposed that a certificated remote pilot must also pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. Like the flight review requirement specified in § 61.56, the recurrent knowledge test provides the opportunity for a remote pilot’s aeronautical knowledge to be reevaluated on a periodic basis. The FAA adopts this provision as proposed, with one change. As discussed in III.F.2.i, the FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete recurrent knowledge tests as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of § 61.56 and complete an online training course every 24 months.

ALPA, AOPA, AUVSI and several other commenters supported the requirement for a recurrent knowledge test. Conversely, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and a few individual commenters argued that a recurrent knowledge test is unnecessary. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association explained that small UAS operations present a substantially reduced risk as compared to manned-aircraft operations. Therefore, the commenter argued, it is appropriate to impose different, and in some instances lesser, operational requirements.

The FAA disagrees with the notion that no periodic reevaluation of knowledge is necessary. Knowledge of rules, regulations, and operating principles erodes over time, particularly if the remote pilot is not required to recall such information on a frequent basis. This is a fundamental principle of airman certification, and it applies to all FAA- certificated airmen. For part 61 pilot certificate holders, the flight review, conducted under § 61.56, specifically requires “[a] review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91” in addition to maneuvers necessary to safely exercise the privileges of the certificate. Likewise, the FAA considers a recurrent knowledge test to be an effective means of evaluating a remote pilot’s retention of knowledge necessary to safely operate small unmanned aircraft in the NAS. Because of the reduced risk posed by small UAS, the FAA is not requiring remote pilots to demonstrate a minimum level of flight proficiency to a specific standard or recency of flight experience in order to exercise the privileges of their airman certificate.

Drone Labs suggested extending the time period between recurrent tests to 5 years, and/or making the test available online to ease recertification. Kansas Farm Bureau recommended a 6-year interval between recurrent tests, similar to the interval for renewal of a driver’s license.

The FAA does not agree that the recurrent testing interval should be longer than two years. Unlike the privileges afforded by a driver’s license, which are exercised on a frequent basis by most drivers, many holders of remote pilot certificates may only exercise their privileges occasionally or may not regularly conduct operations that apply all of the concepts tested on the aeronautical knowledge test. For example, a remote pilot in command may spend years never operating outside of Class G airspace, and then may move to a different location that requires him or her to begin conducting small UAS operations in Class D airspace. Based on experience with manned pilots, those persons who exercise the privileges of their certificate on an infrequent basis are likely to retain the knowledge for a shorter period of time than those who exercise the privileges of their certificate on a regular basis.

Further, as unmanned aircraft operations increase in the NAS, the FAA anticipates the possibility of further changes to rules and regulations. By requiring evaluation on a two-year cycle, the FAA is able to ensure that remote pilots are aware of the most recent changes to regulations affecting their operations.

The FAA acknowledges, however, the burden associated with in-person testing every two years. As such, the FAA intends to look at (in the Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People rule) alternative methods to further reduce this burden without sacrificing the safety benefits afforded by a two-year recurrent knowledge check.

i. Credit to Holders of Part 61 Pilot Certificates

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will allow part 61 pilot certificate holders (other than the holders of a student pilot certificate) with current flight reviews139 to substitute an online training course for the aeronautical knowledge testing required by this rule.

Airborne Law Enforcement Association and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, suggested requiring only the recurrent knowledge test for part-61-certificated pilots. Numerous commenters also suggested that holders of part 61 airman certificates should be required to take only the recurrent knowledge test, not the initial knowledge test, or should be exempted entirely from knowledge-testing requirements. One commenter suggested that the holders of private, commercial, and ATP certificates who have operated UAS under exemptions be exempted from the initial knowledge test requirement. Another commented that non-military COA pilots should be permitted to take just the recurrent test, since the applicants will usually hold at least a private pilot certificate. One commenter stated that those applicants who hold part 61 pilot certificates should be required only to complete UAS-specific modules as part of the existing FAA Wings program. Another commenter stated that there should be a provision to enable existing small UAS pilots witha certain amount of logged PIC time to fly a small UAS without having to take a knowledge test.

The FAA agrees with commenters who suggested that requiring part-61-certificated pilots who satisfy the flight-review requirements of § 61.56 to take an initial or recurrent knowledge test is unduly burdensome. Through initial certification and subsequent flight reviews, a part-61-certificated airman is required to demonstrate knowledge of many of the topic areas tested on the UAS knowledge test. These areas include: airspace classification and operating requirements, aviation weather sources, radio communication procedures, physiological effects of drugs and alcohol, aeronautical decision-making and judgment, and airport operations. Because a part 61 pilot certificate holder is evaluated on these areas of knowledge in the course of the part 61 certification and flight review process, reevaluating these areas of knowledge on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests conducted under part 107 would be needlessly duplicative.

However, there are UAS-specific areas of knowledge (discussed in section III.F.2.j of this preamble) that a part-61-certificated pilot may not be familiar with. Accordingly, instead of requiring part-61 certificated pilots who are current on their flight reviews to take the initial and recurrent knowledge tests, this rule will provide those pilots with the option to take an online training course focusing on UAS-specific areas of knowledge. Just as there is an initial and recurrent knowledge test, there will also be an initial and recurrent training course available to part 61 pilot certificate holders. Those certificate holders will be able to substitute the initial training course for the initial knowledge test and the recurrent training course for the recurrent knowledge test. To ensure that a certificate holder’s UAS-specific knowledge does not become stale, this rule will include the requirement that a part 61 pilot certificate holder must pass either the recurrent training course or the recurrent knowledge test every 24 months.

The FAA emphasizes that the online training course option in lieu of taking the knowledge test will be available only to those part 61 pilot certificate holders who satisfy the flight review required by § 61.56. This is to ensure that the certificate holder’s knowledge of general aeronautical concepts that are not included on the training course does not become stale. Part 61 pilot certificate holders who do not meet the flight review requirements of § 61.56 will be unable to substitute the online training course for the required aeronautical knowledge test. Thus, under § 107.63(a)(2), a part 61 pilot certificate holder seeking to substitute completion of the initial training course for the initial aeronautical knowledge test will have to present his or her logbook upon application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to demonstrate that he or she has satisfied this requirement. The applicant will also have to present a certificate of completion showing that he or she has completed the initial online training course.

The FAA also notes that the above discussion does not apply to holders of a part 61 student pilot certificate. A person is not required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test, pass a practical (skills) test, or otherwise demonstrate aeronautical knowledge in order to obtain a student pilot certificate. Further, student pilot certificate holders who have received an endorsement for solo flight under § 61.87(b) are only required to demonstrate limited knowledge associated with conducting a specific solo flight. For these reasons, the option to take an online training course instead of an aeronautical knowledge test will not extend to student pilot certificate holders.

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How to Get a Commercial Drone License by Lawyer & Pilot – [2019]

drone-pilot-license-part-107-checklistAre you interested in obtaining your “commercial drone license” so you can make some money or fly for your job?” If so, you are in the right place.

This page is the ultimate guide to obtaining your commercial drone license which has been called all sorts of things such as a remote pilot certificate, commercial drone license, drone pilot license, etc. The correct term is a remote pilot certificate, but throughout this article, I will be referring to the remote pilot certificate and commercial drone license interchangeably. While some call it a “commercial” drone license, you do NOT need to be commercially flying to fly under Part 107. It allows all types of operations: commercial, recreational, or government.

Commercial Drone License Guide Table of Contents

Think you are good enough to pass the commercial drone license knowledge test right now? 

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I. Background on the  Commercial Drone License 

Drones have been flown for years but the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”)  really didn’t start doing much till around 2005. The FAA then published the infamous 2007 policy statement which declared “that people and companies other than modelers  might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are  legally operating under the authority of [Advisory Circular] 91-57. AC 91-57 only  applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes its use by persons  or companies for business purposes.”

This essentially made legal commercial drone flying financially unreasonable because you would have to comply with all the Federal Aviation Regulations…..the ones built for manned aircraft….which would be extremely expensive. The drone industry needed something better.

The FAA eventually gave us some hope in September of 2014 by granting a small batch of Section 333 exemptions (now called Section 44807 exemptions). These exemptions at least made it some what workable to do commercial drone flying but were still plagued with the requirement to have a sport pilot license which could cost $$$ to obtain and the requirement to stay at least 500ft away from property you don’t own and people not participating in your operation. People cried out “O can’t we just have a commercial drone license as this manned aircraft license requirement is stupid!”  Something needed to change.

The FAA had been working on some commercial drone regulations since 2009 but didn’t make it a priority. Eventually in 2015 a notice of proposed rule making was published and on August 29, 2016, Part 107 became law.

Part 107 explains how to obtain a drone license, the requirements of the drone license, and how you would exercise the privileges of this license.

II. General FAQ’s Surrounding the “Commercial Drone License”

1.Why do you use the term “commercial drone license” in the title of one of your blog posts when the correct term is remote pilot certificate?

I know the correct term is remote pilot certificate; however, when writing a blog post, it is important to write a title that would be understood by new individuals.  If you were new to this area, what would you type in Google?  Commercial drone license or remote pilot certificate? A simple search on search volume shows that “drone license” is more than twice the volume of “remote pilot certificate.” I wrote the articles for first-time pilots, not existing pilots who know how to speak “aviationese.” I also wrote the article to rank high in Google so high-quality information could be found on the drone license.

2. Do I Need a Pilot License’s to Fly a Drone Commercially?

Yes, but it is NOT one of the expensive manned aircraft pilot licenses most people think about. You only need the Part 107 remote pilot certificate (also known as a “commercial drone license”) to operate your drone commercially. This commercial drone license allows you to fly your drone for profit. Keep in mind that you are not limited to profit making flights. You can fly recreationally under Part 107 or as a government employee (police, fire, etc.).

3. Does My Business Have to Obtain a Commercial Drone License to Use Drones?

No, only individuals can obtain the drone license. However, businesses can obtain waivers or authorizations and allow their remote pilots to fly under those. There must be a remote pilot in command for each non-recreational flight and they must possess a current drone license.

4. Why Is It Called a Remote Pilot Certificate and Not a Commercial Drone Pilot License?

The term “pilot license” is what is used commonly to describe FAA airmen certificates. The FAA certificates aircraft, mechanics, airmen, remote pilots, etc., they don’t license.  For non-recreational drone operators, the proper term is a remote pilot certificate. These certificates are being issued with a small unmanned aircraft rating which means the pilot could only operate a drone that is under 55 pounds. I foresee the FAA adding ratings onto the remote pilot certificate for certain types of operations such as over 55-pound operations, night, beyond visual line of sight, etc.

5. What Happens If I Fly the Drone Commercially Without a Drone License?

You could get fined for each regulation you are violating under Part 107. The FAA has been prosecuting drone operators. The previous fine per violation was $1,100, but it has recently gone up to $1,414 per violation. You could be violating multiple regulations per flight. If you land and then take off again, that is 2x the number of fines since you are breaking the same regulations again on the second flight. Now you understand why Skypan ended up with a $1.9 million aggregate fine. They later however settled with the FAA for $200,000.

6. How Can I Obtain the Commercial Drone License?

You have two ways to obtain your commercial drone license:

(1) Pass the remote pilot initial knowledge exam, submit the information onto IACRA,  pass the TSA background check, & receive your remote pilot certificate electronically; or

(2) If you are a current manned aircraft pilot, take the free online training course from the FAA, submit your application on IACRA, receive your remote pilot certificate electronically.

Each method for obtaining the commercial drone license has different steps from the other. Keep reading below for super detailed step-by-step instructions for EACH of these methods.

commercial drone pilot license7. I’m Brand New. What are the Steps to Obtaining a the Drone License?

You’ll have to take the remote pilot initial knowledge exam at a knowledge testing center. Note: if you took a test on the FAA’s website and received a certificate like what is on the right, this is NOT a Part 107 initial knowledge test for new pilots. The certificate to the right is from the online training course which is only for current manned aircraft pilots transitioning over to drones. A non-manned aircraft pilot cannot use this method to obtain the drone license.

8. Who Can Take the Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam?

To obtain your commercial drone license you must:

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

9. What if I Have a Manned Aircraft Pilot Certificate Already?

You still have to obtain the remote pilot certificate (“drone license”). If you have a current biannual flight review and a manned pilot certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, your instructions are located here on how to obtain it.

 10. Is it Harder to Obtain the Commercial Drone License than a Manned Pilot License? 

Any of the manned aircraft pilot licenses require actual flight experience while the remote pilot certificate a.k.a. “drone license” does not have any requirement for the person to have any flight experience.

In my article on the statistics surrounding those obtaining their drone license,  those taking their remote pilot knowledge exam had a passage rate of 88.29%  and those taking the private pilot knowledge exam had a passage rate of 89.44% for 2015. Another interesting thing was that the majority of those obtaining their drone license early on were those with manned aircraft pilot licenses. They had the ability to take a free online training course and then apply on IACRA to obtain their drone license. They had to do very little studying to pass the free online training course which explains why the high rates.

III. New Pilot Step-by-Step Guide to Obtain the Drone License.

To prevent any problems with obtaining the drone license, do these steps in the exact order of how they appear in this list:

    1. Figure out how far you need to schedule the test.
      • Take an honest inventory of the hours you have PER DAY to study for the test.
      • Multiply the hours by 5. (You are most likely going have things that pop up during the week and you’ll need a day to rest.)
      • Now you have an idea of how many hours per week you can dedicate to studying.
      • The free study guide I created has a total of 538 pages to read. 538 pages x 2 minutes = 1,076 minutes of reading (17.93 hours). Keep in mind you are not a robot so you are going to have to go back over and study certain areas to retain the information. If you can set aside 5 hours a week to study, in roughly 3.5 weeks you could have completed all of the reading. I would add on 2 additional weeks for extra studying after you have completed all of the reading to go over the areas that you are having a hard time understanding.
    2. Immediately schedule a time to take the FAA Part 107 knowledge test at one of the testing sites.
    3. Start studying for the test. I created free 100+ page Part 107 test study guide. The study guide has the material the FAA suggested you study, but I added essential material they left out. It also comes with 65 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained. Think of it as your “personal trainer” for Part 107 to get you into a lean mean testing machine. You can read the Part 107 test study guide online or you can sign up for the free drone law newsletter and be able to download the PDF to study on the go. Keep in mind the study guide was for initial test takers. Recurrent test takers should study different based upon the percentages below.drone-license-test-subject-percentages
  1. Now that you know what the rules are, make a business plan for operations under Part 107 once you obtain the drone license. Go back and skim over the Part 107 Summary and read about Part 107 waivers (COAs). You might want to branch out into non-107 types of operations.
  2. Once you have figured out what types of industries and operations you plan on doing, you should spend this time:
    • Building or updating your website.
    • Buying the aircraft or practicing flying your current aircraft.
    • Obtaining drone insurance for the aircraft that will perform the operations.
    • Finding an attorney for each of the particular areas of law listed below. You may not need the lawyer right away but you have time to calmly make decisions now as opposed to rapidly making decisions in the future when your business is growing. You won’t have time in the future as you do now. Put their numbers in your phone. Ideally, you should have a retainer/ billing relationship set up to get answers rapidly.
      • Business / tax – (Preferably both)
      • Aviation
      • Criminal – (in case you get arrested because of some drone ordinance you stumbled upon).
  1. Take and pass the Part 107 knowledge test. Starting January 13, 2020, you will NEED to obtain a FAA Tracking Number (FTN) from Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA) to take the test.
  2. Complete FAA Form 8710-13:
    1. By filling out the paper-based version of FAA Form 8710-13 and mailing it off  OR  
    2. Online for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA).
        • Login to IACRA with your username and password. If you don’t remember them, follow the “Forgot Username or Password” link.
        • Applicant Console
          • From the Applicant Console, you can start new applications and view any existing applications. Click Start New Application
          • Select ‘Pilot’ from the Application Type drop-down list. This will now show the different types of pilot certificates IACRA has available.
          • Click on Remote Pilot. Starting a Remote Pilot Application
        • The Application Process page will open, and the Personal Information section will be open. This section will be prepopulated with the information you entered when you registered. If no changes are needed, click the green Save & Continue button at the bottom of this section.
        • The Supplementary Data section will open. Answer the English Language and Drug Conviction questions. If you would like to add comments to your application, you can do so here. Click Save & Continue.
        • The Basis of Issuance section will open.
          • Enter all the information related to your photo ID. A US passport or US driver’s license is preferred.
          • Enter the knowledge test ID in the Search box. PLEASE NOTE: It can take up to 72 hours after you take your knowledge test before it is available in IACRA. When you find the test, click the green Associate Test button. Now click Save & Continue.
        • The Review and Submit section will open.
          • Answer the Denied Certificate question.
          • Summary information info will be displayed.
          • You must view the Pilots Bill of Rights, Privacy Act and Review your application before you can continue.
        • Sign and Complete
          • You should now sign the Pilots Bill of Rights Acknowledgement form.
          • Sign and complete your application.
          • Your application is now complete and will be automatically sent to the Airman Registry.
          • After 2-4 days, your temporary certificate will be available in IACRA. You will also receive an email reminder.
          • Your permanent certificate (“drone license”) will arrive by mail.

IV. New Pilot FAQ About the Drone License

1. If I pass this Part 107 remote pilot exam, can I charge for the flight?

Yes, provided you fly within the requirements of Part 107 and have your drone license.

2. Do model aircraft individuals have to get a 107 exam?

No, Section 107.1 says Part 107 does not apply to “Any aircraft subject to the provisions of part 101 of this chapter[.]” Part 101 is the section for model aircraft. You are going to have to meet the criteria of Part 101 or you will be forced to fly under Part 107. One area that has not been fully clarified is whether FPV racing will be allowed to fly under Part 101 since FPV racing does not fully comply with the FAA’s 2014 Model Aircraft Interpretation which said FPV could not be used to see and avoid other aircraft. The preamble to Part 107 in Pages 73-77 said they will issue a final interpretation on the 2014 interpretation sometime coming up but they did NOT address the interpretation in Part 107. Interestingly, Part 107 DOES allow for FPV provided you use a visual observer.

3. Part 107 isn’t for model aircraft people but just commercial people, right?

Part 107 has incorrectly been understood to be for commercial flyers.  It isn’t. It is for everyone that can fly under its operational parameters. It is just that non-model aircraft flyers can only fly in Part 107 which lead to everyone incorrectly thinking Part 101 is for recreational while Part 107 is for commercial. This caused confusion because some entities are not recreational or commercial! Non-profit environmental organizations or fire departments are two good situations where they aren’t charging for the flight and cannot fall into model aircraft operations yet they aren’t commercial. Commercial, recreational, government employees, non-profits, etc. can all fly under Part 107.

4. How much does the remote pilot initial knowledge exam cost?

First time pilots have to take the initial knowledge exam which is estimated at $150.[1] Current manned pilots can either take the initial knowledge exam for $150 or take an initial online training course for free. Either of those are pre-requisites to submitting an application to obtain the drone license.

5. When does Part 107 go into effect?

August 29, 2016.

6. Where can I take the 107 knowledge exam?

You take it at a knowledge exam testing center. A complete list is located here.

7. How can I Study for the Part 107 Knowledge Test to Get My Drone License?

I created a FREE 100+ page Part 107 test study guide which includes all the information you need to pass the exam. Let me repeat. ALL the information needed to pass the test is in this study guide. Additionally, the study guide comes with  6 “cram” summary pages, 65 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained, and 24 super hard brand-new practice questions NO ONE ELSE HAS.

I have been creating online paid video courses which are being sold through a separate company called Rupprecht Drones.

There are many paid training sources out there. But I do not know of any of them that are FAA certificated flight instructors AND also practicing aviation attorneys. Be skeptical of most of the 107 courses out there as some of them had to hire FAA certificated flight instructors to teach the material. This implicitly means they do NOT know the subject. Did the flight instructor they hire edit the material or just merely be recorded. In other words, what quality assurance do you have that the paid 107-course creators didn’t botch something up in the post-production?

Additionally, here is a list of Part 107 articles for you to study further:

8. How Long Does It Take to Receive My Drone License After I Submit on IACRA?

If you have a pilot certificate and took the initial knowledge exam, you have already passed a TSA security threat assessment background check when you obtained your manned aircraft pilot certificate. This means you will have your drone license faster than someone brand new going through the process.

If you are brand-new, I canNOT estimate because (1) the TSA’s backlog of pending IACRA applications seems to be growing and (2) I don’t know all the factors the FAA and TSA are looking at now.

9. I saw some link on the Facebook forums about a Part 107 test. I took it and received a certificate like what is on the right. Is this my drone license?

drone pilot licenseThat online test is NOT the Part 107 initial knowledge exam you need to take to obtain your drone license. That test is ONLY for the current manned aircraft pilots who wish to obtain their drone license. That online test by itself isn’t ALL they need to do to obtain the drone license. They still need to do a few additional things.  See Current Manned Aircraft Pilots Step-by-Step Instructions to Obtain the Drone License for more information.

10. How many different exams are there?

The current manned aircraft pilots can take either the initial online training course or the Part 107 initial knowledge exam while the first time pilots can ONLY take the initial Part 107 knowledge exam. After you receive your drone license, you’ll have to pass a recurrent exam within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test.

11. I read some people on Facebook telling me about the law and the drone license……

Let me stop you right there. Getting aviation law advice off Facebook forums is like getting medical help off Craigslist – it’s dumb. Yes, I know there are a few good attorneys online that do help, but there are also a ton of posers. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk or get aviation law info off Facebook. It is stupid to get advice on the internet. If the person on the internet goofs up, what happens is your drone license is on the line and potentially a fine or arrest. They have little downside while you could lose your ability to make money from your drone license.

On top of this, some of the people on these Facebook groups are committing the unlicensed practice of law by picking up clients for legal work but are too ignorant of their own criminal laws to know they are breaking these laws. Offering to help you be compliant with the law – while breaking the law themselves.

12. What happens if I fail the Part 107 initial knowledge test? Am I forever prevented from obtaining the drone license? 

The FAA’s Advisory Circular says on page 27, “Retaking the UAS knowledge test after a failure:

  • 14 CFR part 107, section 107.71 specifies that an applicant who fails the knowledge test may not retake the knowledge test for 14 calendar days from the date of the previous failure.
  • An applicant retesting after failure is required to submit the applicable AKTR indicating failure to the testing center prior to retesting.
  • No instructor endorsement or other form of written authorization is required to retest after failure.
  • The original failed AKTR must be retained by the proctor and attached to the applicable daily log.”

V. The TSA Background Check for the Drone License Questions

1. I Made Some Mistakes in My Past. What Do the TSA and FAA Look For? What Disqualified me from Receiving a Drone License?

I don’t know all the factors. I can say the FAA really does not like alcohol and drug related crimes.  They also don’t like a breath refusal.

§107.57   Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

(a) A conviction for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of narcotic drugs, marijuana, or depressant or stimulant drugs or substances is grounds for:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of final conviction; or

(2) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

(b) Committing an act prohibited by §91.17(a) or §91.19(a) of this chapter is grounds for:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that act; or

(2) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

§107.59   Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results.

A refusal to submit to a test to indicate the percentage by weight of alcohol in the blood, when requested by a law enforcement officer in accordance with §91.17(c) of this chapter, or a refusal to furnish or authorize the release of the test results requested by the Administrator in accordance with §91.17(c) or (d) of this chapter, is grounds for:

(a) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that refusal; or

(b) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

2. I’m a new pilot, does TSA pre-check or global entry count? I want to get my drone license as quick as possible.

Don’t know.

3. I’m a  part 61 pilot trying to obtain my remote pilot certificate, do I have to get TSA background checked?

No, you already had your check when you obtained your Part 61 certificate.

4. I’m a fire fighter, law enforcement officer, government agency employee, etc……can I get my 107 certificate and then go do government stuff?  

Sure. But keep in mind that sometimes it might be beneficial to get a Public COA to accomplish the mission as there are certain restrictions with Part 107. However, there are Part 107 waivers that can be obtained. Contact me as each situation is different. See my article on public COA vs Part 107. 

5. I did a drone certification course with some company, does that count? Is that the same as a drone license?

No, your “certification” is worth nothing. A bunch of these drone courses popped up being taught by unqualified individuals who were far more proficient at WordPress and Mailchimp than they were at teaching weather and manuals. Only the FAA can certify you.

6. Do you have to have a pilot’s license to fly a drone?

It depends. If you are flying recreationally according to Part 101, you do NOT need to have a pilot license. If you are flying non-recreationally (commercial, etc.), then you would need a pilot certificate.

VI. Current Manned Aircraft Pilots Step-by-Step Instructions to Obtain the Drone License

You may be either a sport, recreational, private, commercial, or air transport pilot. You CANNOT be a student pilot. Additionally, the pilot must be current according to 14 C.F.R. § 61.56. This can be done multiple ways but the most popular is they have a sign off in their logbook saying they have completed their bi-annual flight review (BFR).

For some, getting a BFR can be much more expensive than taking the Part 107 initial knowledge exam which costs $150. You can be a non-current pilot and take the initial knowledge exam, then submit your application on IACRA. You’ll receive your temporary drone pilot license (remote pilot certificate) electronically so many days later. If this is your situation, then do the “first-time pilot” steps above.

Flight Plan for a Current Manned Aircraft Pilot to Obtain the Drone License:

  1. Read the 3-page Part 107 Summary.
  2. Go and read Part 107 regulations. Anytime you have a question about something, make a note and keep reading.
  3. Read the Advisory Circular to Part 107.  Notice that the advisory circular has parts that parallel the parts in Part 107 to help answer any questions you have about the regulations.
  4. Do the remote pilot certificate application process below.

Drone License Application Process:

  1. Complete the online training course “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website.
  2. Complete FAA Form 8710-13 (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate)
    1. Figure out if you want to do it online at IACRA or by paper (the paper form you print out is located here).
    2. Either way, you are going to need to validate applicant identity on IACRA or 8710-13.
      • Contact an FSDO, an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) to make an appointment to validate your identity. I would suggest doing this with the FSDO because the inspector can give you a temporary certificate at the same time! Look up your local FSDO and make an appointment. Note: FSDO’s almost always do not take walk-ins.  You can also go to a DPE but I think it is better to meet your local FSDO employees because they are the ones that will be doing the investigations in your area.
      • Present the completed FAA Form 8710-13 along with the online course completion certificate or knowledge test report (as applicable) and proof of a current flight review.
      • The completed FAA Form 8710-13 application will be signed by the applicant after the FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI examines the applicant’s photo identification and verifies the applicant’s identity. If you are using a CFI to help you process your application, make sure you and they read FAA article below called Tips for CFIs Processing Remote Pilot & Student Pilot Applications. 
        • The identification presented must include a photograph of the applicant, the applicant’s signature, and the applicant’s actual residential address (if different from the mailing address). This information may be presented in more than one form of identification.
        • Acceptable methods of identification include, but are not limited to U.S. drivers’ licenses, government identification cards, passports, and military identification cards (see AC 61-65 Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors)
    3. The FAA representative will then sign the application.
  1. An appropriate FSDO representative, a FAA designated pilot examiner (DPE), or an airman certification representative (ACR) will issue the applicant a temporary airman certificate (a CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate; they can process applications for applicants who do not want a temporary certificate). The CFI will submit the information on IACRA and you’ll receive your temporary electronically so many days later.
  2. A permanent remote pilot certificate (drone pilot license) will be sent via mail once all other FAA internal processing is complete.

If you need legal services or want to set up enterprise operations to get all your in-house pilots certified, fleet and pilot management, or crew training, contact me at to help with those needs. I work with many other certified aviation professionals to help large companies integrate drones into their operations to be profitable and legal. When looking for aviation law help, don’t hire a poser – hire an attorney who is a pilot. 

VII. Current Pilot FAQs Regarding the Drone License

1. How long does my temporary certificate last? 

Section 107.64(a) says, “A temporary remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating is issued for up to 120 calendar days, at which time a permanent certificate will be issued to a person whom the Administrator finds qualified under this part.”

2. Do I Have to Get Another Medical Exam Before I fly Under My Drone License?

No, a remote pilot certificate does NOT require a medical certificate. However, section 107.17 says, “No person may manipulate the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system or act as a remote pilot in command, visual observer, or direct participant in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of the small unmanned aircraft system.”

3. I’m a current part 61 pilot trying to obtain my remote pilot certificate, do I have to get TSA background checked?

No, you already had your check when you obtained your Part 61 certificate. This means you’ll receive your remote pilot certificate faster than a new pilot.

VIII. Currency (Every 24 Months You Have to Prove Your Aeronautical Knowledge) 

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.”

You need 1 of the following within the previous 24 calendar months to operate under Part 107; however, if you don’t meet this, you are grounded from flying under Part 107 but you still could fly recreationally under Part 101.

After I take my recurrent knowledge exam, do I have to do anything else like IACRA?

If you already have your remote pilot certificate, you just need to keep the knowledge test report to prove your recent aeronautical knowledge. The IACRA thing was for getting the remote pilot certificate but you already have that.

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

No, you don’t lose your remote pilot certificate. It really shouldn’t be termed recertification as you are NOT getting a certificate again or have to worry about losing the certificate. You just cannot exercise the privileges of the remote pilot certificate.

Everyone typically gets confused by what I just said. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Bob passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on September 15, 2016 and received his remote pilot certificate. This means Bob needs to do (a),(b), or (c) no later than September 30, 2018. Otherwise, he’ll have to stop flying under Part 107 until he does (a), (b), or (c).
  • Tony passed the exam with Bob on September 15, 2016.   He received his remote pilot certificate. He did not take the recurrent exam until October 10, 2018 and passed in the afternoon at 1:34PM. Tony could not fly from October 1-10 up till he passed the test around 1:33-34PM. Once he passed, he was good to go for another 24 months (October 31st, 2020 @ 11:59 PM).
  • Sam, who also passed with Bob and Tony on September 15, 2016, received his remote pilot certificate but didn’t really do much drone flying because of life circumstances. He managed to pass the recurrent knowledge exam on December 14, 2019. He is good until December 31st, 2021.

Important point.  Please note that when calculating recency, you are going off of when you did (a), (b), or (c) above, NOT when you received your remote pilot certificate or what is dated on your certificate.

How do I check if someone else is current?

You would think the FAA would have just put expiration dates on the remote pilot certificates like they do with my flight instructor certificate but no. If you search the FAA airmen registry, you’ll just see date of issue but not when currency expires.

If you are checking a person’s currency (like if you are hiring a person or if you are a police officer stopping a drone flyer) you need to ask them for:

  • Method 1: their remote pilot certificate AND initial or recurrent knowledge exam test report or
  • Method 2: their Part 61 pilot certificate (but not student pilot certificate), how they meet the flight review requirements of 61.56, AND their initial or recurrent online training course certificate.

You find the date in method 1 or 2. You add two years and then find the last day of the month. It is important to know this as there might be some scam artists out there trying to save $150 by not taking a knowledge exam and hoping people don’t check.

Dude, are you saying I should bring along my knowledge exam with my remote pilot certificate with me when I fly?

Well, it is a good idea in case that someone you are dealing with also read my article and wonders if you really are current.

Additionally, the FAA said this, “The FAA does not specify the method by which the certificate holder stores and displays his or her knowledge test report or course completion certificate; however, the certificate holder must provide the documents to the FAA upon request.” So a second reason to keep it with you is in case the FAA stops you.

Now you might have noticed that you can take the initial or recurrent knowledge exams. The initial knowledge test is 60 questions over 2 hours while recurrent is 40 questions over 1.5 hours. They both require a passing score of 70% and will cost $150 to take.

 

Here is a table I created for the online video training course on Part 107 Regulations being sold over at Rupprecht Drones.

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

The percentages of questions on topics have changed also.

drone-license-test-subject-percentages

This means if you are going for a recurrent knowledge exam, you should beef up your Part 107 regulations knowledge and your airspace knowledge as those two areas make up 60-80% of the exam.

Guess what, I have already created a paid Part 107 Regulations online video course over at Rupprecht Drones (separate business) that has 100+ questions and 40 videos.  And the second course I’m working on is going to cover airspace and charts. :)

Yes, I understand that times can be tough. Please keep in mind that hiring me or purchasing courses helps me to keep creating free material for you guys to enjoy. The big difference between the two solutions is the Part 107 Regulations course has all the key important parts of the 107 database, 100+ questions created by me, the videos can be listened to while being time efficient (dishes, exercising, etc.), and can be done quicker than reading all the 107 regulations pages in the database. Just try it out.  You can sign up for a free trial and watch some of the videos of the 107 Regulations video course.

Ok ok. So you still want the free stuff.

You have two methods:

(1) Click here to be taken to the free recurrent knowledge test study guide with everything located in it.

(2) Sign up  for the PDF study guide. :)

 

IX. Want to Continue Learning About Part 107? Need Drone License Study Material?

You can use these articles to study for your drone license or use them to brush up on the material so you can stay proficient and safe.

X. FAA Safety Notice: Tips for CFIs Processing Remote Pilot & Student Pilot Applications
Notice Number: NOTC7141

“While tens of thousands of applications for these certificates have been successfully processed by recommending officials during the past year, a significant number of applications have had to be returned to CFIs for needed corrections. This delayed the issuance and delivery of the certificates and sadly resulted in having some of our applicants waiting for certificates longer than they and we would have liked. Points below emphasize what you as a CFI can do to keep the certification system working efficiently.

Be certain the applicant uses his or her legal name. Advise applicant to use the same legal name on his or her application for any knowledge test and all subsequent certificate applications. When there is a mismatch in names between an application and a knowledge test or a mismatch between a current and previous application, the current application is rejected. The applicant may have to visit a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) in order to effect a name change.

IACRA allows an applicant to change his or her name in the user profile. If the applicant’s name is not his or her full legal name (limited to 50 characters), then you should tell the applicant to amend his or her name in the IACRA user profile and start a new application. It’s very important to get this right on the applicant’s first application submitted—the student pilot or remote pilot application that is submitted to the FAA Airman Registry as a legal document. The address the applicant uses must be a residential address, and not a business address. If a business address is detected, the application will also be rejected for correction by the registry.

Don’t forget to send all paper applications to the local FSDO for review.  About a third of the rejected remote pilot certificate applications in the past year were paper applications that were mistakenly sent directly to AFS-760 by the recommending CFI. Remember to include the FAA Course Completion Certificate for an existing pilot’s remote pilot certificate application.

Consider that IACRA helps to ensure a complete and correct application and instantly submits the application to AFS-760. Although the Airmen Certification Branch, AFS-760, will accept a paper application using a paper FAA Form 8710-1 (for a student pilot certificate application) or FAA paper Form 8710-13 (for a remote pilot certificate and/or rating application), the chance of a return for correction is lower when IACRA is used by the CFI and the IACRA process is much faster.

Note that whenever the CFI acts as a recommending official, the applicant must be in the same room as the CFI during the application process. The CFI can’t accept an application for a student or remote pilot certificate through the mail, over the phone, by fax, or even by messenger service.  This ensures that there is proper vetting of the applicant’s ID and that the applicant is the rightful bearer of the documents presented. The IACRA process gives the CFI a checklist.  As part of the process the CFI logs off and the applicant must log on to the same console to complete the application process. So, never use anyone else’s user id and password for the system for the sake of convenience since it could lead to some serious issues down the road for those involved. Always check the applicant’s identity carefully and in person.

It’s also a great idea to include the applicant’s email and telephone number on an application in case contact for correction is necessary. As a CFI, you can write in your own phone number in the comment section of an application as a courtesy to FAA personnel who may need to contact you about the application. Otherwise, they will have to contact you by mail using your address on file.

For questions or to learn more please email [email protected]

Part 107 Statistics: 3 Big Take-Aways

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

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

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

I know that many have had success using the free study guide I put out.passvfail of Part 107 exam

2. TSA Responded Well to Processing the Applications.

You’ll notice that when you compare the applications filed to applications completed, it is disproportionate at the beginning; however, the TSA, while not catching up fully with the applications filed, responded well by increasing their rate of processing the applications close to that of applications being filed. Many of us were concerned the TSA would be backed up with the surge in applications which would continue to grow and grow.filedvcompleted of part 107 iacra applications

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

[2] Id. on Page 2.

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

 


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.

The FAA said, “LAANC provides:

  • Drone pilots with access to controlled airspace at or below 400 feet.
  • Air Traffic Professionals with visibility into where and when drones are operating.

Through the UAS Data Exchange, the capability facilitates the sharing of airspace data between the FAA and companies approved by the FAA to provide LAANC services. The companies are known as UAS Service Suppliers – and the desktop applications and mobile apps to utilize the LAANC capability are provided by the UAS Service Suppliers (USS).”

Who Benefits from LAANC?

Recreational flyers and non-recreational flyers can greatly benefit from LAANC if they need to fly near B, C, D, or E at the surface associated with an airport airspace. You can basically get real time authorization for these areas.

Recreational flyers who want to fly under the protections of Section 44809 are required to obtain”prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.”

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 obtain an authorization from Drone Zone 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.

Plus, having some proof of authorization is nice to get people off your back like law enforcement, some crazy neighbor, a by-the-book client, etc.

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 on the FAA’s Drone Zone.

What Companies Are UAS Service Suppliers for LAANC?

A current list of companies that provide access to LAANC is located here.

How Many Airports Will Participate in LAANC?

If you head to the FAA UAS Data Map, airports that participate in LAANC are shown in green.

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.
    • At the 2019 FAA Symposium, a powerpoint slide said that there have been over 37,000 manual authorizations granted and 87,000 automated authorizations granted.  This means that there over 124,000 authorizations allowing drones to fly near airports

Resources:

 

FAA Order JO 7210.914 

SUBJ: Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability – LAANC
NOTICE
1. Purpose of This Notice. This notice updates FAA Order JO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, and provides information and interim guidance on air traffic policies and prescribes procedures for the implementation, coordination, and operation of Low Altitude Authorization Notification Capability (LAANC), the software used to automate requests and FAA authorizations to airspace by sUAS operators.
2. Audience. This notice applies to the following Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Service Units: Mission Support, Systems Operations, Air Traffic Services and all associated air traffic control facilities.
3. Where Can I Find This Notice? This notice is available on the MyFAA employee website at https://employees.faa.gov/tools_resources/orders_notices/ and on the air traffic publications website at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/.
4. Cancellation. This notice amends FAA Order JO 7210.3 and will be incorporated into FAA Order JO 7210.3BB, Change 1, effective January 30, 2020.
5. Explanation of Policy Change. This change modifies language in FAA Order JO 7210.3 to reflect the new FAA Reauthorization Act 2018. It introduces new terminology and requirements for the limited recreational operators created by the passage of the new Act. It renumbers Chapter 12, Section 10, to reflected deleted sections.
6. Procedures/Responsibilities/Action. Amend FAA Order JO 7210.3 Chapter 12, National Programs Section 10, Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), to read as follows:

12-10-1. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
a. LAANC is the term for the software used to automate small Unmanned Aircraft System(s) (sUAS) operator requests for access to controlled airspace at or below 400 feet AGL. LAANC handles authorization requests under 14 CFR § 107.41 (Part 107) and 49 U.S.C. § 44809 (Section 44809). LAANC’s major elements include: FAA data sources (e.g. Unmanned Aircraft System Facility Maps (UASFM), airspace restrictions, and airspace boundaries) for use in determining authorizations; and the ability for FAA-approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers (USSs) to process authorization information and interface with sUAS pilots.

b. LAANC functions at the operational planning stage, identifying intended sUAS operations and managing the associated authorizations. Part 107 and Section 44809 authorization requests within the UASFM can be approved automatically, in near real time. Part 107 authorization requests that fall above the UASFM and below 400 feet AGL require approval by the Air Traffic Manager (ATM) or designee. Part 107 operators may submit a request for access to airspace up to 90 days in advance. Section 44809, sUAS limited recreational operators’, request for access above the UASFM will not be processed in LAANC.

12-10-2. UAS FACILITY MAPS (UASFM)

UASFMs have been developed by FAA facilities to establish the altitude at and below which sUAS may be granted automatic authorization. USSs will use current FAA approved UASFMs in conjunction with other required data sources and will operate within agreed LAANC USS operating rules.

NOTE For UAS facility map design, see FAA Order JO 7200.23.

12-10-3. SMALL UAS (sUAS) ATC AUTHORIZATIONS

Both Part 107 and Section 44809 require all sUAS operators to obtain airspace authorization from Air Traffic to fly 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. A request for authorization will contain data from a sUAS operator to a USS providing flight information about the area of the proposed operation. If the area of operation falls within a UASFM, LAANC will provide an automatic authorization and deliver this authorization to the ATM or designee. The facility retains the ability to rescind any specific authorization(s) as needed, whether after automatic approval or approval by the ATM or designee through further coordination (see 12-10-4).

12-10-4. FURTHER COORDINATION
a. Further coordination is the term used when an authorization processed via LAANC cannot be automatically approved. For example, if a Part 107 authorization request is sent by an operator to a USS, and the planned operation is above a UASFM altitude, the request cannot be automatically approved. Further coordination is available only to Part 107 operators. A safety justification may be optionally submitted by the Part 107 operator for the ATM’s consideration.

NOTE This Safety Justification is a one-way transmittal from the Part 107 operator that is for use with further coordination requests only. The Safety Justification is not pre-coordinated with the ATM or designee, and is optional information that the Part 107 operator may choose to include to assist the ATM or designee in determining whether to approve or deny the further coordination request.

b. Further coordination requests in LAANC are not automatic and require the approval of the ATM or designee. If a response is not provided, further coordination requests will expire 24 hours prior to the proposed operator’s start time. Facilities are not authorized to engage directly with operators to process further coordination requests.
NOTE LAANC does not process Certificates of Authorization (COAs). COAs are processed exclusively in DroneZone in collaboration with the governing Regional Service Center. Any attempt by an operator to submit mitigations or COAs through LAANC will not be accepted.

Paragraph 12-10-10, Facility Responsibilities was renumbered to 12-10-5 Facility Responsibilities. No further changes to paragraph.

 

7. Distribution. This notice is distributed to the following ATO service units: Air Traffic Services, Mission Support Services, and System Operations, and Safety and Technical Training; the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service; the William J. Hughes Technical Center; and the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
8. Background. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 changed the notification requirement in controlled airspace for “modelers/hobbyist”. The new ruling covered under 49 U.S.C. § 44809 (Section 349) and the “modelers/hobbyist” are now referred to as limited recreational fliers. They must now receive authorization to operate in controlled airspace. Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) has been modified to accommodate automatic authorization of recreational operators, similar to how Part 107 operators receive their authorization.
9. Related Publication. FAA Order JO 7200.23.

Original signed by Natking Estevez
Natking Estevez 6/24/19
Director (A), Air Traffic Procedures
Air Traffic Organization Date Signed

FAA Order JO 7210.3BB on LAANC

Section 10. Low Altitude Authorization Notification Capability
12−10−1. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−2. UAS FACILITY MAPS (UASFM)

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−3. PART 101E NOTIFICATIONS

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−4. PART 107 ATC AUTHORIZATIONS

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−5. UAS SERVICE SUPPLIER (USS)
LAANC uses industry partner UAS Service Suppliers (USS) to provide services specific to sUAS operations. Such services are provided through an exchange of information between the FAA and the USS, whereby the USS is the primary interface to the operator. The USS accesses UASFMs and USS operating rules provided by the FAA to grant the automatic authorization of sUAS operations that meet the requirement of 14 CFR Part 107 operations and fall within a UASFM altitude.

12−10−6. VOLUNTARY NOTIFICATION

LAANC will inform the sUAS operator when an operation entered into LAANC takes place in areas where ATC authorization/notification is not required (outside controlled airspace/beyond 5 statute miles from an airport). LAANC will provide confirmation to the operator that the flight information has been received and a record will be submitted to the FAA.

12−10−7. REQUIRED NOTIFICATION
If ATC notification is required (Part 101E), the operator may submit their proposed flight information to a USS. The USS will check if a notification is required based on whether or not the operation falls within 5 statute miles of an airport. If notification is required, the USS will facilitate the notification via LAANC.

12−10−8. REQUIRED AUTHORIZATION
a. If ATC authorization is required (Part 107), the sUAS operator may submit their proposed flight information to a USS. The USS will use the appropriate UASFM to determine if an operation can be automatically authorized. If the flight falls within the UASFM altitude, FAA authorization is provided to the operator. Flight details are provided via the LAANC website to the facility.

b. If the proposed flight operation is above a UASFM altitude, further coordination is required at the facility level. The USS makes LAANC further coordination processes an option available to the operator, with the understanding that further coordination requires the consideration of ATC personnel and a response will not be immediate. Resources permitting, facility personnel may provide authorization or denial electronically back through LAANC, which will be delivered to the operator via the USS.

c. If an operation which requires further coordination has been authorized, the sUAS operator may proceed to operate within the authorized parameters.

12−10−9. FURTHER COORDINATION
a. Further coordination is the term used when an authorization processed via LAANC cannot be automatically approved. For example, if a Part 107 authorization request is sent by an operator to a USS, and the planned operation is above a UASFM altitude, the request cannot be automatically approved. Facility personnel must be involved in approving or denying the request. The USS can submit the request for further coordination, in which case LAANC will direct it to the appropriate facility, and when a response is provided, LAANC will send it back to the operator.

b. Further coordination requests require longer periods of processing time (e.g., hours, days) than other LAANC processes, based upon the availability of ATC facilities/ATM personnel to consider an authorization request. If a response is not provided, further coordination requests will expire within 30 days after submission or the proposed operator’s start time, whichever comes first.
NOTE− LAANC further coordination is not the same as a waiver defined by Part 107 Subpart D. Waivers are not within the scope of LAANC. Furthermore, Part 107 requires a waiver for operations above 400 feet. Therefore, LAANC can only provide Part 107 authorizations, whether automatically or by further coordination, for operations at or below 400 feet.

12−10−10. FACILITY RESPONSIBILITIES
a. The ATM will request access to LAANC by providing their email address and that of any designee to 9−ajt−[email protected]
b. Using Chrome web browser, LAANC can be accessed at https://laanc−atc.faa.gov. My Access is used to sign in to LAANC.
c. Review the “Facility Preferences” page to ensure the “Approval Facilities” information is correct.
d. The ATM or designee will periodically review LAANC to maintain situational awareness of sUAS activity in their airspace.
e. The ATM or designee, workload permitting, will review further coordination requests for approval consideration. The only actions available for requests awaiting further coordination are to “APPROVE” or “DENY” the operation.
f. When receiving a Part 107 authorization or approving a Part 107 authorization above a UASFM altitude, the ATM or designee will use their best judgement to determine if the information needs to be disseminated to the controller. If it is determined that the controller should know, then it will be distributed to the appropriate position(s).
NOTE− LAANC will allow an operator to request an altitude above a UASFM altitude as long as the requested altitude is not above 400 ft agl as per 14 CFR Part 107.
g. Any previously issued authorization(s) may be rescinded via LAANC. The operator must acknowledge the action before the previously issued authorization is cancelled. If no acknowledgement is received and/or timeliness is a factor, the operator may be contacted via telephone.

 

 

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.

 


How to Fly Your Drone at Night (Waivers, New Regs, Training, etc.) [2019]

Interested in obtaining a Part 107 night waiver to fly your drone at night?

This article will dive into why you want a night waiver, some of the benefits of a night waiver, the different definitions of night, and what is legally required to fly at night. To start off, this article is focusing on operations under Part 107, not model aircraft operating under Part 101. Part 107 remote pilots will need a waiver from 107.29 which is sometimes called a Part 107 night waiver.

Table of Contents

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would you want to fly your drone at night?

  • Real Estate Photography – A soon to be built building wants photos of what the night skyline looks like at that elevation.
  • Concerts/Events Filming – Some of these typically last into the night.
  • Wedding Photography – Evening/night weddings or where the reception party lasts into the night.
  • Cinematography – When you need to get that night shot.
  • Perimeter Security – Powerplants, manufacturing plant, sensitive infrastructure, etc.
  • Roof Inspections – You check for warm spots on the roof in the evening/night which reveal the damaged areas of the roof retaining water.
  • Firefighting at Night – Fires happen 24/7.
  • Law enforcement – Bad guys like the night.
  • Monitoring Wildlife/Livestock – You can use the drone to count wildlife or livestock at night.

What is needed for night flying?

Anytime a person or business wants to fly a drone after civil twilight (30 minutes after sunset), they need a night waiver.

Once you obtain the night waiver, you operate under the restrictions in the waiver. One of the requirements says the drone must have an anti-collision light that is visible for at least 3 statute miles. There are after market anti-collision lights you can attach to your drone if it is not equipped with sufficient lighting.

Does a model aircraft flyer need a night waiver? 

No, only non-recreational operators flying under Part 107 need night waivers. Additionally, government entities can obtain waivers for their departments to fly under.

How long does a night waiver last?

4 years.

What airspace can I fly in under a night waiver?

The waiver is good for all of Class G airspace. You can obtain authorizations to operate at night in Class B, C, D, or E @ the surface. The night waivers say, “Operations under this Waiver are to be conducted in Class G airspace only unless specific airspace authorization or Waiver is received from the FAA in accordance with § 107.41[.]” You can apply for the night waiver and an airspace authorization at the same time OR you can do a night waiver now and then later do an airspace authorizations when needed.

Can my company/agency/ department obtain the night?

Yes, the organization can obtain one night waiver and all the employees fly under it.

Can I hire you for a night waiver?

Yes, I charge a 1,000 flat fee which includes:

-1 night waiver application (for you or your company) which lasts for 4 years and is good for all of Class G airspace.

-30 minutes of answering any of your drone law questions.

-Monitoring and pushing the waiver application through the FAA to approval.

-Providing you with night training material that is needed for the waiver.

Why are you qualified to handle my night waiver?

-I’ve been in it from the beginning. One of my night waivers was in the very first batch of FAA 107 waivers approved on August 29, 2016.

-Experience. I have 100+ approvals.

-Time Savings. Let me handle the paperwork as opposed to you figuring things out.

– Qualified. I’m a licensed attorney and FAA certificated flight instructor which means I am extremely qualified to answer your aviation law questions.

-Insurance. I have malpractice insurance which protects you in case I mess up.

-Confidentiality. Our communications are protected by the attorney-client privilege. Additionally, the Florida Bar rules require me to maintain our communications confidential. “Consultants” do not have this requirement and any communication with a consultant is not privileged meaning the FAA or law enforcement can compel the consultant to testify against you.

-Secure. The Florida Bar did a very intensive background check on me. I’m currently in good standing with the Florida Bar and have no disciplinary record. www.floridabar.org/mybarprofile/109249 How safe is your information with other people?

How can I get started hiring you?

Click here to contact me. Send me an email and I’ll send you a contract and invoice.

 

 

107-night-waiver-fly-cow

 

The Different Definitions in the Federal Aviation Regulations

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

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

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

14 CFR § 91.209 says, “No person may: 

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

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

14 CFR § 107.29 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice that different parts of the FARs are cited. Basically, if you are a commercial drone operator, you have the option of operating under Part 107 or under a Section 44807 exemption and all the applicable regulations.

Summarizing What is and is NOT Required

Part 107

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

Section 44807 Operators

  • Section 44807 operations “may not be conducted during night, as defined in 14 CFR § 1.1.” Part 1.1’s definition of night is tied back to the Air Almanac while Part 107 definition of civil twilight is fixed, unless you are in Alaska.
    • Why is this interesting? The length of twilight changes depending on what latitude you are operating at and also at what time of the year. Florida has a greater duration of twilight during the winter than during the summer. Additionally, Maine has a greater amount of twilight than Florida on the same day because Maine is higher in latitude. See The Duration of Twilight, and if you are in the U.S., page 1 of this graph. Another interesting thing is that for those of us living in Florida, we got a good deal and picked up more operating time under 107 than those operating under a 44807 exemption; however, those in the northern latitudes got goofed over and could actually operate longer under a 44807 exemption than they could under 107.  I used the U.S. Naval Observatory calculator to compare Miami to Seattle during the winter and summer solstices.

       

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

      Miami, Florida

      26 Minutes

      25 Minutes

      Seattle, Washington41 Minutes

      37 Minutes

       

  • 14 CFR § 61.57(b) does NOT apply because you aren’t carrying passengers. Interestingly, some of the early section 333 exemptions (now section 44807 exemptions) had a 90-day currency requirement (see Aerial Mob’s exemption at restriction 12) but the 90-day currency situation was done away with as time went on with the exemptions.
  • First off, this section is only for 44807 operators, not 107 operators. 14 CFR 91.209(a) is applicable only to those operating at night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future Regulations For Night Flying

In the beginning of January 2019, the FAA published a notice of proposed rule making which allowed for night flying without a waiver. Unfortunately, I don’t think this regulation will become effective till 3-5 years from 2019. I wrote a Forbes article summarizing what was in the lengthy notice of proposed rule making. Basically, the FAA will require those taking the initial and recurrent knowledge exams to learn night flying information.  I have created a night operations training course.

Night Operations Training (Night Illusions and Physiological Conditions Which May Degrade Night Vision)

The night waivers being granted by the FAA say, “Prior to conducting operations that are the subject of this Waiver, the remote PIC and VO must be trained, as described in the Waiver application, to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness, and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision. This training must be documented and must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative;”

Below is a sample video of the night operations training course I created.

One Big Benefit to Possessing a Part 107 Night Waiver

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

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

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

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

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

Procedures

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

When part–time Class C or Class D airspace defaults to Class E, the core surface area becomes Class E. This will be formatted as:
AIRSPACE: CLASS C svc ‘‘times’’ ctc APP CON other times CLASS E:
or
AIRSPACE: CLASS D svc ‘‘times’’ other times CLASS E.

When a part–time Class C, Class D or Class E surface area defaults to Class G, the core surface area becomes Class G up to, but not
including, the overlying controlled airspace. Normally, the overlying controlled airspace is Class E airspace beginning at either 700´
or 1200´ AGL and may be determined by consulting the relevant VFR Sectional or Terminal Area Charts. This will be formatted as:
AIRSPACE: CLASS C svc ‘‘times’’ ctc APP CON other times CLASS G, with CLASS E 700´ (or 1200´) AGL & abv:
or
AIRSPACE: CLASS D svc ‘‘times’’ other times CLASS G with CLASS E 700´ (or 1200´) AGL & abv:
or
AIRSPACE: CLASS E svc ‘‘times’’ other times CLASS G with CLASS E 700´ (or 1200´) AGL & abv.

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

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

Conclusion:

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


Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace. (2019)

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Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace.

The regulation says, “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).”

There are two methods for obtaining authorization: (1) through the FAA Drone Zone portal or (2) through LAANC.

Notice that it does NOT say class A airspace. It also does not require authorization for class E airspace everywhere but only Class E  (1) at the surface and  (2) in connection with an airport airspace.  The FAA clarified this in an internally published memo on January 10, 2018 from Scott Gardner.

Text of the Memorandum Clarifying Class E Airspace

Date: January 10, 2018
To: AJV-115From: Scott J. Gardner, Acting Manager, Emerging Technologies, AJV-115
Subject: 14 CFR 107.41 Class E Surface Area Authorizations

In reviewing Class E Surface Area authorization requirements, we determined that the Class E authorization requirement only pertains to Class E surface areas for an airport, not the Class E extensions to Class D, C and E airspaces. 14 CFR 107.41 states: “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)”. FAA Order 7400.11B identifies the different types of Class E airspace. The only type of Class E airspace that matches the language in 107.41 is paragraph 6002, which states: “The Class E airspace areas listed below are designated as a surface area for an airport.” The others are as follows:

E1 – Class E Airspace at and above 14,500 feet MSL
E2 – Class E airspace areas designated as a surface area for an airport
E3 – Class E Airspace Areas Designated As An Extension To A Class C Surface Area
E4 – Class E Airspace Areas Designated as an Extension to a Class D or Class E Surface Area
E5 – Class E Airspace Areas Extending Upward From 700 Feet Or More Above The Surface of The Earth
E6 – En route Domestic Airspace Areas
E7 – Offshore Airspace Areas
E8 – Class E Airspace Areas Designated As Federal Airways

Therefore, effective immediately, we only need to provide authorizations for Class E airspace if the airport itself is a Class E airport. When processing applications verify that the requested airspace is listed in FAA Order 7400.11, paragraph 6200 or is indicated on a VFR sectional chart as indicated in the attachments. If the requested airspace is not listed or depicted then an authorization is not required under 14 CFR Part 107.41. The request can be cancelled and inform the applicant that an authorization is not needed for Class E extensions to Class D/C airspace.

If you have any questions please contact Scott Gardner at 202-267-8192, or email [email protected]

Echo airspace is in many locations which is why the FAA breaks it up into 8 different E classifications. For purposes of 107.41, they are referring to E2. Let’s dive into some examples.

E2 – Class E airspace areas designated as a surface area for an airport


E3 – Class E Airspace Areas Designated As An Extension To A Class C Surface Area

    
E4 – Class E Airspace Areas Designated as an Extension to a Class D or Class E Surface Area


E5 – Class E Airspace Areas Extending Upward From 700 Feet Or More Above The Surface of
The Earth

So what else has the FAA said on 107.41?

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace.

Operation Near Airports; in Certain Airspace; in Prohibited or Restricted Areas; or in the Proximity of Certain Areas Designated by a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). Though many sUAS operations will occur in uncontrolled airspace, there are some that may need to operate in controlled airspace. Operations 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, are not allowed unless that person has prior authorization from air traffic control (ATC). The link to the current authorization process can be found at www.faa.gov/uas/. The sUAS remote PIC must understand airspace classifications and requirements. Failure to do so would be in violation of the part 107 regulations and may potentially have an adverse safety effect. Although sUAS will not be subject to part 91, the equipage and communications requirements outlined in part 91 were designed to provide safety and efficiency in controlled airspace. Accordingly, while sUAS operating under part 107 are not subject to part 91, as a practical matter, ATC authorization or clearance may depend on operational parameters similar to those found in part 91. The FAA has the authority to approve or deny aircraft operations based on traffic density, controller workload, communication issues, or any other type of operations that could potentially impact the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic in that airspace. Those planning sUAS operations in controlled airspace are encouraged to contact the FAA as early as possible. (For suggested references, please see paragraph 2.3.)

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

Turning to concerns about operations in controlled airspace, this rule will prohibit small UAS operations in Class B, Class C, Class D, and within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport without prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the airspace. The FAA factors information such as traffic density, the nature of operations, and the level of safety required when determining whether to designate controlled airspace. The requirement for small UAS to receive approval from the ATC facility with jurisdiction over the airspace in which the remote pilot in command would like to conduct operations allows local ATC approval to provide a safer and more efficient operating environment.

In the NPRM, the FAA proposed limiting the exposure of small unmanned aircraft to other users of the NAS by restricting small UAS operations in controlled airspace. In addition, the NPRM proposed prohibiting small UAS operations in prohibited and restricted areas without permission from the using or controlling agency. The proposed rule also prohibited operation of small UAS in airspace restricted by NOTAMs unless authorized by ATC or a certificate of waiver or authorization.

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will adopt the provisions for operating in Class B through E airspace and in prohibited or restricted areas as proposed in the NPRM, but with the option to request a waiver from the provisions for operating in Class B through E airspace. This rule will not adopt the provisions for compliance with NOTAMs as proposed, but will instead require compliance with §§ 91.137 through 91.145 and § 99.7, as applicable. This rule will also not adopt the proposed prohibition on operations in Class A airspace because the other operational restrictions of this rule will keep a small unmanned aircraft from reaching Class A airspace. Lastly, this rule will add a prohibition against small unmanned aircraft operations that interfere with operations and traffic patterns at any airport, heliport or seaplane base.

a. Operations in Class B, C, D, and lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E
airspace designated for an airport
The NPRM proposed to require prior permission from Air Traffic Control (ATC) to operate in Class B, C, or D airspace, or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of
Class E airspace designated for an airport. The NPRM did not propose equipment requirements for small UAS operating in controlled airspace, nor did it propose to require small UAS to demonstrate strict compliance with part 91 in order to operate in controlled airspace.

Several commenters including AOPA, EAA, and the Small UAV Coalition, supported the FAA’s proposal that remote pilots obtain ATC approval prior to operating small UAS in Class B, C, or D airspace, or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport. Some commenters added that they would like clarification that ATC approval does not mean the FAA issuance of a COA. The International Air Transport Association supported the proposal and stated this requirement should not be allowed to impede ATC’s primary responsibility to manage traffic. Transport Canada requested clarification on the process for requesting ATC approval. Foxtrot Consulting and JAM Aviation expressed concern about inconsistent application of the regulation by ATC facilities.

Some of these commenters requested that the FAA provide guidance to ATC facilities regarding the handling of requests to operate small UAS in controlled airspace. Modovolate Aviation agreed with the proposed framework, but suggested that the FAA should provide guidance on how ATC permission would be obtained. The Small UAV Coalition asked the FAA to provide contact information for each ATC facility, and to agree to provide timely decisions on whether to authorize operations in controlled airspace. NBAA suggested prohibiting use of ATC frequencies to obtain the required permission.

In response to comments, the FAA will establish two methods by which a remote pilot in command may request FAA authorization for a small unmanned aircraft to operate in Class B, C, D, and the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport. The first method is the same as what was proposed in the NPRM: a remote pilot in command may seek approval from the ATC facility with jurisdiction over the airspace in which the remote pilot would like to conduct operations. The second method allows a remote pilot to request a waiver from this provision in order to operate in Class B through E airspace. As stated in the NPRM, the appropriate ATC facility has the best understanding of local airspace, its usage, and traffic patterns and is in the best position to ascertain whether the proposed small UAS operation would pose a hazard to other users or the efficiency of the airspace, and procedures to implement to mitigate such hazards. The ATC facility has the authority to approve or deny aircraft operations based on traffic density, controller workload, communications issues, or any other type of operational issues that could potentially impact the safe and efficient flow of air traffic in that airspace. If necessary to approve a small UAS operation, ATC may require mitigations such as altitude constraints and direct communication. ATC may deny requests that pose an unacceptable risk to the NAS and cannot be mitigated.

The ATC facility does not have the authority to approve or deny small UAS operations on the basis of equipage that exceeds the part 107 requirements. Because additional equipage and technologies such as geo-fencing have not been certificated by the FAA, they therefore need to be examined on a case-by-case basis in order for the FAA to determine their reliability and functionality. Additionally, requiring ATC to review equipage would place a burden on ATC and detract from other duties. Instead, a remote pilot who wishes to operate in controlled airspace because he or she can demonstrate mitigations through equipage may do so by applying for a waiver.

Requests for authorization to operate a UAS in one of the above areas should be made by writing or an electronic method as determined by the Administrator and publicized on the FAA’s website. Requests for such authorization via air traffic control radio communication frequencies will not be accepted because they may interfere with the separation of aircraft.

The FAA is not committing to a timeline for approval after ATC permission has been requested because determining the level of review required for approval is dependent on the management at the individual facilities. The FAA also notes that the time required for approval will vary based on the resources available at the ATC facility and the complexity and safety issues raised by each specific request. The FAA encourages remote pilots who know that they will need to operate in Class B, C, D, or E airspace to contact the appropriate ATC facility as soon as possible prior to the operation.

While some UAS activity will still utilize a COA, operating under part 107 regulations will not require a COA where ATC permission is specified. The FAA is working concurrently on several other documents, including an advisory circular, and training and direction to ATC facilities that will provide guidance to users and ATC personnel as to procedures and responsibilities. This guidance will ensure consistent application of ATC permission and processes, to the extent practicable. The FAA notes that some discrepancies may arise due to the unique nature of different airspace.

Several commenters, including ALPA, TTD, and the University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, opposed allowing operations in class B, C, D, or E airspace. The University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences argued that this provision would place an undue burden on ATC, and that the well-established COA process would be a better mechanism than ATC permission. TTD suggested that the FAA adopt design provisions that ensure small UAS remain in the intended airspace when operating optimally, as well as risk mitigation technology when command controls are lost, and that operations in controlled airspace be banned in the absence of such provisions. ALPA stated that it does not believe there is sufficient information on which to base a sound safety case for allowing small UAS into controlled airspace at this time. Several commenters including SWAPA, Airport Council International-North America and the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, thought a real-time two-way communication requirement should be included. The Property Drone Consortium opposed the requirement to notify ATC, while adding that it believed this requirement imposed burdens on UAS operators that are different from those imposed on manned operations.

The FAA does not believe that prescriptive design provisions are necessary in this rule. The FAA acknowledges the concerns raised by the commenters but notes that, as of this writing, safety-relevant equipage such as transponders has not been certificated for use on a small UAS. Additionally, there could be small UAS operations with operational parameters that would make those UAS not a danger to manned aircraft even if positive control is lost. For example, a small unmanned aircraft flying at low altitude and surrounded by natural barriers that would stop the aircraft from flying away would not pose a danger to other aircraft, even in the absence of equipage mitigations. Thus, this rule will retain the framework allowing the FAA to evaluate operations seeking to be conducted in controlled airspace on a case-by-case basis, and will not impose generally applicable design or equipage provisions on all small UAS operations. The FAA will continue to monitor the development of small UAS technology and may revisit this issue once the pertinent technology becomes more mature and additional safety data is available. This framework is similar to the regulatory construct underlying controlled-airspace access under part 91. Specifically, while part 91 imposes minimum equipage requirements on aircraft seeking to operate in controlled airspace, part 91 also gives ATC the power to
authorize aircraft that do not have the required equipage to access the airspace. Part 107 provides ATC with a similar power to evaluate whether an individual small UAS operation may safely be conducted in controlled airspace even though the unmanned aircraft lacks equipage typically used to mitigate safety concerns in that airspace.

Additionally, the FAA does not agree that the current COA process would be a better mechanism for operating in controlled airspace. Currently, when a small UAS operator applies for a COA, the Flight Standards Service in the FAA first addresses the equipage exemptions, and then if a favorable outcome is reached, the operator is allowed to operate in Class G airspace up to 200 feet AGL. If an operator wishes to operate in controlled airspace, under the previous COA framework, the request is sent to the air traffic service center. The service center then works with the appropriate ATC facility to respond to the request. This rule will streamline the process, such that equipage no longer needs to be reviewed by the FAA if the part 107 requirements are met. Therefore, the only outstanding step in the COA process would be resolving requests to operate in controlled airspace. This rule incorporates that step within the ATC-permission framework, making the COA process unnecessary for part 107 operations.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University supported the proposed rule and proposed adding a filed flight plan option in lieu of explicit ATC approval. The City and County of Denver, Colorado, insisted that permission should be granted only for essential commercial, non-recreational purposes. Airport Council International–North America and the American Association of Airport Executives stated that ATC should only grant permission when there is a specific need to do so. The Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue asked that public safety operators be exempt from the requirement to obtain ATC approval prior to operating in controlled airspace.

The FAA does not agree with Embry-Riddle’s proposal to add a flight plan option in lieu of ATC approval. Filing a flight plan would not alert ATC in advance as to the nature of the operation, nor would it give them an opportunity to apply mitigations in a timely manner. The FAA also notes that the flight plan system is set up for point-to-point flights. Adapting it for small UAS operations would be a technology hurdle and would introduce unnecessary delay into the rule. Therefore, a flight plan is not a viable substitute for obtaining ATC permission.

Additionally, ATC should not be placed in the position of validating the need of any specific operation. Any decision on allowing an operation within the appropriate ATC facility’s jurisdiction will take into account the workload of the controller. If it is anticipated the volume of traffic could change, the facility might require a means to terminate a small UAS operation in real-time, such as two-way radio or cell phone communication.

The FAA also notes that this rulemaking does not apply to recreational small UAS operations that are conducted in accordance with section 336 of Public Law 112-95. Further, the FAA does not agree that public safety operators should be exempt from the requirement to obtain ATC approval prior to operating in controlled airspace. Although public safety operators may have time-critical aspects to their operations, the risks associated with flying in controlled airspace remain the same regardless of the type of operation. The requirement for ATC approval gives ATC the opportunity to prescribe mitigations to address any risks associated with operating in controlled airspace. The FAA notes that while a public entity has the option to operate under a public COA, it may gain an operational advantage by operating under part 107. However, in electing to operate under part 107, a public entity is required to operate wholly under the part, and its operation would therefore be considered a civil operation.

Some commenters, including TTD and NAFI, expressed concern that the testing required by the proposed rule would not adequately prepare UAS operators to effectively communicate with ATC. The American Association of Airport Executives and the Associated General Contractors of America suggested that the FAA develop a protocol or guidance for UAS operators when communicating with ATC. NBAA asserted that if ATC requires two-way radio capability in their approval, the remote pilot should be required to hold at least a sport pilot airman certificate to ensure familiarity with ATC phraseology. Transport Canada asked whether FAA considered mandating that the UAS operator develop and adhere to procedures for loss of positive control that include communications with air traffic control. Similarly, CAPA said that the FAA should require procedures for operators of small UAS to notify the appropriate ATC agency when the UAS operator has lost positive control.

This rule does not mandate a specific method of communication with ATC. In its evaluation of a request to fly in controlled airspace, an ATC facility may request two-way radio communications as a condition of approval for that request. ATC’s evaluation may include assessing the experience and ability of the remote pilot in using proper phraseology. Imposing a general sport pilot certificate requirement would not ensure the appropriate knowledge and skills because sport pilots are not permitted to operate in class  B, C, or D airspace without an additional endorsement, and would not necessarily have the radio training or experience by virtue of holding a sport pilot certificate. Additionally, there are several means outside of an airman certificate that may provide proper ATC communication experience, such as airport ground personnel or air traffic controller training.

The FAA has not mandated specific coordination with ATC for manned or unmanned aircraft during a loss-of-control event. As described in the introduction to the FAA Safety Team (FAAST) course ALC-40, navigate, communicate. In other words, during an emergency, a pilot should maintain control of the aircraft, know where he or she is and where he or she intends to go, and let someone know his or her plans. To require a communication task during an emergency may distract a pilot from these priorities and possibly create additional risk. Proper flight planning by a remote pilot in command includes an assessment of the risk of violating regulatory airspace, and incorporation of mitigations and contingencies commensurate with that risk.

Prioria Robotics said the FAA should consider blanket access to airspace below 500 feet for small and micro class unmanned vehicles of less than 15 pounds, with exceptions for within one mile of airports. Prioria Robotics also recommended that only vehicles larger than 15 pounds be subject to airspace restriction. One individual stated that operations below 100 feet and farther than 3 miles from an airport in class B and C airspace should be allowed without ATC involvement. Similarly, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Radio Television Digital News Association, commenting jointly, suggested a sliding scale for operations that would require lower altitudes when closer to an airport for operations without ATC approval. DJI suggested that in lieu of restrictions in certain classes of airspace, the FAA should consider adopting an approach akin to the one that the agency has adopted in 14 CFR part 77, in which maximum altitude increases as distance to an airport increases.

The FAA disagrees with the assumption that the weight of an unmanned aircraft is the sole safety concern when operating in controlled airspace. The FAA designates the various classes of controlled airspace to allow ATC to provide separation services to instrument flight rules (IFR) and, in the case of class B and C airspace, VFR traffic. Controlled airspace surface areas have a high number of arriving and departing aircraft at altitudes below 500 feet and rely on ATC to assess and mitigate the associated risk. Trying to create a sliding scale that would require lower altitudes closer to an airport for operations without ATC approval would be complex because the slope would not be uniform. Instead, the slope would be shallower in the path of approach or departures, and steeper away from traffic flows. Each airspace has unique characteristics, and individual small UAS operations are different, making it impossible to establish a uniform standard. Allowing the local ATC facility to determine the feasibility of a small UAS operation is an efficient means to mitigate the risks involved in operating in controlled airspace.

The Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association, the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, and PlaneSense and Cobalt Air, commenting jointly, suggested that a NOTAM be issued when small UAS are flying in class B, C, D, and E airspace. The FAA disagrees with this suggestion because, in many instances, a NOTAM would not provide any additional level of safety. For example, neither a very low altitude operation (e.g., below 50 feet), nor a flight that is shielded by a taller structure that would preclude manned aircraft from operating in that area, would benefit from a NOTAM. In both instances there is a low probability that manned aircraft will be present in those areas.

The FAA has a responsibility to keep NOTAMs relevant to pilots, and NOTAMs that do not provide an additional level of safety may create information “clutter” during a preflight briefing. A facility may issue a NOTAM for the impacted timeframe after giving permission to a remote pilot to operate in controlled airspace, if appropriate. NOAA requested more details about requirements for civil UAS operated in the Mode C veil. In response, the FAA notes that operations conducted under part 107 do not need to comply with part 91 unless explicitly directed by part 107. The transponder requirement in the mode C veil (14 CFR part 91.215(b)(2)) is not required of part 107 operations.

NAFI asked what radio station license a small UAS operator would use on the aviation radio spectrum. In response, the FAA notes that licensing of radio stations is outside of its jurisdiction. The pertinent FCC guidance can be found in form 605 Schedule C (https://transition.fcc.gov/Forms/Form605/605c.pdf).

Several commenters, including the American Association of Airport Executives, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, suggested that the FAA require remote pilots wishing to operate in class B, C, D, or E airspace to also notify the appropriate airport operator. The City and County of Denver, Colorado, and the City of Phoenix Aviation Department added that UAS operators should be required to seek authorization from both ATC and the airport operator at least two full business days prior to small UAS operations in controlled airspace.

An airport operator does not have responsibility for air traffic or activities outside airport property. The FAA has been tasked with integrating UAS operations into the NAS, and notes that manned aircraft do not have a corresponding requirement to notify airport management. The ATC facility is the proper focal point for approval and notification for small UAS operations in controlled airspace under this rule.

The FAA does not agree that remote pilots must seek permission from an ATC facility at least two full business days prior to the small UAS operations. As discussed previously, the timeframe for ATC to process permission requests will vary based on the ATC facility, the airspace, and the small UAS operation. In some instances it may take less than two full business days to process a permission request and, as such, a requirement to submit the permission request two days in advance would be unnecessarily burdensome. The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association said operations in class B airspace should not be allowed without a transponder for operation above at least 200 feet AGL. Because part 107 operations are constrained to visual line of sight, they are confined to a limited area known to ATC. Requiring a transponder in class B airspace for all operations over a certain altitude would place a burden on the small UAS operation that might not provide any additional safety because all manned traffic (except under certain SFRA procedures).

As it pertains to this discussion, Special Flight Rules Areas are areas of tightly constrained altitude and path where VFR aircraft can traverse Class B airspace without receiving a clearance or talking to ATC.

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society expressed concern that UAS might inadvertently enter class B airspace. ALPA was concerned about the ability of a small UAS pilot/operator to correctly identify specific airspace areas and make the correct determination of whether operations are permitted or must be coordinated with ATC. This risk remains unchanged regardless of the restrictions imposed on operating in class B airspace. Other than the inner surface areas, there are very few instances where the floor of class B airspace is less than 1,000 feet above ground level, and therefore a vertical intrusion would be rare. The lateral boundaries of Class B airspace can be easily ascertained and avoided with proper planning of the operation. Airspace configuration is a knowledge area that will be tested for remote pilot certification, and a remote pilot should be aware of proximity of the unmanned aircraft to more restrictive airspace. Remote pilot certificate holders will also be regularly tested on their knowledge of airspace configuration, either as part of their flight review (for part 61 pilot certificate holders) or when they take the recurrent knowledge test (for non-part-61 certificate holders). In addition, applicants for a remote pilot certificate who do not hold a part 61 pilot certificate will be required to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test that includes knowledge of airspace, airspace operating requirements, and the use of aeronautical charts. Pilots who hold a part 61 pilot certificate with an aircraft category and class rating will not have to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test, but they will have acquired the pertinent knowledge in order to obtain their part 61 pilot certificate.

b. Operations in Class A airspace
The NPRM proposed prohibiting small UAS operations in Class A airspace. Class A airspace starts at 18,000 feet mean sea level and extends up to 60,000 feet.111 This rule will not adopt the proposed prohibition because a small unmanned aircraft will be unable to access Class A airspace without violating the other operational restrictions of part 107. The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, Crew Systems, and three individual commenters questioned the need for specifically prohibiting operations in Class A airspace. One of the individual commenters did not have an objection to the proposed restriction, but stated that the other operational restrictions in the NPRM would make it impossible to operate in Class A airspace. Another individual commenter pointed out that the only location where an operation could meet all of the operational restrictions proposed in the NPRM and still be in Class A airspace is near the summit of Mt. McKinley. This commenter suggested that an explicit restriction on Class A airspace operations was unnecessary, as no one would bother to carry a small UAS up a mountain in order to fly it.

The FAA agrees with the commenter who stated that other operational restrictions in the NPRM would make it impossible to operate in Class A airspace. Title 14 CFR section 71.33(b) designating Class A airspace in Alaska specifically excludes the airspace less than 1,500 feet above the surface of the earth. This eliminates the possibility of a small UAS operating under part 107 from reaching Class A airspace given the altitude limitations of the rule. Consequently, this rule will not adopt the proposed Class A airspace restriction.

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Ultimate Guide to U.S. Drone Regulations (2019)

drone regulations“Is my flying going to break some drone regulation and get me fined or sent to jail?”

We’ve all thought that.

We all get the drone as a gift, something to play with, or maybe so we can use it for business. We start flying it. We have lots of fun. But eventually, we ask ourselves “Are there any drone regulations I should know about?” After all, we don’t want to be “that guy” on the local 9 O’clock news with the horrible mugshot with frizzled hair.

I created this page as a directory for SOME of the U.S. drone regulations. Note: there are many different areas of the code of federal regulations that apply to drone flight. In this page, I am attempting to cover only the MAJOR portions that are applicable to most people. There is the potential for state drone laws to apply as well. I have a directory of state drone laws. The scope of this article is only for FEDERAL drone regulations, not state regulations or state or federal legislative laws.

This page also helps for studying for the drone pilot license in case you want to make some money using your drone. I have a step-by-step guide on how to obtain the drone pilot license as well as a large study guide to prepare for the test. The exam is about 15-25% just on regulations. There is also an online training course I have on drone regulations located here.

Before flying, you should contact a competent attorney before you fly to make sure things are “ok” in your neck of the woods regarding any drone regulations. Another reason for that is many states have state drone laws as well. This page is NOT considered legal advice.

This page is going to focus ONLY on federal drone regulations, not state drone regulations or federal/state drone legislative laws.

I. Overview of Drone Laws

Drone laws can be broken up into (1) drone law statutes created through a legislative process and (2) drone regulations created through a rule making process.

  1. Drone Laws Through the Legislative Process

The U.S. Government has through the legislative process created multiple federal legislative laws that apply to aircraft in general and also some that specifically address drones. I created a directory of federal drone legislation directory. In our form of government, the states have also created legislative state drone laws through a similar state process.

Now you might be wondering where the federal and state agencies play into all this. Congress cannot do everything and watch all the little things that need managing. This is why Congress creates an agency with a specific scope of jurisdiction and authority to create regulations. The process by which regulations are created is the rulemaking process.

 2. Drone Regulations Through the Rulemaking Process 

Federal agencies and state agencies create regulations through the rulemaking process.  Watch the video to see an overview of the process.

There are different U.S. federal agencies which have jurisdiction to regulate drones in some way such as the National Transportation and Safety Board and the Department of Transportation. If things couldn’t be complicated enough, states agencies have created drone regulations. The regulation either apply to aircraft generally (manned and unmanned) or drones specifically.

II. Code of Federal Regulations’ Drone Regulations

Unfortunately, there is not one place in the law where we can look and say “here specifically are all the drone regulations in sequential order.” There are many different regulations spread out all over that apply in certain circumstances. Certain regulations apply to the operations, import/export, foreign aircraft operation, registration, accident reporting, etc. Thankfully, we can say that ALL of the federal regulations are located in one code – the code of federal regulations………  Except the code is pretty huge. See the video for an overview.

This article is not going to be exhaustive in listing EVERY drone regulation that would apply to your drone operations. I’m going to cover the drone regulations which apply to the majority of Americans. Once again, contact a competent attorney before flying so as to make sure your flight is legal.

A. Federal Aviation Regulations’ Drone Regulations

Multiple parts of the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”) could apply to your drone flight but the 4 common areas of regulations are Part 47, Part 48, Part 101, and Part 107.

Part 47 – Paper Registration

Part 47 is the set of regulations that manned and unmanned aircraft register their aircraft under. This is the paper based method of registration which is annoying and takes a while to complete. The FAA created Part 48 for unmanned aircraft because (1) Part 47 would be costly to the FAA to run, (2) would back up the entire registration system, (3) and Part 47 has a finite amount of N numbers which means the drones would completely exhaust the supply for registration numbers.

Unmanned aircraft that are 55 pounds or more, intend to be operated outside of the territorial airspace of the United States, or registered through a trust or voting trust must register through Part 47. Everyone else has the option of register under Part 47 or Part 48.

Part 47 is per aircraft while Part 48 for model aircraft flyers is per person which means that a model aircraft flyer can save money going with Part 48.

Part 48 – Online Registration

This registration is only for drones weighing less than 55 pounds and more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft and operated outdoors in the national airspace system. Unmanned aircraft that are 55 pounds or more, intend to be operated outside of the territorial airspace of the United States, or registered through a trust or voting trust must register through Part 47.

Part 48 is the online method of registering your drone. The aircraft owner fills out the information on the websites and receives a Certificate of Aircraft registration will be delivered to the aircraft owner via the same web-based platform used to register the aircraft. The Certificate of Aircraft registration contains the drone owner’s name, issue date, and registration number. A Certificate of Aircraft Registration issued in accordance with part 48 is effective once the registration process is complete and must be renewed every three years. If you are flying your aircraft exclusively as recreational, you can create a registration identification for $5 which you can put on all of your aircraft.  If you are flying your aircraft as non-recreational, such as commercial or government, you would register each aircraft for $5. Persons 13 years of age and older are permitted to use the part 48 process to register a small unmanned aircraft. If the owner is less than 13 years of age, then the small unmanned aircraft must be registered by a person who is at least 13 years of age.

Owners of small unmanned aircraft must register their aircraft prior to operation of the sUAS. Part 48 as applied to model aircraft flyers was briefly declared illegal with the Taylor v. FAA case but the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 undid the Taylor v. FAA case ruling which means that unless there is another court ruling over turning the NDAA of 2017, you should follow the law.

Part 91 

This is a set of operating regulations for aircraft both manned and unmanned. You have different ways to get airborne legally with a drone. You have the options of operating under Part 91 or under Part 107. Part 107 is far easier to comply with for most operations but there are times when you need to operate under Part 91. Prior to Part 107, the only thing available was Part 91, and other parts of the FARs, for drone operations. During this time, we operated under Section 333 (now called Section 44807) exemptions and the rest of the regulations.

Since we have Part 107, why would anyone fly under this part?  Operations of unmanned aircraft weighing 55+ pounds, public aircraft operations, and unmanned aircraft air carrier operations. It might surprise you but public aircraft operations under public COAs and some Section 44807’s still use this method.  You should check out my article on Section 333 v Part 107 v. Public COAs.

Most individuals flying under Part 107 come in contact with regulations from this part because Part 107 references the alcohol and drug prohibitions and flight restriction regulations listed in Part 91.

Part 93 –  Special Air Traffic Rules for Certain Locations

“This part prescribes special air traffic rules for operating [drones] in certain areas described in this part, unless otherwise authorized by air traffic control.” You might be saying, “Hey, I didn’t hear anything about Part 93.”  Well, yes you did. You just did not know it.

The FAA made a huge amount of noise over the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area Sections (93.251 – 93.253) back in 2015 and 2016. This area is heavily restricted some of it is a complete no drone zone. So yes, the FAA believes that Part 93 DOES apply to unmanned aircraft. Note that this part applies only to the locations listed below. If you are operating on one of those locations, read the regulations to see if they apply to you and your operation.

Part 101 -What Model Aircraft Flyers Operate Under

Please note that the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 substantially changed things with how recreational drones are flown. Do NOT rely on Part 101. Read my article on the new recreational drone laws.

Part 107 – Remote Pilot Certification, Operating Rules, Aircraft Requirements, etc.

This is what most of America flies under with their drones. Recreational, commercial, and government pilots can all fly under this Part 107 which is far easier to comply with than Part 91.  Part 107 tells you how to obtain your remote pilot certificate, how to lose it by violating the operating rules, and how to get waivers from certain types of operating restrictions.

I have a whole in-depth article on Part 107 by itself. Click here to read it………..

Part 137 – Spraying from a Drone (Mosquito Abatement, Crop Dusting, Fertilizer, etc.)

If you are flying your drone “for the purpose of 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[,]” then you your operations will be falling under Part 137.

This part applies to recreational and commercial drone operators. Sections of Part 137 cannot be complied with easily so if you want to do some drone spraying operations, you’ll need an exemption from certain sections of the regulations. Contact me if you need help with one.

B. Other Regulations from Federal Agencies (NOAA, DOI, etc.)

When you think of drones, you automatically think of the FAA but other federal agencies have federal regulations in the CFR that could potentially apply to your flight.  Here are SOME of the ones I have seen pop up or get people in trouble.

1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations 

50 CFR § 27.34 Aircraft – “The unauthorized operation of aircraft, including sail planes, and hang gliders, at altitudes resulting in harassment of wildlife, or the unauthorized landing or take-off on a national wildlife refuge, except in an emergency, is prohibited. National wildlife refuge boundaries are designated on up-date FAA aeronautical charts.”

50 CFR § 27.71 Commercial filming and still photography and audio recording. – 

“(a) We authorize commercial filming and still photography on national wildlife refuges under the provisions of 43 CFR part 5.

(b) Audio recording does not require a permit unless:

(1) It takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are not allowed;

(2) It uses equipment that cannot be carried or held by one person;

(3) It uses equipment that requires an external power source; or

(4) We would incur additional administrative costs to provide management and oversight of the permitted activity to:

(i) Avoid unacceptable impacts and impairment to wildlife or resource values;

(ii) Minimize health or safety risks to the visiting public

(c) Failure to comply with any provision of 43 CFR part 5 is a violation of this section.

…….”

2. National Marine Fisheries Service (a.k.a. NOAA Fisheries)

50 CFR § 224.101 Enumeration of endangered marine and anadromous species.

Brendan Schulman posted a letter on Facebook of a letter a person received who shot drone footage over a whale in Florida. The letter mentioned this regulation.

“(c) Approaching right whales—

(1) Prohibitions. Except as provided under paragraph (c)(3) of this section, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to commit, attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or cause to be committed any of the following acts:

(i) Approach (including by interception) within 500 yards (460 m) of a right whale by vessel, aircraft, or any other means;

(ii) Fail to undertake required right whale avoidance measures specified under paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

(2) Right whale avoidance measures. Except as provided under paragraph (c)(3) of this section, the following avoidance measures must be taken if within 500 yards (460 m) of a right whale:

(i) If underway, a vessel must steer a course away from the right whale and immediately leave the area at a slow safe speed.

(ii) An aircraft must take a course away from the right whale and immediately leave the area at a constant airspeed.

(3) Exceptions. The following exceptions apply to this section, but any person who claims the applicability of an exception has the burden of proving that the exception applies:

(i) Paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section do not apply if a right whale approach is authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service through a permit issued under part 222, subpart C, of this chapter (General Permit Procedures) or through a similar authorization.

(ii) Paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section do not apply where compliance would create an imminent and serious threat to a person, vessel, or aircraft.

(iii) Paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section do not apply when approaching to investigate a right whale entanglement or injury, or to assist in the disentanglement or rescue of a right whale, provided that permission is received from the National Marine Fisheries Service or designee prior to the approach.

(iv) Paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section do not apply to an aircraft unless the aircraft is conducting whale watch activities.

(v) Paragraph (c)(2) of this section does not apply to the extent that a vessel is restricted in her ability to maneuver and, because of the restriction, cannot comply with paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

………”

3. National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Regulations (15 CFR Part 922)

There are marine sanctuaries all over the US. Each sanctuary has its own set of regulations in Part 922. If you are studying this out, you want to pay attention that subparts A through F apply to the entire program so don’t just pick one subpart that applies to the particular sanctuary and read only that!  NOAA has a whole article explaining the regulations and the history of them. 

 


Ultimate Drone Logbook Guide (Law, Reviews, etc.) [2019]

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 Section 333 (now called Section 44807) exemptions were released. There continues to be a provision in the Section 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 (now called Section 44807) 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 (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 record keeping 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. 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
    • 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. 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 44807 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).

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. :)


Section 107.31 Visual line of sight aircraft operation. (2019)

Section 107.31 limits how far an aircraft can fly from the remote pilot in command. The distance is NOT set in stone. The distance changes depending on multiple factors. To understand what affects the distances, we need to understand the regulation.

Section 107.31 says:

(a) With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the remote pilot in command, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight control of the small unmanned aircraft system must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to:

(1) Know the unmanned aircraft’s location;

(2) Determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction of flight;

(3) Observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards; and

(4) Determine that the unmanned aircraft does not endanger the life or property of another.

(b) Throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, the ability described in paragraph (a) of this section must be exercised by either:

(1) The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system; or

(2) A visual observer.

The distance is determined by how well the remote pilot can do the things listed in (a)(1)-(4). Obviously a young person flying a large drone during the day will see a drone farther away than an older person flying a small drone during the evening. Because everyone is unique, this means the distance for 107.31 is unique to each person as well.

The regulations do allow for first person viewing (FPV) racing under Part 107 provided you have a visual observer operating according to Section 107.33. The aircraft must still be flown WITHIN line of sight and the remote pilot must be able to exercise the capability in 107.31(a) at any time. They should be able to pull off the goggles and find the drone quickly.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.31 Visual line of sight aircraft operation from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

Currently, 14 CFR 91.113(b) imposes a generally applicable requirement that, during flight, “vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft.” This see-and-avoid requirement is at the heart of the FAA’s regulatory structure, mitigating the risk of aircraft colliding in midair. This requirement is currently satisfied in manned-aircraft operations by a pilot on board the manned aircraft looking out from inside the aircraft to see whether other aircraft are on a collision course with the pilot’s aircraft. However, the person controlling the small UAS cannot see other aircraft in the same manner because he or she is not inside the aircraft. That is why Public Law 112-95, section 333(b)(1) requires the FAA to consider, as a critical factor in this rulemaking, whether a small UAS operation is conducted “within visual line of sight.”

To address this issue, the NPRM proposed that the operator of the small UAS must always be capable of maintaining visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft unaided by any technology other than glasses or contact lenses. The NPRM also proposed creating a new position of visual observer to assist the operator in maintaining visual line of sight. Under that proposal, if a visual observer is used in the operation, then the visual observer could watch the small unmanned aircraft instead of the operator. However, if a visual observer was not used in the operation, then the operator would have to exercise his or her visual-line-of-sight capability to watch the small unmanned aircraft.

As proposed in the NPRM, the operator or visual observer would have to be able to see the small unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: (1) know the unmanned aircraft’s location; (2) determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction; (3) observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards; and (4) determine that the unmanned aircraft does not endanger the life or property of another. The NPRM also proposed that even if a visual observer is used, at all times during flight, the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will make three changes to the NPRM visual-line-of-sight framework but will otherwise finalize it as proposed. First, because of the change in the small UAS crewmember framework (discussed in the previous section of this preamble), this rule will replace the operator with the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS and the remote pilot in command, who in many instances will be the same person. Second, this rule will make clarifying amendments to the regulatory text. Third, this rule will make the visual-line-of-sight requirement waivable.

A number of commenters expressed concern about whether the visual-line-of-sight framework proposed in the NPRM would sufficiently mitigate risk. Foxtrot Consulting, the Air Medical Operators Association, the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association, and several individuals asserted that the unaided human eye is not adequate to see and avoid other aircraft. Additionally, these commenters argued that the small unmanned aircraft will be too small to be seen by a manned-aircraft pilot, and, with no lighting requirement, the unmanned aircraft may be all but invisible, particularly in minimum visual-flight-rules (VFR) conditions.

Similarly, commenters, including A4A and several individuals, questioned whether small UAS remote pilots would be capable of perceiving potential conflicts and responsibly complying with the principle of “see and avoid.” These commenters asserted that since small UAS are unmanned, they are inherently unable to comply with current “see and avoid” requirements of 14 CFR 91.113(b) in visual flight conditions. The commenters argued that a remote pilot may not have sufficient perceptual accuracy to determine whether or not a small unmanned aircraft is on a collision course with another aircraft. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society suggested that the FAA conduct a systematic, scientific study of factors that affect an observer’s ability to estimate altitude and airspeed. A joint comment from Skycatch, Clayco, AECOM, and DPR Construction suggested that rather than relying merely on an operator’s eyesight, the FAA should employ a risk-based approach to allowing operations.

The FAA recognizes that one of the issues with small UAS is that a person on the ground cannot see and avoid other aircraft in the same manner as a pilot who is inside a manned aircraft. The FAA also agrees that due to relative size of aircraft, a remote pilot will most likely be able to see and avoid a manned aircraft before the manned-aircraft pilot will see the small UAS. This issue is not unique to small UAS; manned vehicles currently in the NAS range from a few hundred pounds to 1.4 million pounds and pilots have similar challenges regarding see-and-avoid. The FAA has mitigated the risk in this rule through operational parameters that reduce the risk of a midair collision. Because of the limits on their access to airspace that is controlled or at higher altitudes, small unmanned aircraft will avoid busy flight paths and are unlikely to encounter high-speed aircraft that would be difficult for the remote pilot to see-and-avoid. Additionally, as discussed below, this rulewill also specify minimum requirements for weather and visibility to maximize the remote pilot’s ability to see incoming manned aircraft and avoid a collision with those aircraft. The FAA disagrees with the notion that remote pilots operating under the visualline-of-sight framework of this rule will be incapable of perceiving potential conflicts with other aircraft. In many cases, the remote pilot’s perspective from the ground may be better than the perspective of a pilot onboard an aircraft because the remote pilot is not confined to a cockpit with vision obscured by the fuselage or flight control surfaces. The remote pilot is thus able to observe airspace 360° around the unmanned aircraft, including airspace above and below. Thus, the person maintaining visual line of sight will be able to see potential conflicts with manned aircraft. Furthermore, as discussed below, this rule will require the small unmanned aircraft to always yield the right of way to other users of the NAS.

Several commenters, including the News Media Coalition, NAMIC, and Drone Labs, LLC objected to the proposed limitation that visual line of sight must be maintained unaided by any technology other than corrective lenses. These commenters suggested that the rule allow the use of first-person-view (FPV) technology, arguing that available technologies have advanced to the point that operators can use FPV to meet or exceed the visual-line-of-sight requirements proposed in the NPRM. United Parcel Service (UPS) asserted that FPV technology has been safely and effectively used in the UAS hobbyist community for many years.

The Drone User Group Network stated that FPV operations should be permitted with mandatory use of a spotter. Predesa said that a wearable heads-up display that combines the FPV from the small UAS and a wider-angle view from a ground camera located near the operator may provide the same risk mitigation as that afforded by the visual observer. The University of Washington and a joint submission by the State of Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, and the Nevada FAA-designated UAS Test Site said that current FPV technologies offer a wider field of vision than the human eye. DJI stated that existing technology already provides superior orienting abilities over visual observers. One individual referenced a 2004 test conducted by NASA that indicated that FPV cameras mounted on pan-tilt gimbals can be used to scan virtually the entire airspace. This commenter also acknowledged FPV limitations “…such as the field-of-view of the camera (too wide provides less detail, too narrow limits situational awareness), total field-ofregard, clarity, and range of the transmitted video.”

Some commenters, including the University of California, the National Roofing Contractors Association, and, AIA, stated that use of a FPV device should be allowed to meet the visual-line-of-sight requirements of this rule under certain circumstances, such as when other navigation and control technologies are available in the vehicle (e.g., autonomous flight, onboard geo-fencing, sense-and-avoid technology) and mitigating measures are required (e.g. altitude, weight, location, and speed limitations, location or the use of visual observers). Exelon and Skyview Strategies said that FAA should include specific criteria or standards under which the technology would be allowed to be used, either alone or in conjunction with other technologies and procedures.

Other commenters supported the NPRM’s proposed limitation on the use of technology to maintain visual line of sight. Commenters, including NAAA, ALPA, SkySpecs, and the U.S. Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, pointed out that FPV technology remains unproven and unreliable and the FPV field of view is limited. ALPA specifically stated that “[t]he use of an on-board camera cannot replace the awareness provided by direct observation by the operator/pilot or designated visual observer.” FPV technology works by transmitting video feed from a camera carried by the small unmanned aircraft to the control station. The problem with relying on FPV technology for the ability to see and avoid other aircraft in the NAS is that an FPV camera’s field-of-view is currently either very limited (narrow-field-of-view lens ≤ 30 degrees horizontal and 10 degrees vertical) or distorted (usually fish-eyed if using a widefield-of-view lens). A narrow field-of-view lens poses a safety issue because it restricts the user’s peripheral vision, which is used to detect incoming aircraft or other objects that may pose a safety hazard. A wide-field-of-view lens poses a safety issue because it reduces the angular resolution available to the user, making it necessary for an object in the monitor to be closer to the camera before it covers enough pixels for the remote pilot to be able to detect it. In addition, FPV relies on a video transmitter to broadcast the image to the remote pilot. These transmitter/receiver units are commonly available in several frequency bands from 900 MHz to 5.8 GHz, each frequency band having distinct advantages and disadvantages as to range, susceptibility to interference, and ability to penetrate foliage. As of this writing, the FAA does not have validated data to indicate whether FPV can be used to safely conduct operations beyond visual line of sight and if so, what FPV performance specifications are required to support those operations. The FAA acknowledges that FPV cameras have been used by hobbyists for many years and that the technology is advancing rapidly within the growing industry. However, as discussed previously, FPV cameras have technical limitations and the FAA does not possess the data necessary to support a regulatory standard at this time.

The FAA also acknowledges the comments concerning technological or operational mitigations that could be used in conjunction with FPV. However, those mitigations have significant potential shortcomings that need to be explored prior to allowing them to be used in the NAS. For example, one of the commenters suggested the use of pan-tilt camera systems to mitigate for the shortcomings in FPV technology. While a pan-tilt system can allow a narrow-angle camera to scan a wider field of view, the system is still significantly inferior to the peripheral vision of the human eye, which can discern movement across the entire field of view, approaching 180 degrees in normal vision. Another commenter suggested the use of a wearable heads-up display. However, while a wearable heads-up display could possibly address some concerns about low-quality resolution present in wideangle cameras, sharing the screen area with a second ground-based camera feed could further compound the resolution issue. Additionally, the ability for a camera to provide a wider field of view also generally carries with it the significant downside of needing increased radio bandwidth for the higher resolution video. This could make the video feed more susceptible to increased noise interference or it could reduce the angular resolution, affecting target discernibility.

While data on FPV technology and potential associated mitigations is currently limited, the FAA recognizes the potential for this technology to provide a means of operating a small UAS beyond visual line of sight. For this reason, the FAA is currently conducting a pathfinder initiative with BNSF Railroad to gather safety data on operating beyond the visual line of sight of the remote pilot in rural/isolated areas. The FAA is also conducting a second pathfinder initiative with PrecisionHawk to gather data on UAS flights in rural areas outside the remote pilot’s direct vision. The FAA anticipates that data from these initiatives could help inform its approach to extend visual line of sight operations in future agency actions.

Further, to reflect the changing state of UAS technology and the limited data available at this time, the FAA has made the visual-line-of-sight requirements of this rule waivable. An applicant will be able to obtain a waiver for an operation conducted differently than what is required by the visual-line-of-sight requirements of part 107 if the applicant demonstrates that his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver. The FAA also emphasizes that this rule does not prohibit the use of FPV devices as long as the device is not used to meet the visual-line-of-sight requirements of part 107.

Several commenters argued that small UAS operations should be permitted to go beyond visual line of sight when certain other technologies are used. Predesa argued that visual pattern recognition technology to detect terrain and aircraft hazards could be used to mitigate the risk associated with beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations. The Oregon Department of Aviation, the Agricultural Technology Alliance, and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation Bureau of Aeronautics (New Hampshire Department of Transportation), among others, asserted that utilizing geo-fencing to constrain unmanned aircraft flight should safely permit beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations. In addition to these, other technologies suggested by the commenters included light detection and ranging (LIDAR), Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B), and automated navigation. The National Ski Areas Association noted that “collision detection and avoidance systems are in development,” and said that the final rule needs to “recognize and accommodate” these and other technological innovations. Many of the technologies suggested by the commenters only partially mitigate possible hazards. For instance, automated navigation and geo-fencing could protect against terrain and ground obstructions but would not reveal manned aircraft transiting the flight area. Conversely, TCAS could reveal transponder-equipped aircraft but would be ignorant of terrain or non-transponder-equipped aircraft. Some of the mentioned technologies, such as LIDAR and visual pattern recognition, have potential to detect both ground and airborne obstacles, but no commenters provided data to support a particular standard or a testing means to validate the ability and reliability of that technology. As of this writing, the FAA does not have sufficient data to find that a technology can safely satisfy the see-and-avoid requirement of part 107. Consequently, the FAA will consider these situations on a caseby-case basis through the waiver process. The FAA will also use the waiver process as one means by which to evaluate new technologies as they become more developed. Commenters, including Boeing Commercial Airplanes (Boeing), News Media Coalition, the Newspaper Association of America, NAMIC, Amazon, and Google, argued that a visual-line-of-sight requirement is unnecessary over certain areas such as those that are unpopulated, private property, controlled-access facilities, or where activities would be unduly restricted by a visual-line-of-sight requirement, and that operational safeguards could be employed to ensure safe beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations. The types of unduly restricted activities could include newsgathering events where people must remain at a distance from the event, agriculture operations, underwriting or adjusting claims in dangerous locations, responses to natural disasters, firefighting, search and rescue, and law enforcement operations. The types of operational safeguards proposed could include operating under FAA-imposed restrictions on weight, range, location, and altitude; and operating along pre-programmed and pre-approved paths through the use of mapping, navigation, and contingency management software.

The FAA recognizes that the location of a small UAS flight could affect the inherent risk of the operation. However, as discussed previously, there is currently limited data concerning operations conducted beyond visual line of sight. The FAA is working to acquire additional safety data as part of its pathfinder initiatives, but that data will not be available within the timeframe envisioned by this rule. Because there are a significant number of variables involved in each individual operating environment and because the FAA has limited data on beyond-line-of-sight operations, this rule will not include a standard of general applicability for these types of operations. Instead, the FAA will consider each individual operating environment (as well as any mitigations) on a case-by-case basis as part of its consideration of a waiver application.

Several commenters, including the American Farm Bureau and the American Petroleum Institute, suggested that beyond-line-of-sight operations should be permitted over privately owned land where the operator would be able to close access to nonparticipants. These commenters provided examples of pipelines and utility lines.

The FAA recognizes that controlling the ground in the vicinity of the flight could mitigate hazards to persons and property on the ground. However, the primary concern underlying the visual-line-of-sight restriction in this rule is risk to other aircraft in the air. Because a property owner is generally limited in how much he or she can restrict other aircraft from operating near the property, the fact that a property is privately owned is not, by itself, sufficient to allow beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations. As discussed earlier, individuals wishing to operate beyond visual line of sight will be able to apply for a waiver, and the FAA will examine individual operating environments on a case-by-case basis as part of its evaluation of a waiver application.

AIA and JAM Aviation suggested that the first sentence of § 107.31 should be amended to read: “With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the operator and visual observer must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight.” One individual stated § 107.31(b) should be amended to read: “Determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction of flight.” The commenter said the change is needed because for multi-rotor UAS, the direction of flight could be quite different from the nominal “front” of the aircraft. According to this commenter, the proposed wording could lead to confusion on what “direction” meant, whether it was the UAS’s path or the direction (bearing) from the remote pilot’s position.

As an initial matter, the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.E.1 of this preamble, the NPRM-proposed position of operator has been replaced by the remote pilot in command. Additionally, the remote pilot in command is not required to be the person who manipulates the flight controls of the small UAS. Accordingly, this rule will require both the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS to possess the ability to maintain visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft.

In response to the concerns raised by the commenters, the FAA has also clarified the regulatory text of § 107.31. As amended, § 107.31 states that the remote pilot in command, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight control of the small UAS must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: (1) know the unmanned aircraft’s location; (2) determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction of flight; (3) observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards; and (4) determine that the unmanned aircraft does not endanger the life or property of another. This visual-line-of-sight ability must be exercised throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft by either: (1) the visual observer; or (2) the remote pilot in command and person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command).

Several commenters, including Modovolate, Small UAV Coalition, and Southern Company, asked the FAA to make clear that brief interruptions to visual line of sight should be permitted. One commenter asked that a quantitative limit on what qualifies as a momentary interruption should be established. Another individual asked the FAA to make clear that the remote pilot’s primary mission is to scan the area for other aircraft and not to keep “eyes on” the small unmanned aircraft.

The FAA understands and accepts that the person maintaining visual line of sight may lose sight of the unmanned aircraft for brief moments of the operation. This may be necessary either because the small unmanned aircraft momentarily travels behind an obstruction or to allow the person maintaining visual line of sight to perform actions such as scanning the airspace or briefly looking down at the small UAS control station. For example, a remote pilot in command stationed on the ground utilizing a small unmanned aircraft to inspect a rooftop may lose sight of the aircraft for brief periods while inspecting the farthest point of the roof. As another example, a remote pilot in command conducting a search operation around a fire scene with a small unmanned aircraft may briefly lose sight of the aircraft while it is temporarily behind a dense column of smoke.

However, the FAA emphasizes that even though the remote pilot in command may briefly lose sight of the small unmanned aircraft, he or she always has the see-and-avoid responsibilities set out in §§ 107.31 and 107.37. The circumstances of what would prevent a remote pilot from fulfilling those responsibilities will vary depending on factors such as the type of UAS, the operational environment, and distance between the remote pilot and the unmanned aircraft. For this reason, the FAA declines to specify a quantitative value to an interruption of visual contact as it would have the effect of potentially allowing a hazardous interruption or prohibiting a reasonable one.

With regard to the comment concerning keeping “eyes on” the small unmanned aircraft, the FAA notes that the principles of scanning, long taught to manned aircraft pilots, include the dangers of “tunnel vision” and that an effective scan must encompass all areas of the environment a hazard could come from. The FAA agrees that to comply with § 107.31, the person maintaining visual line of sight must effectively scan the area and not necessarily be focused on constant visual contact with the small unmanned aircraft. Several commenters suggested that the FAA impose a numerical limit on how far away a small unmanned aircraft may travel from the person maintaining visual line of sight. ALPA, NBAA, NAAA, and the State of Nevada, Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems and Nevada FAA-designated UAS Test Site, commenting jointly, argued that an appropriate specific numerical distance should be imposed and be based on study or test data. Predesa stated that a numerical limit can be determined by the performance of the UAS, taking into account a margin that allows for winds and wind gusts, and power characteristics of the UAS battery. FLIR Systems, Inc., Aviation Management, the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and two individuals proposed specific numerical limits the FAA should impose on the area of operation. The numerical recommendations of these commenters varied widely from 1000 feet to 3 miles. An individual commenter suggested that some form of reliable and verifiable documenting of distance should be required.

The FAA declines to impose a numerical limit on how far away a small unmanned aircraft can travel from the person maintaining visual line of sight. A prescriptive numerical limit would not take into account situational-dependent operating factors and may preclude operations that could otherwise be conducted safely. Additionally, no commenter provided data to substantiate the belief that a numerical standard would provide a higher level of safety than the visual-line-of-sight standard proposed in the NPRM. This rule will also not include a documentation requirement regarding the distance of a small unmanned aircraft. A distance documentation requirement would impose an unjustified cost on the public because the permissible distance of the small unmanned aircraft from the remote pilot in command will be situation-specific. For example, a remote pilot in command operating in excellent visibility conditions will be able to fly the small unmanned aircraft farther away from him or herself and still maintain visual line of sight. Conversely, a remote pilot in command operating in poorer visibility conditions will have a more limited area where he or she can fly the small unmanned aircraft and still maintain the required visual line of sight.

PlaneSense, Inc. and Cobalt Air, LLC, in a joint submission, stated that the rule should also require that the operator or a visual observer have line of sight to the ground over which the small unmanned aircraft is flying. However, requiring a remote pilot or visual observer to have line of sight to the ground will not enhance the safety of this rule, and may prohibit certain operations that could otherwise be conducted safely under part 107. For instance, a small UAS operation over a disaster area containing no persons or property on the ground would not need to have line of sight to the ground to ensure the safe operation of the small UAS.

Airports Council International – North America suggested that the first sentence of § 107.31 should be amended to read: “With vision that is unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, the operator or visual observer must be able to see the unmanned aircraft and other aircraft to which the unmanned aircraft could pose a collision risk throughout the entire flight in order to….”

The FAA declines this suggestion because the requirement to be aware of other aircraft is already encompassed by the pertinent regulatory text of part 107. Specifically, § 107.31(a)(3) will require the remote pilot in command, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) to be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards. Other aircraft are considered air traffic and are thus covered by the regulatory text of § 107.31(a)(3).

The Washington State Department of Transportation, Aviation Division concurred “with the line-of-sight and reduced visibility parameters as described, with the exception that certain verified research and development operations … be allowed on a case-by-case basis, and for unique situations such as aerial observation to support firefighting where redundant systems may alleviate line-of-sight and visibility limitations.”

As an initial matter, the FAA notes that operations, such as those in support of firefighting, will not be subject to the provisions of part 107 if conducted as public aircraft operations. With regard to case-by-case determinations, the visual-line-of-sight restrictions of this rule will be subject to waiver. This means that a person will be able to apply for and obtain a certificate of waiver from the provisions of § 107.31 if the person establishes that the proposed operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver. The FAA will evaluate waiver requests on a case-by-case basis.

Commenters including several state farm bureau federations and FLIR Systems argued that a visual-line-of-sight requirement could potentially negate the cost and time savings associated with small UAS operations conducted over large swaths of land because the requirement would necessitate multiple flights to complete the operations. According tothese commenters, the potential safety risks associated with operations would also increase because more frequent takeoffs and landings would be required.

The commenters did not provide any data showing that there is increased risk or costs associated with the takeoff or landing of a small unmanned aircraft. As such, the FAA declines to change this rule on the basis suggested by the commenters. However, as discussed in sections III.E.1 and III.E.3.a.i of this preamble, this rule has been changed from the NPRM to allow: (1) the flight of a small unmanned aircraft over a sparsely populated area from a moving vehicle; and (2) a remote pilot in command to extend the area of operation by handing off control mid-flight to another remote pilot in command. Both of these changes, as well as the ability to apply for a waiver, will allow for additional operational flexibility under this rule.

A large number of commenters, including the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the Associated General Contractors of America, argued that visual line of sight should not apply to certain specific operations. Those operations included:
• Public safety/emergency.
• Conservation-focused operations.
• Operations by electric utilities for line inspection or for storm-damage restoration.
• Oil industry inspections.
• Property inspections.
• Agriculture.
• Newsgathering.
• Operations within a structure.

As an initial matter, the FAA does not regulate UAS operations conducted inside an enclosed structure. Similarly, as discussed earlier in this preamble, part 107 will not apply to public aircraft operations unless they voluntarily choose to operate as civil aircraft. Most public safety operations are conducted as public aircraft operations and will continue to be authorized by COA. Therefore, these types of operations, when conducted in accordance with a COA, will be unaffected by the requirements of part 107.

With regard to the other operations suggested by the commenters, there is currently no data indicating that the nature of the small UAS operation mitigates the risk associated with operations conducted beyond visual line of sight. The FAA recognizes that there are a variety of uses for UAS that this rulemaking will not enable. However, there are also a number of small UAS uses that will be enabled by this rule. If the FAA were to delay issuance of this rule until it had sufficient data to generally allow beyond-visual-line-ofsight operations, the societal benefits that could be realized by immediately allowing operations within visual line of sight would be delayed as well. Thus, the FAA will utilize the incremental approach discussed earlier in this preamble, under which the FAA will issue a rule for the lowest risk UAS activities while pursuing future rulemaking to expand their use. Additionally, as discussed previously, the waiver authority in this rule will enable the FAA to examine, on a case-by-case basis, any mitigation provided by the operating environment in the specific operations discussed by the commenters.

A number of commenters, including the National Roofing Contractors Association, Vail Resorts, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and MAPPS, suggested that small UAS operators should be permitted to extend their visual line of sight through the use of one or more visual observers who maintain visual line of sight while in constant communication with the operator. Continental Mapping Consultants, Inc. (Continental Mapping) similarly advocated for the use of one “or many” remote visual observers “daisy chained” throughout the operational area, while in constant contact with each other and the operator. The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Radio Television Digital News Association also asked the FAA to reconsider its proposed prohibition on a relay or “daisy chain” of visual observers. Specifically, the commenters said that the FAA should revise § 107.33(b) to require that either the operator or a visual observer be able to see the small UAS at all points during the flight.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association asserted that “adequate operational and public safety can be ensured” if operator visual line of sight is augmented by an additional visual observer who maintains visual line of sight while in communication with the operator. The association did not advocate for an “extensive or unlimited number” of observers to extend the range of UAS operations, but said a reasonable balance can be reached to allow more practical uses of UAS (such as operations on cattle ranches).Allowing remote pilots to extend their visual line of sight through the use of one or more visual observers may introduce new hazards into the operation. As discussed in the next section of this preamble, the visual observer’s role in the operation is limited to simply
maintaining visual line of sight and communicating what he or she sees to the remote pilot.Allowing “daisy chaining” of visual observers to fly the unmanned aircraft beyond line of
sight of the remote pilot in command would result in a delay in the remote pilot’s reaction time because the visual observer would have to verbalize any hazard and the remote pilot would be unable to look up and directly see the situation. Instead, the remote pilot would have to respond to the hazard by formulating and executing a maneuver based on his or her understanding of the information received from the visual observer rather than a direct visual perception of the hazard.

Because a delay in reaction time may introduce new hazards into the operation, this rule will retain the requirement that the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) must be able to see the small unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight. However, as discussed earlier, the visual-line-of-sight requirements of this rule will be waivable. Additionally, the FAA notes that it is currently engaged in research and testing on how a communication error could affect the ability of the remote pilot to correctly apply avoidance maneuvers, and this data will help inform future agency actions.

Textron Systems, the National Association of Realtors, Trimble Navigation, and ArgenTech Solutions recommended that this rule provide an operator with the ability to hand off control and responsibility for flight during the course of an operation. Textron Systems recommended that the rule “allow passing of ‘operator in command’ during flight operations as long as the system and the operational construct meet other requirements of the rule.” Trimble proposed that the FAA should explicitly permit multiple operators using networked radios and control stations to operate a single UAS. Under Trimble’s proposal, operators would transition control of the UAS from one operator to another while ensuring see-and-avoid concerns are met. Trimble also asserted that the technology needed to network radios and control stations is utilized in other countries for small UAS operations and has been found to be effective. The National Association of Realtors added that “daisy chaining” operators does not pose a safety concern because “[t]he real-time corrections necessary to perfect an UAS flight could be made instantaneously, rather than the observer communicating with the operator and there being a lag in the time the correction is orally given and then made within the operation.” NetMoby, on the other hand, recommended prohibiting hand-off ability because it could create an “endless daisy chain of operators.”

The FAA agrees with the commenters who stated that transfer of control of a small UAS should be allowed between certificated remote pilots. This can be accomplished while maintaining visual line of sight of the UAS and without loss of control. Multiple certificated remote pilots handing off operational control does not raise the same safety concerns as a daisy chain of visual observers because, unlike a visual observer, the remote pilot in command will have the ability to directly control the small unmanned aircraft. Thus, two or more certificated pilots transferring operational control (i.e. the remote pilot in command designation) to each other does not raise the delayed-reaction-time issue that arises with visual observers having to communicate what they see to another person who actually manipulates the small UAS flight controls.

Accordingly, as discussed in section III.E.1 of this preamble, multiple certificated remote pilots may choose to transfer control and responsibility while operating a small UAS. For example, one remote pilot may be designated the remote pilot in command at the beginning of the operation, and then at some point in the operation another remote pilot may take over as remote pilot in command by orally stating that he or she is doing so. The FAA emphasizes that as the person responsible for the safe operation of the UAS, any remote pilot who will assume remote-pilot-in-command duties should be aware of factors that could affect the flight.

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Drone Delivery – 3 Big Legal Problems (2019)

“So when can I start ordering stuff off Amazon and get it delivered to my front door via drone delivery?”

It would be sweet to order stuff online and get it dropped off quickly.

But are there any problems holding drone delivery up?

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

Brief Background on the Drone Delivery Craze

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

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

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

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

These drone delivery announcements have worked so well that when I tell people I’m a drone lawyer, I almost always get asked about when drone delivery will become a possibility. My answer is not anytime soon.

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

Privacy –Frequently Raised, but not a Drone Delivery Legal Barrier.

I don’t think privacy issues are going to be a problem because of 3 reasons:

(1) In the terms of service that no one will read, the language will be used to the effect that says it’s cool with the property owner to have the drone descend over their house and drop off the package.

(2) Missy Cummings, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, provided one potential solution of drone delivery companies and other companies partnering for delivery points. “Perhaps Starbucks could be your intermediary point.”

(3) Amazon’s patent on drone docking stations (attached to light poles or cell towers) won’t have property/privacy issues because that will all be taken care of in a contract agreement with the cell tower and power companies.

Most Drone Delivery News is of Operations Either Overseas or in Rural Areas

Most of what you have seen in the news is either in other countries, with different laws, or in rural areas of the U.S.

Most of the drone delivery operations were completed in rural/non-urban areas.

Amazon’s latest marketing efforts show a drone delivery to a person who happened to be living next door (~ 765 yards) to Amazon’s Cambridge, England facility. That’s great if you live near a test site –  in another country. The drone deliveries overseas ….really don’t matter to us in the U.S. because we have different laws here.

Up until August 29, 2016,  we only had the Section 333 exemption process (now the 44807 process), the public certificate of waiver or authorization (which is statutorily prohibits commercial operations), or the airworthiness certificate process coupled with a certificate of waiver or authorization – all three are difficult to operate under in reality and only two allow commercial operations. Thankfully, Part 107 went into effect on August 29, 2016 and is far less restrictive than the previous three options. This is why you might have noticed that after August 29th, the drone delivery announcements and the accompanying photos in the U.S. have started to look closer to what we envision a drone delivery should look like.

Even though things have become better because we have Part 107 and the new update to  Section 44807, areas of the law are still going to need to be changed before we see drone delivery at large scale.

3 Big Legal Problems With Drone Delivery Becoming a Reality for Americans.

Problem 1: FAA’s Part 107 Drone Regulations

These are the newly-created drone regulations that went into effect on August 29, 2016.

Part 107 does NOT allow air carrier operations. “‘[A]ir carrier’ means a citizen of the United States undertaking by any means, directly or indirectly, to provide air transportation.”[1] “‘[A]ir transportation’ means foreign air transportation, interstate air transportation, or the transportation of mail by aircraft.”[2]  In other words, Fedex, UPS, DHL, USPS, or anyone crossing state or national borders cannot operate under Part 107.

Bummer.

One interesting point is that Matternet did obtain approval to fly package delivery under Part 107. Why? They were flying for one hospital company in one area and its was extremely limited. The Department of Transportation basically determined this was not an air carrier since it was so limited.

Here is where things start to get limiting under Part 107 for drone delivery:

Following up on the last point, where are the most customers?

Near cities.

What are near cities? Airports….everywhere.

Let’s just pull some data from Arizona’s Amazon fulfillment distribution centers. Taxjar’s blog listed five address in Arizona (but it really is only four buildings).

  • #PHX3 – 6835 W. Buckeye Rd. Phoenix, AZ, 85043 – Maricopa County
  • #PHX5 – 16920 W. Commerce Dr. Goodyear, AZ, 85338 – Maricopa County
  • #PHX6 – 4750 W. Mohave St. Phoenix, AZ, 85043 – Maricopa County
  • #PHX7 – 800 N. 75th Ave Phoenix, AZ, 85043 – Maricopa County

I took these addresses and plugged them into the sectional map (green stars with green arrows) which shows us all the airspace in the Phoenix area. Calm down. I made it easy for you. I used to say to my flight students when I was flight instructing that these maps were like a form of job security because they are confusing to read. I marked out the areas where the drones cannot fly under Part 107 in red, unless they have an authorization or waiver.

drone-delivery-amazon-fullfilment-center-arizona

Two of the fulfillment centers are in controlled airspace and would require an authorization or waiver to just take off.

In short, under Part 107, Amazon has a host of regulatory problems they need to conquer just with the FAA to have cost-saving operations, but Part 107 isn’t the only way to make a drone operation legal. There is also the Section 44807 exemption process.

Problem 2: FAA’s Section 44807 Exemption for Commercial Drone Operations

It’s a lengthy process and requires alot of paperwork.

On top of that, 44807 is only for the aircraft. You’ll still need an exemption from parts of Part 135 to carry packages for other people.  If you think the exemption process is difficult, the Part 135 air carrier certification process can be brutal.

Thankfully, Google’s Wing Aviation, LLC managed to obtain the exemption and Part 135 operating certificate.  But here is the thing, the Part 135 operating certificate was for a single pilot. Yes, this was the easiest of the Part 135 certifications to obtain but this means in the near term you won’t have drones flying all over the place because its currently just one guy. …..and he works for Google.

UPS also obtained an exemption for package delivery and also obtained a Part 135 operating certificate. UPS is what I would consider the first real operational approval because of the 4 types of Part 135 certificates, UPS received a standard operating certificate “with no limits on the size or scope of operations. However, the operator must be granted authorization for each type of operation they want to conduct.”

Problem 3: States, Counties, Cities, & Towns All Regulating Drones – Death by a Thousand Papercuts

I see the people who want drone delivery falling into three categories: (1) those that value immediately possessing the item more than paying a high price, (2) those that don’t have any other choice (there is no next best alternative or the alternative is outside of their purchasing power), or (3) those that value the item now but not more than a high price.

A. Those that Value Immediately Possessing the Item More than Paying a High Price (Early Adopters)

There are some areas that are not price sensitive such as:

(1) Those that need delicate, limited, expensive, rare types of medicine immediately because the alternative is injury or death.

(2) Critical pieces of an operation. For example, a large piece of machinery broke down and there are many people (that the company is paying) just sitting around waiting for replacement parts. How much is it per hour to have the machinery NOT running?

(3) The rich guy down by the remote lake wants an anniversary gift, that he forgot to buy, for his wife right now. Maybe this should be in the (1) category because it’s kind of life or death?

Drones provide a great solution for the above categories because these people are interested more in decreased time than decreased costs.

B. Those That do not Have any Other Choice (There is no Next Best Alternative or it is Outside of Their Purchasing Power)

In other situations, the drone might be the only feasible solution due to weather, disaster, lack of infrastructure, etc. (Think hurricane relief or Alaska bush pilots flying supplies into remote villages). If you are delivering to remote areas, you look at things differently. Flexport’s article discussing Matternet’s drone operations in Lesotho explained:

As Raptopoulos of Matternet points out, Google and Amazon’s plans ignore drones’ best feature: they can go where there are no roads.

“One billion people in the world today do not have access to all-season roads,” Raptopoulos told a TED audience in 2013. “We cannot get medicine to them reliably, they cannot get critical supplies, and they cannot get their goods to market in order to create a sustainable income.”

For the Matternet team, the most interesting question was not the cost per delivery. They wanted to compare the cost of the drone network to the cost of building the roads Lesotho so badly lacks.”

These two above categories are elastic with price, but the third category, will be affected by the states, counties, cities, or towns creating drone law.  The first two categories might be the early adopters, but they will be the small minority of drone deliveries. Most people are near a road where a delivery truck can get to them and they most likely are not in a life or death situation.

C. Those That Value the Item Now but not More Than a High Price.

Amazon’s business model is that the drones will provide a lower cost of delivery.

Darryl Jenkins, who worked on the economic study outlook for the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said in his presentation,“Amazon will be able to push the per unit cost of delivery to at least $1.00 per package causing all other competitors to either adopt or die.” This is because of the economies of scale. But here is the problem, with a greater number of drones and drones operating across the U.S., more and more non-federal drone laws will need to be complied with.

Most people have four layers of government applying to them. These governments might have created drone laws. For example, where I used to live on Palm Beach Island, I had four layers of drone laws that applied to me: the Federal Aviation Regulations, the State of Florida’s Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act,[9] Palm Beach County’s ordinance prohibiting model airplane flights in county parks, and Palm Beach Island’s drone ordinance.

It isn’t super hard to track the state drone laws from 50 states and the federal government, but we don’t know everything going on with all the counties, cities, villages, boroughs, etc.

It’s not a patchwork quilt of drone laws, it’s worse. It’s like a huge puzzle, and you have only a couple hundred pieces so you have to go on a scavenger hunt to find the remaining pieces, but you don’t know if you need 1,000 pieces or maybe 10,000 more and the number of pieces just keeps growing.

Also, local governments use all sorts of different terms to describe the same thing, such as unmanned aircraft, drone, model aircraft, etc. (they like to pretend they are the FAA) which further increases the times it takes to search.

These unknown areas are going to have to be checked into which means there is a need for a drone regulatory compliance department in Amazon which means $$$$. If the cost of compliance goes up, Amazon’s business model starts to make less and less sense compared to what they are already doing now.

Another aspect of these non-federal drone laws is that some of these laws are motivated not by the desire to decrease public risk, but to increase revenue. As a greater number of the non-federal regulators start catching on, Amazon and all the other companies interested in drone delivery start looking like revenue generators for local governments. Even if the local governments aren’t greedy, their focus on safety and protecting their citizens generally results in some type of “safety” requirement that needs to be proven before they issue a permit/license which further drives up operating costs for the companies.

We all understand the Amazon most likely won’t save any money at first on drone delivery, but the with more and more drone laws getting created, lobbying, compliance, monitoring, insurance, permitting, etc. will all start eating further into the cost savings which means costs savings won’t be realized for years and years down the line. At a certain point, one or two guys operating out of big delivery van starts to look like a good idea again.

Because of these local drone ordinances & state laws, drone delivery suffers death by a 1000 regulatory papercuts.

Conclusion:

Many have written on this topic because they see the technology taking off. They see the progress in the technology that many have made and assume that drone delivery will be allowed soon. They get the “West Coast” mindset where they think if enough money and technology are thrown at the problem, it will be fixed regardless of the law. Additionally, most writing on or marketing drone delivery do not understand all the legal issues.

Aviation is an “East Coast” industry where the laws out of D.C. will heavily influence the business. Aviation is an extremely regulated environment. The faster the companies operating in this area realize that fact, the better off they will be so that they can actually do these types of operations.

Amazon still has a long way to go before drone delivery can be experienced in real life by the American public, not just as a short clip on the internet.

Interested in learning more about Part 107?

 

[1] 49 U.S.C. § 40102(a)(2)

[2] Id. at (a)(5).

[3] 14 CFR § 107.31.

[4] 14 CFR § 107.19.

[5] 14 CFR § 107.35.

[6] 14 CFR § 107.25.

[7] 14 CFR § 107.39

[8] 14 CFR § 107.41.

[9] F.S.S. § 934.50.


Section 107.39 Operation over human beings.

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Flying over non-participating people is currently prohibited by the FAA with regulations 107.39.  There are waivers that have been given to allow applicant to fly over people in certain circumstances.  If you search the directory of waivers that have been issued, you’ll notice that there have not been to many 107.39 waivers.

But before we dive into the waiver, let’s look at what the regulation actually prohibits because many people misunderstand this.

Section 107.39 Operation over human beings.

No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is:

(a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or

(b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.

What Are Direct Participants?

The FAA only considers 4 types of people to be participating directly and discusses this all below in great depth. (1) the remote pilot in command, (2) visual observer, (3) person manipulating the controls, and (4) a person necessary for the safety of the flight.

That’s it.

No, your camera man, actor, boss, customer, etc. cannot be considered to be participating unless they are one of those 4 things.

So Flying Over a Road is OK?

Nope.   Notice it is stationary vehicles, not moving vehicles.  Yes, the vehicle CAN protect the non-participants from the drone but……..the big problem is that the person might get scared and then crash the vehicle into other things (trees, other cars, other people, etc.).

Future Over People Regulations

At the beginning of 2019, the FAA announced a proposed rule making that would eventually allow people to fly over people without waivers. This is a huge thing as everything has to be done with 107 waivers currently. The thing is that this most likely won’t happen for 3-5 years by my estimates. This means waivers are still the only way to go in the meantime. I wrote a brief summation on the rule making for a Forbes articles if you want to read it. Remember to not get your hopes up. This is only a proposal.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.39 Operation over human beings from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

DronSystems stated that the proposed ban on operations over non-involved persons would impact e-commerce and “a number of other sectors,” and would be difficult to enforce. The University of Washington said that banning operations over non-operators is over-burdensome. WAG said the proposed prohibition “could have a significant chilling effect on both the commercial application of sUAS technology as well as the future development of sUAS technology,” and is inconsistent with the “model aircraft” protections afforded by part 101 and section 336 of Public Law 112-95. Similarly, Foxtrot Consulting suggested that adequate training and a performance evaluation is a better mitigation measure because it ensures that remote pilots can operate their small UAS safely, regardless of what is below.

The Small UAV Coalition, Aeromarine, and an individual commenter stated that the proposed prohibition is unduly restrictive because there is no prohibition on manned aircraft flying over people. The Coalition also asserted that, given the consequent reduction in risk associated with the visual-line-of-sight and see-and-avoid requirements, a small UAS may safely be operated over persons.

The International Center for Law and Economics and TechFreedom claimed that by prohibiting UAS operation over people who are not directly involved in the operation, the FAA is “essentially limiting commercial UAS operations to unpopulated or extremely sparsely populated areas,” and thus is “improperly ignor[ing] the important incentives for innovation suggested by Executive Order 12866 without apparent corresponding benefit.” The Consumers Energy Company (CEC) stated that the likelihood of injury from contact with a small UAS is low given the restrictions on the size of small UAS, as well as the fact that they use small rotors and carry small fuel loads. With respect to the maintenance of power lines, poles, and related facilities, in particular, CEC pointed out that most operations occur in remote or rural locations with low population densities, where the risk of contact between a small UAS and a non-involved person is minimal. CEC said the FAA needs to consider “whether the risk perceived from small UAS usage really justifies a restriction that could have a substantial impact on the ability to use sUAS on a commercial scale.”

Manned aircraft are generally permitted to fly over people because manned aircraft are formally evaluated for airworthiness through the airworthiness certification process. This process ensures that the manned aircraft has a level of reliability that would allow it to, among other things, safely fly over a person.

This rule does not require airworthiness certification. Because small unmanned aircraft have not been tested for reliability through the airworthiness certification process, they will likely have a higher failure rate than certificated aircraft. A small unmanned aircraft that fails may fall on a person standing under it at the time of failure, which is why this rule restricts small unmanned aircraft flight over people.

With regard to the risk caused by small UAS operations, the FAA agrees that, to date, the number of actual fatalities caused by small UAS operation has been low. However, that may be a function of the fact that, until recently, commercial civil small UAS operations have been prohibited in the United States. As discussed in the Regulatory Impact Assessment, the FAA expects the use of small UAS to increase after issuance of this rule, and thus, the agency has to ensure that part 107 implements appropriate mitigation to address potential risk caused by small unmanned aircraft flight over people.

The FAA agrees with WAG and Foxtrot Consulting that the knowledge that remote pilots in command will acquire during the certification process will help mitigate against small UAS accidents caused by human error. However, the safety concern underlying the flight-over-people restriction is not human error, it is mechanical failure. While a remote pilot in command may be able to detect some signs of potential mechanical failure during the preflight check, the preflight check does not, by itself, assure a level of mechanical reliability established by the formal airworthiness and maintenance processes that apply to other aircraft in the NAS. The appropriate mitigation to address this discrepancy, especially for heavier small unmanned aircraft, is an operational restriction on flying over people who could be hurt in the event of a mechanical failure.

The FAA disagrees with WAG’s assertion that model aircraft are subject to a lower flight-over-people standard than part 107 operations. In order to operate under section 336 of Public Law 112-95, a model aircraft must, among other things, be “operated in accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.”98 Today, the largest nationwide community-based organization that operates model aircraft is the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). AMA’s safety code specifically prohibits “flying directly over
unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures.”

Several commenters, including the American Council of Engineering Companies, AUVSI, and Consumer Electronics Association, urged the FAA to implement a risk-based approach to allow operations over people.

AUVSI asserted that “by allowing sUAS operations over human beings following a risk-based approach, the FAA would foster industry innovation to develop the proper equipment and software necessary to meet safety standards regarding such operations.” CEA provided an example of such a risk-based restriction used by another country that it said “would permit operations in less populated environments and continue to allow industry to gain experience and innovate.” Specifically, CEA noted that the Swiss have successfully used a permitting system for UAS operations over “gatherings of people,” defined as “several dozen people standing in close proximity to one another” or within a radius of 100 meters of such gatherings. Drawing on that example, CEA recommended the
FAA “tailor the rules to prohibit operations over mass gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events.” Although CEA commended the FAA for rejecting as “unduly burdensome” a prohibition against the operation of small UAS over any person, it nevertheless asserted its belief “that the proposal is just as burdensome and that small UAS incorporate sufficient safety measures that make the prohibition unnecessary under the new rules. Boeing similarly recommended that the FAA reconsider proposed § 107.39 and “develop criteria using a risk-based approach to this issue, based upon population density and overflight, to take into account agriculture as well as law enforcement uses.” The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association suggested allowing small UAS to be operated over persons or property if they do so in a safe manner.

DJI pointed out that “the proposed performance standards already impose an obligation on the operator to familiarize himself with the operating environment and take steps to assure the operation does not present an ‘undue hazard’.” Depending on the nature of the operation, DJI continued, “the risk associated with an inadvertent loss of positive control may require that there be no third parties exposed to any risk,” or “the risk may be so minimal as to merit notification but not evacuation or taking cover,” or “the required safety measure may fall within this range of options.” As such, DJI suggested that “the best way to address the risk to individuals not directly involved in the operation is through the proposed performance standard.”

Trimble Navigation proposed the FAA rely on a performance-based regime for operations over persons. Noting that the onus and obligation should be primarily on the small UAS operator to assess the overall safety environment before operating over persons, the company said the FAA “should avoid trying to specify precise design-based criteria in favor of a general standard of care that requires the operator to take into account the full range of operational safety protections and procedures at the site in question.”

A commenter suggested the final regulations should discern between UAS weighing 5 pounds or less (which could be operated over “populated” areas at a maximum speed of 40 mph), UAS weighing between 5 and 25 pounds (which could be operated over “sparsely populated” areas at a maximum speed of 70 mph), and UAS weighing between 25 and 55 pounds (which could be operated according to the limitations imposed in the NPRM). The commenter further suggested that COAs be available for UAS between 25 and 55 pounds to be operated in populated and sparsely populated areas.

The FAA agrees that for certain types of small unmanned aircraft, a more performance-based set of operational mitigations may be appropriate because the lighter weight or other characteristics of those aircraft may result in less impact force if they should collide with a person. That is why, as discussed in the previous section, the FAA will be issuing an NPRM inviting public comment on a framework under which micro UAS will be allowed to operate over people. However, other small unmanned aircraft that do not meet the characteristics of a micro UAS may result in more impact force if they should collide with a person and that greater force may seriously injure or kill the person. The risk associated with flight over people is due to mechanical reliability issues that a remote pilot in command may have a limited opportunity to evaluate without airworthiness certification or a more extensive maintenance process. At this time, the FAA has no data establishing how that risk could be mitigated through operational constraints (whether performance-based or otherwise), other than a prohibition on flight over people. Accordingly, this rule will retain the general prohibition on flight over people. However, as discussed below, this prohibition will be waivable to allow the FAA to consider case specific mitigations. The FAA will use data and operating experience gained as a result of the waiver process to help inform future UAS rulemakings.

A number of commenters said the proposed restriction should be narrowed to apply only to certain crowded or heavily populated areas. The American Petroleum Institute urged the FAA not to apply the prohibition in cases of “intentional acts to disrupt lawful UAS operations” (e.g., anti-oil and gas activists placing themselves in generally accessible areas of operation to frustrate or halt routine activities). Event 38 Unmanned Systems proposed that “certain events and other areas with high people concentration locations be designated as no-fly zones,” instead of a total ban on operations over non-participants. The company suggested that local and State entities could be involved in this part of the rulemaking.

Matternet similarly recommended that the only overhead operations that should be restricted are operations “over an open air assembly of persons if such operation endangers the life or property of another.” The company compared the proposed regulation to regulations for ultralight vehicles (ULV)—which weigh up to 250 pounds, plus the weight of the person, and are permitted to be operated over persons—and suggested that a device weighing less than one-sixth the weight of a ULV with a passenger, and operated at an altitude of only 500 feet or less (compared to thousands of feet for the ULV), poses far less risk to persons on the ground. Several individuals also recommended that the final rule prohibit any operation in congested areas or over open-air assemblies of people. As an initial matter, the FAA notes that there is a significant difference between the terms “congested area” and “open-air assembly of people.” While the term “open-air assembly of people” applies only to a large group of people, the term “congested area” could apply to an area that has no people in it. For example, a town’s commercial/business district can be considered a congested area, even in the middle of the night when there are no people in the area.

As pointed out by the commenters, a number of existing operations that take place in the NAS, such as the operation of ULV, are prohibited from taking place over congested areas.101 The FAA considered imposing a similar restriction on small UAS operations conducted under this rule. However, the FAA ultimately rejected this approach as needlessly restrictive because it would prohibit small UAS operations over certain parts of a town even when there are no people in the area of operation who could be hurt by a small unmanned aircraft.

With regard to operations that are not conducted over an open-air assembly of people, the FAA agrees that this may be a consideration for some small unmanned aircraft that pose a lower injury risk if they collide with a person, consistent with the micro UAS ARC’s recommendations.. Accordingly, the FAA may consider this approach as part of the micro UAS rulemaking. However, other small unmanned aircraft pose a higher injury risk and in the event of a mechanical failure, those aircraft could seriously injure or kill a person in their path, even if that person is not part of a larger group. Accordingly, this rule will not allow flight over people even when they are not part of an open-air assembly. We will continue to evaluate this issue and address it in rulemaking in response to the Micro UAS ARC recommendations, as noted earlier.

The FAA declines to add an exception for intentional acts to disrupt lawful small UAS operations. A person who is standing under an uncertificated small unmanned aircraft is subject to the same amount of risk regardless of his or her subjective motivation for standing under the aircraft. The FAA notes, however, that State and local laws, such as trespassing, may provide a remedy for companies whose small UAS operations are deliberately interfered with by people entering the area of operation without permission. Finally, with regard to State and local entity involvement in this rulemaking, the FAA notes that the comment period for the NPRM was open to everyone, including State and local entities. The FAA received a number of comments from State and local entities, and it considered those comments when formulating this final rule.

Several commenters, including the Small UAV Coalition, Google, and Statoil, suggested that the prohibition on flight over people should be subject to waiver or some other type of deviation authority. The Small UAV Coalition urged the FAA to revise proposed § 107.39 to allow the Administrator or his delegate to authorize small UAS operations over non-participating persons through exemption, deviation authority (certificate of waiver or authorization), or certification, “upon a showing that any risk to persons on the ground is sufficiently mitigated.”

Google pointed out that an outright ban on operations over people not directly participating in the operation of the UAS or not located under a covered structure would limit beneficial uses for small UAS which involve operations above nonparticipants. Google proposed that operators be able to “present a safety case” to the FAA for operations over non-participants.

The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) said the final rule should recognize and accommodate technological innovations, which could be required for use of UAS at ski areas when operating near open-air assemblies of persons. Such technologies include geofencing, return-to-home capabilities, pre-programmed waypoint software, landimmediately function, GPS, signal processing, and increasingly reliable navigation systems.

CEA suggested that the FAA allow small UAS to be eligible to obtain airworthiness certifications, and that UAS with such certifications not be subject to the prohibition on operations over people. CEA asserted that such an approach “will create a vibrant market for UAS and encourage manufacturers to seek airworthiness certification.”

Airware pointed out that standards have been developed by ASTM subgroup F38 to ensure higher levels of safety for operations that pose a higher risk like flight over populated areas. In addition to those existing standards, Airware asserted that the combination of the use of fly-away protections like geo-fencing and contingency management, applying design and testing to industry standards, the use of reliable flight control systems, and the use of parachutes to mitigate against the risk of all out failure “provides an equivalent level of safety for flight in populated areas.” Airware further asserted that this goes well beyond the requirements imposed in the countries that currently allow for operations over populated areas like France, the Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Italy, and Sweden (among others), which “are currently being conducted with extremely high levels of safety.”

ASTM pointed out that there are multiple approved industry consensus standards under development to support operations over people, in case the FAA decides to require compliance with industry consensus standards for this requirement in the final rule. ASTM also noted that precedent exists for the utilization of industry consensus standards by Federal agencies in the United States. The commenter went on to point out that the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) mandates that all Federal agencies use technical standards developed and adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, as opposed to using government-unique standards. In addition, ASTM asserted that, consistent with Section 12(d) of the NTTAA, OMB Circular A-119 directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical. ASTM further noted that OMB Circular A119 also provides guidance for agencies participating in voluntary consensus standards bodies and describes procedures for satisfying the reporting requirements of the Act. The FAA agrees that technology or additional mitigation, such as airworthiness certification, may allow small unmanned aircraft to safely fly over people in certain circumstances. Accordingly, the flight-over-people restriction in this rule will be waivable. In order to obtain a waiver, an applicant will have to demonstrate that he or she has implemented mitigations such that small unmanned aircraft flight over people can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.

The FAA also agrees with CEA that while this rule does not require airworthiness certification, this rule also does not prohibit a small UAS from voluntarily obtaining this certification. The FAA generally agrees that having a small UAS meet an appropriate airworthiness standard could increase safety to the point of permitting a small unmanned aircraft to operate over persons who are not directly involved in the flight operation (i.e., non-participants) and who are not under a covered structure. The FAA may consider airworthiness certification of the small UAS as mitigation to support an application for waiver that would allow a small unmanned aircraft to operate over unprotected nonparticipants.

With regard to the use of industry consensus-standards, as noted by ASTM, consensus standards for operations such as flight over people are currently in development. As of this writing, those standards have not yet been published. The FAA notes, however, that the level of safety that must be demonstrated in order to obtain a waiver may be demonstrated in a number of different ways. Once consensus standards are published, the FAA may consider whether compliance with the published consensus standards would be one way to demonstrate that the proposed operation can be conducted safely under the terms of a certificate of waiver. The FAA will also consider UAS-specific consensus standards, once they are published, in future UAS rulemakings.

Several commenters said the proposed prohibition should not apply when additional risk mitigating measures are employed. Southern Company said the FAA should allow operations over any person who is located on the property, easement, or right of way of the person or entity for whom the small UAS is operated, and any person who is participating in the activity for which the small UAS is being operated. The commenter said such mitigating restrictions could include a lower operating ceiling, lateral-distance limits, a lower speed restriction, and a prohibition on operations over large gatherings of people.

Qualcomm similarly proposed that FAA permit operations over uninvolved persons where risks are mitigated by the use of “proven means of avoiding harm to individuals via technologies that allow the device to land safely under even extreme circumstances.” The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union urged the FAA to allow operations over non-participants “under circumstances when the UAS operator can maintain safe operation of the UAS and either depart the area or safely land the UAS without risk to unrelated persons on the ground.” The Newspaper Association of America asserted that the FAA should not prohibit news organizations from overhead flight, “provided that adequate precautionary measures are taken to ensure that [UAS] are operated safely at all times.”

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University said that the FAA did not consider the benefits of allowing UAS operations over persons not involved in the operation, and that the FAA overstates the risks of operation in populated areas. The University asserted that, “[u]pon loss of positive control, unmanned aircraft can be programmed to safely return to a base, or to simply hover in place.” Thus, the University continued, the risk to bystanders can be mitigated without a ban on operation over uninvolved persons.

NAMIC recommended that the FAA allow small UAS operations over people not directly involved in the operation, as long as those operations follow enhanced safety protocols, including, for example: (1) that the small unmanned aircraft not loiter over a person or persons for an extended period of time, but transition over them as needed to reach a location where operating is permitted to complete the flight; and (2) that an operator must operate the UAS at a sufficient altitude so that if a power unit fails, an emergency landing can be accomplished without undue hazard to persons or property on the ground. Exelon Corporation said that the final rule should include reasonable accommodations to allow for brief, low-risk exceptions to the ban on flights over nonparticipating persons (e.g., flying across a road during a survey of damage to power distribution lines in suburban areas), and that “proper safety precautions as well as signage, education, and protocol can be put in place to mitigate any safety concerns.”

The Property Drone Consortium said that any UAS with “special safety features” should be exempt from the ban on flight over non-participants. Furthermore, the Consortium suggested the FAA mitigate any safety concerns by requiring appropriate insurance coverage or creating a suggested list of “best practices” for use in the insurance industry. Similarly, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said the proposed prohibition “is onerous and overprotective,” and suggested instead that insurance and equipment requirements could be employed “to promote responsible use of the UAS.”

As discussed earlier, the restriction on flight over people in this rule will be waivable. This will allow the FAA to consider, on a case-by-case basis, any additional mitigations that are incorporated into a small UAS operation. The FAA will grant a waiver request allowing small unmanned aircraft flight over people if the applicant establishes that his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver. In response to comments suggesting an insurance requirement in place of the flight-overpeople restriction, the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.K.1 of this preamble, the FAA lacks jurisdiction to mandate the purchase of liability insurance.

An individual commenter suggested that operations in congested areas be permitted with additional licensure, which the commenter said “will assist the operator in recognizing potential hazards and risks as well as the ability to assess those risks to ensure that these hazards to the public be minimized.” Another individual commenter recommended an additional rating for operators to allow them to fly “in cities and other crowded areas.” The commenter said the operators could be required to go through a more comprehensive certification process, and the UAS could be required to have annual or semiannual maintenance checks and be equipped with an automatically deployable parachute system.

As discussed earlier, the FAA considered and rejected additional limitations on operations over congested areas because that approach would needlessly limit small UAS operation over congested areas during times when those areas are devoid of people. The FAA also does not agree that additional remote pilot certification should be required to operate over an empty area of operation, even if that area of operation happens to be located in a congested area.

The Stadium Managers Association suggested modifying proposed § 107.39 to mirror the current section 333 exemption language which, in addition to prohibiting flights
over people, includes a prohibition against flight over vehicles, vessels, and structures. Vision Services Group similarly recommended prohibiting flight over people in a covered
structure.

On the other hand, Edison Electric Institute, NRECA, the American Public Power Association, and Continental Mapping suggested that the exception allowing flight over people located under a covered structure that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft should be clarified to indicate that persons under cover in a vehicle “may qualify as being in a structure providing reasonable protection.”

This rule will allow flight over people located under a covered structure capable of protecting a person from a falling small unmanned aircraft because such a structure mitigates the risk associated with a small unmanned aircraft flying over people. The FAA also agrees with Edison Electric Institute, NRECA, the American Public Power Association, and Continental Mapping that a small unmanned aircraft should be allowed to fly over a person who is inside a stationary covered vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft. The FAA has modified this rule accordingly. This rule will not, however, allow operation of a small unmanned aircraft over a moving vehicle because the moving vehicle operating environment is dynamic (not directly controlled by the remote pilot in command) and the potential impact forces when an unmanned aircraft impacts a moving road vehicle pose unacceptable risks due to headon closure speeds. Additionally, impact with a small unmanned aircraft may distract the driver of a moving vehicle and result in an accident.

Several commenters sought clarification on the NPRM’s use of the phrases “directly participating in the operation” (as used in proposed § 107.39(a)) and “directly involved in the operation” (as used in the preamble). Associated Equipment Distributors noted that the preamble to the NPRM indicates that direct participation is limited to the operator and the visual observer, but the proposed regulatory language “does not afford clarity on this point.” SkySpecs proposed allowing anyone who has permission to be on a construction site and is covered by liability insurance to be covered by the definition. Edison Electric Institute, NRECA, and the American Public Power Association said the definition of “directly participating” “should be expanded to include personnel engaged in related activities, such as workers at a power plant a small UAS is being used to monitor or an electric utility crew whose work the small UAS is being used to assist.” The organizations further proposed that such individuals would qualify as “directly participating in an operation” if they had received the pre-flight briefing described in proposed § 107.49.

Some commenters, including NBAA, the American Insurance Association, FLIR Systems, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, and Skycatch, felt that FAA should permit small UAS operations over individuals not involved in the UAS operations when those individuals consent to, or are made aware of, the operations. Several State farm bureaus and NBAA urged the FAA to allow small UAS operations over people not directly involved in an operation so long as the operator notifies those people of the operation before it starts. The American Farm Bureau Federation and a number of state farm bureau federations said the definition should be expanded to include individuals “who have been made aware of the presence and approximate flight path of the sUAS in their vicinity.” The farm bureau federations claimed that the risk of a small UAS endangering a consenting individual working in a field who is not directly involved in, but is aware of, a small UAS operation “is simply too remote to justify a blanket prohibition.”102 AED proposed including consenting individuals, such as employees and contractors at a construction site, Other commenters who urged FAA to reconsider the proposed prohibition as it applies to agricultural operations include the National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of heat Growers, and the Virginia Agribusiness Council.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions also suggested that the definition of “directly participating in the operation” include persons who have consented to the operation of theU AS overhead.

Associated Builders and Contractors also proposed lifting the restriction on flightover non-participants on a construction site, so long as those people have been notified of the small UAS operations, wear hard hats, and have been provided orientation regarding the equipment prior to entering the work site.

Kapture Digital Media questioned whether people can become “directly involved” in an operation if they are notified of the operation by signs posted around the area of operation, or, alternatively, whether people can only become “directly involved” in an operation by signing a waiver. Vail Resorts noted that many of the best uses of UAS technology at ski areas would necessarily involve some temporary amount of flight over individuals who are not “necessary for the safe operation” of the small UAS, which is how the NPRM defined “directly involved in the operation.” Consequently, Vail asserted that a strict ban on operations over people not “directly involved” in the operation “could have the unintended consequence of making many potentially critical ski resort drone operations noncompliant with FAA regulations.” As such, Vail said FAA should broaden the definition of “directly involved” to include “those people who are aware of and have consented to being involved in the drone operation by, for example, reading particular signage or signing a release.” Similarly NoFlyZone.org said operations over nonparticipants should be permitted provided the operator has advised all non-participants to remain clear of the small UAS launch/recovery area, and also advised all non-participants that the small UAS does not comply with Federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.

The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) pointed out that for UAS operations that may involve operations near skiers and snowboarders, or participants and spectators in special events, ski areas could inform participants of the event and associated risks and could obtain consent prior to using a UAS. NSAA suggested further that ski areas “could be obligated to determine, based on the event or assemblage of persons, acceptable proximity parameters, either laterally or vertically.”

The term “directly participating” refers to specific personnel that the remote pilot in command has deemed to be involved with the flight operation of the small unmanned aircraft. These include the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the controls of the small UAS (if other than the remote pilot in command), and the visual observer. These personnel also include any person who is necessary for the safety of the small UAS flight operation. For example, if a small UAS operation employs a person whose duties are to maintain a perimeter to ensure that other people do not enter the area of operation, that person would be considered a direct participant in the flight operation of the small UAS. Anyone else would not be considered a direct participant in the small UAS operation. Due to the potential for the small unmanned aircraft to harm persons on the ground, the FAA does not consider consent or the need to do other work in the area of operation to be a sufficient mitigation of risk to allow operations over people. The FAA considers the risks associated with allowing operations over directly participating persons to be a necessary risk associated with the safety of flight because if UAS crewmembers are prohibited from standing near a flying unmanned aircraft, they may be unable to complete their