Federal Drone Law


Don’t Drink and Drone – FAA Regulations on Drones & Alcohol

drink-drone-faa-alcohol-regulationsI thought I should write an article to educate individuals on one of the lesser known regulations regarding flying drones and drinking. This article will address first the commercial drone operators and then the recreational drone or model aircraft operators.

The FAA is really focused on preventing people from droning under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

Commercial Drone Operators Using Alcohol or Drugs

Commercial drone operators are either operating under Part 107 or under a Section 44807 exemption (formerly called a Section 333 exemption).

Part 107 

14 CFR 107.27 says,

“A person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system or acting as a remote pilot in command or visual observer must comply with the provisions of §§91.17 and 91.19 of this chapter.”  Part 107 incorporates Part 91 by reference. Part 107 does this also with the temporary flight restriction provisions.

Let’s now look at the other way commercial drone operators can legally fly.

Section 44807 Exemptions

Remember that when operating under a Section 44807 exemption, you are really operating under all of the other Parts of the federal aviation regulations besides Part 107. If you comb through them all, you’ll find the same two regulations that were referenced by Part 107 – 91.17 and 91.19.

Let’s dive into what 91.17  and 91.19 says.

14 CFR Sec. 91.17 says,

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft—

(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

(2) While under the influence of alcohol;

(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or

(4) While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

. . . . 

(c) A crewmember shall do the following:

(1) On request of a law enforcement officer, submit to a test to indicate the alcohol concentration in the blood or breath, when—

(i) The law enforcement officer is authorized under State or local law to conduct the test or to have the test conducted; and

(ii) The law enforcement officer is requesting submission to the test to investigate a suspected violation of State or local law governing the same or substantially similar conduct prohibited by paragraph (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(4) of this section.

(2) Whenever the FAA has a reasonable basis to believe that a person may have violated paragraph (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(4) of this section, on request of the FAA, that person must furnish to the FAA the results, or authorize any clinic, hospital, or doctor, or other person to release to the FAA, the results of each test taken within 4 hours after acting or attempting to act as a crewmember that indicates an alcohol concentration in the blood or breath specimen.

(d) Whenever the Administrator has a reasonable basis to believe that a person may have violated paragraph (a)(3) of this section, that person shall, upon request by the Administrator, furnish the Administrator, or authorize any clinic, hospital, doctor, or other person to release to the Administrator, the results of each test taken within 4 hours after acting or attempting to act as a crewmember that indicates the presence of any drugs in the body.

(e) Any test information obtained by the Administrator under paragraph (c) or (d) of this section may be evaluated in determining a person’s qualifications for any airman certificate or possible violations of this chapter and may be used as evidence in any legal proceeding under section 602, 609, or 901 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

Can You Give Me Some Real World Scenarios How People Could Violate the Regulation?

Here are some real world scenarios on how you can violate section 91.17:

  • (1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;
    • You go to a party, have one beer, and then go fly your drone 30 minutes later.
    • You stayed up partying hard past midnight (2am was your last drink time). You get up early around 7am to shoot some footage.
  • (2) While under the influence of alcohol;
    • You got hammered last night and passed out. You get up early and still feel buzzed.
  • (3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or
    • You are on some powerful medication to treat some type of disease or pain. This medication is affecting your faculties in ANY way.
  • (4) While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
    • You played a drinking game with your buddies using whiskey, but that was over 8 hours ago. You are a seasoned drinking vet and have developed a high tolerance for alcohol. (You can hold your liquor). You might still be above .04 because your alcohol tolerance is so high.

Recreational Drone or Model Aircraft Operators

Part 101 does not specifically prohibit drinking in droning,  but…… it does say

§ 101.43 Endangering the safety of the National Airspace System.

“No person may operate model aircraft so as to endanger the safety of the national airspace system.”

Depending on which FAA inspector you run into and the facts of the situation, drunk droning could be considered to be endangering the national airspace.

Furthermore, Part 101 is applicable to a model aircraft “that meets all of the following conditions” of Part 101 such as the requirement to operate the “aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines[.]” The Academy of Model Aeronautics Safety Code does NOT allow a person to operate a drone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. RCAPA safety guidelines also don’t allow drinking and droning. I do not know of any community based organization that allows this.

Why do I mention this?

This is a very important point. If you are NOT flying according to Part 101, because you are violating the safety codes by drinking and droning, you MUST comply with Part 107. You are going to have to comply with one or the other.

Remember that the AMA, RCAPA, etc., those community based organizations, are NOT the law, but the law says you need to be operating in accordance with a community based organization’s safety guidelines!

This could open you up to many additional violations you could be charged with such as flying your aircraft without a remote pilot certificate, flying in airspace without an authorization, flying over people, etc.

Don’t drink and drone and don’t let your friends drink and drone.


Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.

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Section 107.51 is this section that looks like the FAA just gathered what was left and threw it all into. It deals with speed, altitude, visibility, and cloud distances. For many, this regulation is not a problem but it does get problematic when you need to obtain a waiver from this section. If you check the waiver directory that FAA has published, you’ll notice that there are not a lot of 107.51 waivers that have been issued.

Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.

Here is the actual text of the regulation:

A remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system must comply with all of the following operating limitations when operating a small unmanned aircraft system:

(a) The ground speed of the small unmanned aircraft may not exceed 87 knots (100 miles per hour).

(b) The altitude of the small unmanned aircraft cannot be higher than 400 feet above ground level, unless the small unmanned aircraft:

(1) Is flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure; and

(2) Does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit.

(c) The minimum flight visibility, as observed from the location of the control station must be no less than 3 statute miles. For purposes of this section, flight visibility means the average slant distance from the control station at which prominent unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be seen and identified by night.

(d) The minimum distance of the small unmanned aircraft from clouds must be no less than:

(1) 500 feet below the cloud; and

(2) 2,000 feet horizontally from the cloud.

Rarely will anyone get over 100 MPH so that is not really an issue. The 400ft within a structure also seems to be rarely an issue. What causes the most problems is the 3 statute miles of visiblity and the cloud clearance requirements.

Why?

Fog, smoke, and smog.

Fog is basically just very low clouds which also have a tendency of making things very hard to see.  Smoke and smog can also drop the visibility done below 3 statute miles.

FAA’s Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.

Operating Limitations for Small UA. The small UA must be operated in accordance with the following limitations:

• Cannot be flown faster than a groundspeed of 87 knots (100 miles per hour);
• Cannot be flown higher than 400 feet above ground level (AGL), unless flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure and does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit;
• Minimum visibility, as observed from the location of the CS, may not be less than 3 statute miles (sm); and
• Minimum distance from clouds being no less than 500 feet below a cloud and no less than 2000 feet horizontally from the cloud.

Note: These operating limitations are intended, among other things, to support the remote pilot’s ability to identify hazardous conditions relating to encroaching aircraft or persons on the ground, and to take the appropriate actions to maintain safety.

5.10.1 Determining Groundspeed. There are many different types of sUAS and different ways to determine groundspeed. Therefore, this guidance will only touch on some of the possible ways for the remote PIC to ensure that the small UA does not exceed a groundspeed of 87 knots during flight operations. Some of the possible ways to ensure that 87 knots is not exceeded are as follows:

• Installing a Global Positioning System (GPS) device on the small UA that reports groundspeed information to the remote pilot, wherein the remote pilot takes into account the wind direction and speed and calculates the small UA airspeed for a given direction of flight, or
• Timing the groundspeed of the small UA when it is flown between two or more fixed points, taking into account wind speed and direction between each point, then noting the power settings of the small UA to operate at or less than 87 knots groundspeed, or
• Using the small UA’s manufacturer design limitations (e.g., installed groundspeed limiters).

5.10.2 Determining Altitude. In order to comply with the maximum altitude requirements of part 107, as with determining groundspeed, there are multiple ways to determine a small UA’s altitude above the ground or structure. Some possible ways for a remote pilot to determine altitude are as follows:

• Installing a calibrated altitude reporting device on the small UA that reports the small UA altitude above mean sea level (MSL) to the remote pilot, wherein the remote pilot subtracts the MSL elevation of the CS from the small UA reported MSL altitude to determine the small UA AGL altitude above the terrain or structure;
• Installing a GPS device on the small UA that also has the capability of reporting MSL altitude to the remote pilot;
• With the small UA on the ground, have the remote pilot and VO pace off 400 feet from the small UA to get a visual perspective of the small UA at that distance, wherein the remote pilot and VO maintain that visual perspective or closer while the small UA is in flight; or
• Using the known height of local rising terrain and/or structures as a reference.

5.10.3 Visibility and Distance from Clouds. Once the remote PIC and VO have been able to reliably establish the small UA AGL altitude, it is incumbent on the remote PIC to determine that visibility from the CS is at least 3 sm and that the small UA is kept at least 500 feet below a cloud and at least 2,000 feet horizontally from a cloud. One of the ways to ensure adherence to the minimum visibility and cloud clearance requirements is to obtain local aviation weather reports that include current and forecast weather conditions. If there is more than one local aviation reporting station near the operating area, the remote PIC should choose the closest one that is also the most representative of the terrain surrounding the operating area. If local aviation weather reports are not available, then the remote PIC may not operate the small UA if he or she is not able to determine the required visibility and cloud clearances by other reliable means. It is imperative that the UA not be operated above any cloud, and that there are no obstructions to visibility, such as smoke or a cloud, between the UA and the remote PIC.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

The NPRM also proposed additional visibility and cloud-clearance requirements to ensure that the person maintaining visual line of sight has sufficient visibility to see and avoid other aircraft. Specifically, the NPRM proposed a minimum flight visibility of at least 3 statute miles from the location of the ground control station. The NPRM also proposed that the small unmanned aircraft must maintain a minimum distance from clouds of no less than: (1) 500 feet below the cloud; and (2) 2,000 feet horizontally away from the cloud. This rule will finalize these minimum-flight-visibility and cloud-clearance requirements as proposed in the NPRM but will make those requirements waivable.

Commenters including NAAA, ALPA, and Commonwealth Edison Company supported the proposed minimum flight visibility and distance-from-clouds requirements. Commonwealth Edison asserted that the proposed visibility requirements, in combination with the other proposed operational requirements, would “safeguard safety while recognizing reasonable commercial interests in such a rapidly evolving technological environment.” NAAA stated that the proposed requirements are consistent with the VFR visibility requirements under 14 CFR 91.155 and 91.115. The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association strongly agreed that “weather minimums be at least basic VFR.” ALPA also agreed that all operations must take place in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) with the identified cloud clearances. ALPA further recommended that it be made clear that the 3-mile visibility requirement for VMC does not mean that the visual-line-of-sight required elsewhere in the proposed regulation can necessarily be maintained at 3 miles.

Modovolate Aviation, NAMIC, the Property Drone Consortium, and a few individuals generally opposed the imposition of minimum flight visibility and distance from-cloud requirements. The commenters asserted that such requirements are unnecessary, given the visual-line-of sight requirement of § 107.31. Modovolate stated that it is unlikely that an operator can keep a small UAS in sight at a distance of 3 miles, so a separate weather-visibility requirement is redundant. Modovolate also stated that a small UAS operator cannot maintain visual contact with his small UAS if it is flown in a cloud, but he would be able to fly his small UAS closer than 500 or 1,000 feet to a well-defined cloud without risk.

The Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ), and Edison Electric Institute, individually and jointly with NRECA and APPA, recommended the removal of the cloud distance requirements altogether. PSDJ asserted that the proposed cloud distance requirements would render many types of weather coverage and research projects impossible and would also make it impossible for small UAS to replace high-risk manned flights, “such as inspecting tower, bridges, or other structures,” as contemplated by the NPRM. The Travelers Companies, Inc. recommended the removal of the requirement that small UAS maintain a distance of no less than 2,000 feet horizontally from a cloud, claiming it is not relevant or workable for pilots flying small UAS from the ground. Aerial Services added that the safety concerns associated with cloud clearance will be alleviated with automation, the maximum altitude restriction, and the restriction on the use of small UAS in the vicinity of airports.

Several other commenters generally supported the imposition of minimum flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements, but said the proposed minimum requirements should be reduced. Commenters including State Farm, AUVSI, the Unmanned Safety Institute, and DJI, argued that the minimum flight visibility and cloud distance should be reduced to 1 statute mile and changed to “remain clear of clouds.” AUVSI asserted that this reduced requirement will reflect the small size, low speeds, and additional operating limitations of small UAS.

EEI said the proposed regulation is too restrictive, especially in areas prone to low cloud cover. The commenter argued that, as long as the operator maintains visual line of sight with the small UAS, the aircraft should be permitted to navigate up to 500 feet, regardless of the elevation of the clouds above 500 feet. In a joint comment, EEI, NRECA, and APPA noted that under the proposed visibility rules, for every foot cloud cover dips below 1,000 feet, the small UAS dips a foot below 500 feet, so that cloud cover at 500 feet would ground all small UAS operations. The commenters suggested that operations in Class G airspace should be allowed up to 500 feet AGL, or the height of cloud cover, whichever is lower. Exelon Corporation further suggested the rule include permission to
operate on the transmission and distribution rights-of-way at altitudes not to exceed the tops of the structures plus 50 feet without weather visibility restrictions. The News Media Coalition suggested eliminating the flight-visibility and cloud-clearance requirements for UAS operated within the parameters in the blanket COA for section 333 exemptions. The specific parameters suggested by the commenter consisted of flight at or below 200 feet AGL and at least (a) 5 nautical miles from an airport having an operational control tower; (b) 3 nautical miles from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; (c) 2 nautical miles from

As discussed earlier, under this rule, the remote pilot in command will be responsible for observing the operating environment for other aircraft and, if necessary, maneuvering the small unmanned aircraft to avoid a collision with other aircraft. However, there is a significant speed difference between a manned aircraft and a small unmanned aircraft. Under part 91, a manned aircraft flying at low altitude could travel at speeds up to 230 to 288 miles per hour (mph).86 On the other hand, a small unmanned aircraft operating under this rule will have a maximum speed of 100 mph and many small unmanned aircraft will likely have a far lower maximum speed.

Because of this difference in maximum speed, the remote pilot in command will need time to respond to an approaching manned aircraft. A minimum flight visibility requirement of 3 statute miles is necessary to ensure that the remote pilot in command can see far enough away to detect a manned aircraft near the area of operation in time to avoid a collision with that aircraft. Additionally, cloud clearance provisions that require the small unmanned aircraft to maintain a distance of at least 500 feet below the cloud and 2,000 feet horizontally away from cloud are necessary to reduce the possibility of having a manned aircraft exit the clouds on an unalterable collision course with the significantly slower small unmanned aircraft. Accordingly, this rule will retain the proposed minimum-flight visibility requirement of 3 statute miles and minimum cloud-distance requirements of 500 feet below the cloud and 2,000 feet horizontally away from the cloud.

In response to ALPA’s concern, the FAA clarifies that the minimum-flight visibility and visual-line-of-sight requirements of this rule are separate requirements that must both be satisfied. The visual-line-of-sight requirement of § 107.31 is intended to ensure that the person maintaining visual line of sight can see the small unmanned aircraft and the immediately surrounding airspace. It is unlikely that a person will be able to maintain visual line of sight of a small unmanned aircraft in compliance with § 107.31 if that aircraft is 3 miles away from him or her. Conversely, the 3-mile visibility requirement
of § 107.51 is intended simply to ensure that the person at the control station is able to see relatively larger manned aircraft that may rapidly be approaching the area of operation. Southern Company suggested that small UAS operations should mirror the VFR weather minimums for manned-helicopter flight and that the Special VFR minimums under 14 CFR 91.157 should also apply to small UAS operations to the extent available for helicopters. The commenter suggested that small UAS operations would satisfy the requirements for Special VFR flight, because only ATC authorization is necessary before Special VFR flight and all small UAS must receive an ATC clearance when operating in controlled airspace. The commenter also asserted that the use of helicopter minimums is appropriate in this rule because, like helicopters, a small UAS is highly maneuverable and easier to land than fixed-wing aircraft. The Small UAV Coalition similarly suggested that the FAA adopt the helicopter cloud-clearance test for small UAS.

The FAA acknowledges that the part 107 visibility requirements for small UAS operations in Class G airspace will be more stringent than the requirements of part 91. Part 91 allows aircraft operating in Class G airspace to operate with 1 statute mile visibility and simply requires the aircraft to keep clear of clouds. However, as numerous commenters pointed out, small UAS operating under this rule may, as a result of their size, be difficult to see for manned-aircraft pilots. Additionally, unlike manned aircraft, small unmanned aircraft will not be required to carry equipage, such as TCAS and ADS-B, that aids in collision avoidance. Because of the additional challenges with collision avoidance raised by small UAS operating under part 107, a more stringent visibility requirement is necessary than the one imposed by part 91 on manned-aircraft operations in Class G airspace.

Vail Resorts asked the FAA to reduce or eliminate cloud clearance requirements in certain terrain, or with certain mitigation in place (e.g., a lighting system on the small UAS). The commenter stated that the minimum-flight-visibility and distance-from-cloud requirements are unnecessarily restrictive in a high alpine environment where the potential for interaction with manned aircraft is incredibly remote, and can be mitigated by other limitations. Venture Partners asserted that its products will contain onboard technology and capabilities that will allow UAS to operate in adverse weather conditions.

The FAA agrees that there could be operations in areas where the likelihood of interaction with manned aircraft is reduced or in which the risk of collision with a manned aircraft is mitigated by other means (such as technological equipage). Accordingly, the FAA has made the visibility and cloud-clearance requirements of part 107 waivable and will consider individual operating environments and other mitigations as part of its review of a waiver request. The FAA plans to use data acquired as part of the waiver process to inform future agency actions that will further integrate UAS into the NAS.

The Airborne Law Enforcement Association requested an exception from the 3- mile minimum flight visibility requirement for public safety operations, saying that, with the visual-line-of-sight restriction, “there are many opportunities to safely utilize UAS technology to the benefit of public safety operations.” The Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers recommended a disaster-response exemption from the 3- mile flight visibility requirement, asserting that UAS flights in conditions with less than 3 miles of visibility could be integral in protecting human life and natural research welfare in the event of a man-made or natural disaster.

As discussed earlier, this rule will not apply to public aircraft operations unless the operator chooses to conduct the operation as a civil aircraft. Thus, public aircraft operations, such as public safety operations conducted by law enforcement agencies, will not be subject to part 107. With regard to the other specific types of operations mentioned in the comments, as discussed previously, the minimum-flight-visibility and cloud clearance requirements of this rule will be waivable. Thus, operations conducted for salutary purposes, such as the ones mentioned by the commenters, could be authorized through the waiver process if the remote pilot establishes that the operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission, Airports Council International-North America, the American Association of Airport Executives, and Exelon Corporation recommended that the requirement for 3 miles of visibility be from the location of the small unmanned aircraft and not from the location of the ground control station. The Metropolitan Airports Commission stated that the 3-mile visibility requirement is based on a manned aircraft pilot’s vantage point positioned inside the aircraft, which provides a 3- mile observation radius around the aircraft to see and avoid potential hazards. Airports Council International-North America claimed that a 3-mile visibility requirement from the unmanned aircraft instead of the ground control station will prevent cases where the UAS operator operates an aircraft at the limit of the operator’s line of sight. Lloyd’s Market Association and the International Underwriting Association said the 3-mile minimum flight visibility requirement may be difficult to administer and police, and wondered if maximum wind speeds have been taken into account.

This rule will retain the requirement that the minimum visibility must be measured from the control station. The reason for this requirement is to allow the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS to see other aircraft that could be entering the area of operation. The person manipulating the small UAS flight controls will be located at the control station (since the control station is the interface used to control the flight), and thus the minimum-visibility requirement must be measured from the control station. With regard to the comment arguing that the 3-mile minimum flight visibility requirement may be difficult to administer and police, the remote pilot in command must, among other things, ensure that the small UAS operation complies with part 107.

This rule will not impose prescriptive requirements on maximum permissible wind speed because there is a wide range of small UAS that could be operated under part 107. These UAS will have varying ability to respond to wind and a prescriptive regulatory requirement would be more stringent than necessary on certain small UAS while being less stringent than necessary on other UAS. Instead, § 107.49(a)(1) will require the remote pilot in command to assess local weather conditions as part of the preflight assessment required by § 107.49. If the remote pilot in command determines that the wind speed is too high to safely conduct the small UAS operation, then he or she will have to either reschedule the operation or implement mitigations to ensure the safety of the operation.

One commenter asked the FAA to clarify whether the 3-mile flight visibility requirement is horizontal visibility or slant angle visibility. The commenter asserted that there are many situations where radiation or advection fog might obscure horizontal visibility yet bright blue sky is visible above the fog.

The 3-mile flight visibility requirement is based on a slant angle from the control station. In other words, a person standing at the control station of the small UAS must be able to see at a diagonal distance of 3 miles into the sky in order to detect other aircraft that may be approaching the area of operation. This requirement ensures that the remote pilot in command can effectively observe the airspace for presence of other aircraft, and reduces the possibility of the remote pilot or visual observer losing sight of the unmanned aircraft.

To further clarify this concept, the FAA has amended § 107.51(c) to explain that flight visibility refers to the average slant distance from the control station at which prominent unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be seen and identified by night.

The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences suggested that the rule prohibit small UAS operations above clouds because those operations could endanger manned aircraft flying under instrument flight rules (IFR). In response, the FAA notes that a person is unlikely to be able to maintain visual line of sight of a small unmanned aircraft that is flying above the clouds.

Schertz Aerial Services, the Permanent Editorial Board of the Aviators Model Code of Conduct Initiative, and the City and County of Denver, Colorado suggested that the proposed flight-visibility and minimum-cloud-distance requirements be increased. Schertz Aerial Services said that because UAS are so much smaller than manned aircraft, the proposed 3-mile flight visibility requirement, which was developed for manned aircraft, is not adequate for UAS and should be increased to 5 statute miles. Denver also recommended increasing the minimum flight visibility requirement to 5 statute miles, but only in controlled airspace. The commenter additionally recommended the imposition of a 2,000-foot ceiling for operations in controlled airspace. “Those visibility enhancements,” Denver continued, “will maximize opportunities for both the operator and other aircraft pilots to successfully employ the see-and-avoid technique.”

One commenter said the minimum flight visibility requirement should be increased to 10 to 12 miles and the distance-from-cloud requirements should both be increased by 1,000 feet. Another commenter said the FAA should set a specific percentage or range for cloud coverage to be allowed during flight, in addition to the distance-from-cloud requirements.

The FAA recognizes the fact that increased flight visibility would provide more time for the remote pilot in command to maneuver away from other aircraft. However, the likelihood of the remote pilot seeing other small UAS, other smaller aircraft, or other hazards such as power lines or antennas from a distance of five or more miles is not probable, so such a requirement would not create an additional safety buffer. A 5-mile visibility requirement above 10,000 feet mean sea level (not including the surface to 2,500 feet above ground level) is imposed by part 91 because manned-aircraft pilots have a need for increased visibility at that higher altitude due to permitted airspeeds above 288 mph. A remote pilot in command, on the other hand, will remain on the ground and will have to deal with ground obstacles that impede vision. The remote pilot in command will also be looking into the sky at a slant angle from the ground rather than horizontally in the manner of a manned-aircraft pilot. This means that a remote pilot will generally be challenged to perceive useful information from his or her vision beyond three miles. An increase in the cloud distance requirements poses the same dilemma, unless the object is large enough or distinct enough it will not likely be visible early enough to provide the opportunity to avoid or change course sooner.

PlaneSense and Cobalt Air, commenting jointly, recommended prohibiting a remote pilot from operating a small UAS if the ceiling is lower than 1000 feet MSL. The commenters contended that for manned aircraft, the pilot is in the aircraft and is therefore better able to make a determination about the distance to a cloud from the aircraft than an operator on the ground positioned 1/4 mile away from the unmanned aircraft.

The FAA declines to prohibit small UAS operations when cloud ceilings are lower than 1,000 feet AGL.87 Specifically, the FAA disagrees that the remote pilot in command will not be in a position to determine whether the unmanned aircraft is positioned sufficiently far enough from a cloud to meet the requirements of § 107.51(d). While this rule does not require specific technological equipage to determine altitude of the unmanned aircraft, nothing in this rule precludes the remote pilot in command from doing so as a means to mitigate the risk of cloud clearance requirements. A remote pilot in command may also opt to operate the unmanned aircraft at a sufficiently low altitude that he or she can easily determine the aircraft’s altitude. Further, cloud ceilings can be determined through nearby AWOS/ASOS/ATIS reports, visual cloud observations, or observation of obscuration of nearby prominent landmarks of a known elevation. If a remote pilot in command cannot ensure that the unmanned aircraft will maintain sufficient cloud clearance in accordance with § 107.51(d), that person may not conduct operations until weather conditions improve. As such, no minimum ceiling requirement is necessary in this rule.

Noting that the NPRM would not require a qualified weather observer, one commenter questioned who is responsible for determining visibility at the time of the operation. The commenter further questioned if the regulation has a requirement for the airman trained and certificated for small UAS to receive training and demonstrate competence in making accurate visibility determinations. Another commenter also questioned who determines visibility, and recommended that FAA require as a minimum that VMC exist and that the closest Official Weather Reporting Station be used. Under this rule, the remote pilot in command is ultimately responsible for determining whether a flight can be conducted safely. As part of the preflight assessment required by § 107.49, the remote pilot in command must evaluate local weather conditions, which includes an evaluation of whether those conditions are sufficient to meet the requirements of § 107.51(c) and (d). With regard to competence, as discussed in section III.F.2.j of this preamble, knowledge of aviation weather sources that can be used to inform the small UAS operation will be tested on both the initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. The initial aeronautical knowledge test will also test the airman certificate applicant’s knowledge of effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance. For the reasons discussed in section III.F.2.e of this preamble, formal training and practical testing requirements are not a necessary component of this rule.

………………………

ii. Vertical Boundary (Maximum Altitude)
Next, we turn to the vertical boundary of the confined area of operation. Because most manned aircraft operations take place higher than 500 feet above ground level (AGL), the NPRM proposed a 500-foot operating ceiling for small UAS operations. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will reduce the operating ceiling to 400 feet AGL unless the small unmanned aircraft: (1) is flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure, and (2) does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit. This operating-ceiling provision will be waivable.

Several commenters, including the Professional Photographers of America, ALPA, Boeing, Google, and State Farm, supported the 500-foot altitude limit proposed in the NPRM. Some noted that a 500-foot ceiling for UAS operations would strike a positive balance between flexibility for the UAS operator and the safety of manned aircraft operating in the NAS.

Other commenters, including Barrick Gold of North America, argued that the altitude restrictions in the rule are unnecessary because the current airspace stratification and operating rules already provide the requisite level of safety. Barrick added, however, that it would support a buffer of 200 feet below the terminus of Class G airspace. An altitude limit for small UAS operations is necessary in this rule. Given the expected proliferation of small UAS in the NAS, and the safety implications for manned aircraft, the FAA must address the safe use of small UAS in the NAS. Moreover, Congress has directed the FAA to establish a regulatory framework to safely integrate small UAS operations into the NAS. Allowing unrestricted small unmanned aircraft to operate at high altitude without the benefit of additional equipment (for example, transponders and altimeters) and the provision of air traffic services introduces a significant threat of collision to manned aircraft operating in the NAS. Most manned aircraft operations transit the airspace at or above 500 feet AGL, and an altitude limitation provides a necessary barrier between small unmanned aircraft and a significant majority of manned aircraft operations in the NAS. However, as discussed below, this rule will make an exception to the altitude restriction for small UAS operations that are conducted close to a structure. Other commenters, including Northrop Grumman Corporation, AOPA, EAA, and HAI, recommended a reduction in the proposed 500-foot altitude limit. These commenters were concerned about the potential for conflict with manned aircraft operating in the NAS. The United States Ultralight Association and the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association expressed general concern regarding the volume of manned aircraft traffic below 500 feet and the potential for collisions with small unmanned aircraft.

While some commenters did not recommend a specific alternate maximum altitude, most that did favored a 400-foot operating ceiling. Commenters offered a variety of reasons to support a 400-foot altitude limit. One commenter justified a lower altitude by noting it is difficult for the operator to maintain visual contact with the small unmanned aircraft when operated above 500 feet, and a 400-foot limit would provide an added margin of safety. Most commenters stated that a 400-foot altitude limit would provide a reasonable buffer between UAS and manned aircraft operating in the NAS. NAAA remarked that recent narrowly averted collisions involving agricultural aircraft and UAS aircraft justify the establishment of a 400-foot limit. NAAA also noted the importance of the missions performed by aircraft at lower altitude, including agricultural and air ambulance operations. Northrop Grumman and the Aviation Division of the Washington State Department of Transportation asserted that a 500-foot altitude does not provide an adequate buffer between UAS operations and those conducted by manned aircraft.

Other commenters, including the North Central Texas Council of Governments, noted that the 100-foot difference between the limits for model aircraft and UAS aircraft, which would result from the proposed 500-foot altitude ceiling, would create confusion. These commenters pointed out that because it is difficult to distinguish between UAS and model aircraft, the two should have similar altitude restrictions.

Some commenters identified lower ceilings for UAS operations in other countries. For example, one commenter noted that Australia has established a 400-foot limit for UAS operations. Further, Transport Canada cited a similar approach for UAS operations in Canada, noting that a 400-foot operating ceiling provides a margin of safety that considers barometric altimeter error and cold weather temperature corrections.

Some commenters, however, asserted that even a 400-foot maximum altitude is too high. The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association recommended a limit of 200 feet to provide an adequate altitude buffer between UAS and rotorcraft operations. One commenter suggested a 200-foot limit until ADS-B is mandated for UAS. Positive air traffic control was also recommended as a requirement for operations above 200 feet. In contrast, several commenters, including those from the media and agricultural communities, asserted that the proposed 500-foot altitude limit for small unmanned aircraft operations is overly restrictive. One commenter stated that the 500-foot altitude ceiling increases the risk for striking terrain, power lines, or other structures. A commenter also noted that the proposed altitude restriction may contribute to a loss of communication with the aircraft due to terrain and other obstructions.

The most frequently cited reason for raising the altitude limit was to allow the small unmanned aircraft to more effectively perform missions such as search and rescue, aerial surveys, and other applications for industries ranging from agriculture to petroleum, as well as inspections of buildings, bridges and other structures. In addition, several commenters asserted that a 500-foot limit is impractical for radio-controlled soaring. Aerobatic operations would also be severely limited by a 500-foot restriction. Other commenters highlighted the needs of the media industry, remarking that a
500-foot restriction limits the utility of UAS for certain newsgathering operations.

Commenters noted that for these activities, the ability to operate at higher altitudes increases their ability to film news events and access other areas beyond normal reach. Some commenters, including the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, suggested that the 500-foot operating ceiling could be lifted under certain circumstances in remote areas given the uncongested airspace above remote areas. The American Petroleum Institute agreed that a case-by-case process is needed for approval to fly at higher altitudes. In its comments, API noted that the proposed rule effectively eliminates lower-resolution surveillance operations where larger ground sample distances would have value for a variety of activities over broad areas, such as pipeline right-of-way surveying and metocean (meteorology and physical oceanography used in offshore and coastal engineering) data gathering. In addition, in areas with high vegetation, this restriction acts to limit distances across which pre-programmed flights may function even if the visual line-of-sight restriction were modified. One commenter noted this would be similar to what is now codified in 14 CFR 91.119 (b) and (c), and to the precedent established by 14 CFR part 101.

Many commenters, such as Boeing and the News Media Coalition, also focused on the need to permit higher operating altitudes in proximity to certain structures. This would allow small unmanned aircraft to be used to perform inspections and other tasks that would traditionally place persons in harm’s way. The Exelon Corporation noted the need to allow for inspection of tall structures. An individual recommended that the FAA allow operations at higher altitudes within a 2,000-foot radius of certain towers. NoFlyZone.org asserted that UAS operations above 500 feet should be permitted within 250 feet of a structure as long as the operator has permission from that structure’s owner. Skycatch asked that operations above 500 feet be permitted under specific circumstances, such as bridge or building inspections as proposed by AUVSI. The Professional Society of Drone Journalists stated that the airspace above and around buildings should be considered to be the domain of legal UAS operations.

Commenters also recommended mechanisms to allow operations above 500 feet ranging from pilot training and equipment requirements (such as transponders and ADS-B), to the establishment of flight restriction areas or a waiver process. The American Insurance Association requested that UAS aircraft be allowed to operate above 500 feet if accompanied by a visual observer on the ground aided by a mechanical enhancement of his or her sight.

Other commenters noted that an increase in altitude may be appropriate in areas where the threat to manned aircraft is minimal. For example, one commenter proposed that in Class G airspace, the ceiling for UAS operations be raised to the base of the overlying controlled airspace. A variety of other altitudes were proposed. Clean Gulf Associates stated that 1,000 feet is an appropriate altitude, allowing for oil spill skimming targeting operations, where the mid-air threat over water is lower. Prioria Robotics also proposed 1,000 feet. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers noted that technical developments in the near future will allow for operations up to 1,000 feet with additional equipage and procedural safeguards. Another commenter stated that if an under-10-pound category of UAS aircraft could be created, an altitude of 1,000 feet should be permitted. Another commenter offered that an increase in maximum altitudes is appropriate as size of the UAS aircraft increases. For example, a rotorcraft up to 4 kgs or a fixed-wing aircraft between 6 and 12 kgs would be able to fly up to 700 feet AGL. Rotorcraft up to 20 kgs and fixed wing up between 12 and 24 kgs would be able to fly up to 3,000 feet AGL. These altitude limits would be accompanied by pilot medical and training requirements, as well as additional equipage requirements, such as ADS-B.

One commenter noted that the rule is harsh toward non-hazardous UAS operations. This commenter argued that low-altitude quad copter operations should be given relief to operate at altitudes similar to those used for a commercial moored balloon or kite. The Resource Stewardship Consortia proposed an extension up to 1,400 feet for a proof of concept trial performed in places where the threat of collateral damage is minimal should a failure occur, and for operations that would benefit from a higher altitude.

In response to comments addressing the specific altitude limit, the FAA agrees that a 400-foot ceiling will allow for a significant number of applications for the small UAS community, while providing an added level of safety for manned-aircraft operations. A ceiling of 400 feet AGL will provide an additional 100-foot margin of safety between small UAS operations and a majority of aircraft operations in the NAS. This additional 100-foot buffer will help maintain separation between small unmanned aircraft and most manned aircraft in instances such as the remote pilot losing positive control of the small unmanned aircraft or incorrectly estimating the altitude of the aircraft.

Further, the revised limit addresses other concerns regarding potential confusion between model aircraft and small unmanned aircraft. Specifically, limiting operations to 400 feet is consistent with FAA guidance on model aircraft best practices identified in AC 91-57A, thus standardizing operating altitudes for the majority of small unmanned aircraft flying in the NAS. A 400-foot altitude ceiling is also consistent with the approach adopted in other countries. Specifically, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom all set a 400- foot or lower altitude limit on UAS operations conducted in those countries. While the FAA considered the lower altitudes proposed by commenters, it ultimately determined that these lower limits would unnecessarily restrict small UAS operations without a commensurate increase in safety because the concentration of manned aircraft below 400 feet AGL is much lower than the concentration of manned aircraft at or above 500 feet AGL. The FAA also considered the comment recommending positive air traffic control above 200 feet. The FAA ultimately rejected this recommendation because it is overly burdensome to both remote pilots and the air traffic control system. Air traffic controllers could not reliably provide positive separation for operations at this altitude throughout the NAS, and the benefits to users from such separation efforts would not justify the significant additional workload placed on air traffic controllers or the equipment and training costs to remote pilots. In addition, without additional equipment mandates, the provision of positive air traffic control would be unachievable.

To address the concerns expressed by commenters requesting higher operating altitudes in proximity to buildings, towers, power lines, and other tall structures for the purposes of inspections and repair, the FAA is establishing new provisions in the final rule that will enable those operations in a way that does not compromise aviation safety. Specifically, the FAA notes that 14 CFR 91.119 generally prohibits manned aircraft from operating in close proximity to structures. Section 91.119 requires manned aircraft to stay 500 to 1,000 feet away from the structure, depending on whether the area is congested. Because manned aircraft are not permitted to operate in close proximity to structures, this rule will allow a small unmanned aircraft to fly higher than 400 feet AGL as long as that
aircraft remains within a 400-foot radius of a structure up to an altitude of 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit. Allowing higher-altitude small UAS operations within a 400-foot lateral limit of a structure will enable additional operations (such as tower inspection and repair) while maintaining separation between small unmanned aircraft and most manned aircraft operations.

The FAA disagrees that a further increase in altitude is justified. Higher-altitude small unmanned aircraft operating in airspace that is transited by most manned aircraft operations would no longer be separated from those manned aircraft, which would greatly increase the risks of a collision. Most remote pilots of small UAS would also benefit very little from an additional increase in altitude because the visual-line-of-sight restrictions of this rule and the equipment limitations of a small UAS would, in many cases, limit the ability or need to operate at altitudes higher than what is provided for by this rule. Such a limited benefit would not be commensurate with the added risk that a higher altitude would impose upon other users of the NAS.

However, the FAA recognizes that new technologies may increase the feasibility of higher altitude operations. Therefore, to provide flexibility to accommodate new developments, the altitude limitation of this rule will be waivable. Thus, if a remote pilot demonstrates that his or her high-altitude small UAS limitation will not decrease safety, the FAA may allow that operation through a certificate of waiver. This will enable a number of operations, such as research and development for higher-altitude small UAS operations. The FAA is committed to working with the stakeholder community to pursue such options when it is deemed appropriate.

With regard to search and rescue operations, most of these operations are conducted by government entities under COAs as public aircraft operations. Those operations will therefore not be subject to the altitude limitations of this rule.

Several commenters raised concerns regarding a remote pilot’s ability to discern the altitude of the small unmanned aircraft. Commenters including AOPA and GAMA asserted that current UAS lack accurate altimetry systems, making compliance with any altitude restriction difficult. GAMA asked that the FAA clarify how an operator determines the UAS altitude in flight. Similarly, one individual stated that while the altitudes proposed in the rule are in principle sound, they are unenforceable. Other commenters asserted that it is impossible to judge altitude, particularly over precipitous terrain, and that altitude restrictions of any kind may only be relied upon if UAS were required to have altitude limiting devices. The Permanent Editorial Board of the Aviators Model Code of Conduct
proposed that the FAA require the use of a practical technique for UAS operators to estimate their altitude with sufficient accuracy or require the use of a technical solution to ensure compliance.

Remote pilots have effective techniques to determine altitude without mandating the installation of an altimetry system. For example, with the unmanned aircraft on the ground, a remote pilot in command may separate him or herself 400 feet from the aircraft in order to gain a visual perspective of the aircraft at that distance. Remote pilots may also use the known height above the ground of local rising terrain and/or structures as a reference. The FAA acknowledges that these methods of estimating altitude are less precise than equipment-based altitude determinations, which is one of the reasons this rule will increase the separation between manned and small unmanned aircraft by reducing the maximum altitude for small unmanned aircraft to 400 feet AGL.

Additionally, the FAA will provide, in its guidance materials, examples of equipment options that may be used by remote pilots to accurately determine the altitude of their small unmanned aircraft. One example is the installation of a calibrated altitude reporting device on the small unmanned aircraft. This device reports the small unmanned aircraft’s altitude above mean sea level (MSL). By subtracting the MSL elevation of the control station from the small unmanned aircraft’s reported MSL altitude, the aircraft’s AGL altitude may be determined. The installation of a GPS altitude-reporting device may also provide for a requisite level of altitude control. The FAA emphasizes, however, that this equipment is simply one means of complying with the altitude restrictions in this rule. One commenter asked if the proposed 500-foot limit represents the altitude above the launch point or the height of the UAS altitude above the ground. The commenter noted that some topographical features present dramatic changes in altitude. Glider operators raised similar questions regarding altitude over sloping terrain.

The maximum altitude ceiling imposed by this rule is intended to limit the height of the aircraft above the ground over which it is flying (AGL). It is incumbent upon the remote pilot in command to maintain flight at or below this ceiling regardless of the topography.

Several commenters stated that the 500-foot altitude restriction does not address the public’s expectation that airspace (up to 500 feet) above private property is under their control and may not be penetrated without permission. Event 38 Unmanned Systems stated that the FAA should attempt to set a reasonable altitude requirement for overflight of property not controlled by any UAS operator. This commenter proposed a 100-foot limit for incidental incursions and a 300-foot limit for intentional flight across private property without permission. Another commenter suggested requiring small UAS to operate between 400 and 500 feet AGL when flying above private property, unless the remote pilot has obtained the property owner’s permission. Other commenters, including the NJIT
Working Group and the Kansas Livestock Association, commented on the relationship between the final rule requirements and trespass and nuisance protections for private landowners.

Adjudicating private property rights is beyond the scope of this rule. However, the provisions of this rule are not the only set of laws that may apply to the operation of a small UAS. With regard to property rights, trespassing on property (as opposed to flying in the airspace above a piece of property) without the owner’s permission may be addressed by State and local trespassing law. As noted in section III.K.6 of this preamble, the FAA will address preemption issues on a case-by-case basis rather than doing so in a rule of general applicability.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments opposed a 500-foot maximum altitude, stating it is inconsistent with Public Law 112-95 and the 400-foot ceiling identified in Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57.

Public Law 112-95 directs the Department to establish requirements for safe integration of UAS operations into the NAS but does not specify the altitude parameters of such operations. AC 91-57A is advisory in nature and pertains to model aircraft not subject to part 107. However, the 400-foot maximum altitude imposed by this rule is similar to the 400-foot maximum altitude suggested as a best practice for modelers by AC 91-57A. One commenter stated that the COA process should be maintained for operations outside of class G airspace and altitudes above 500 feet. However, with the exception of flight that is within 400 feet of a structure, small unmanned aircraft seeking to fly higher than 400 feet AGL will have to obtain a waiver to do so.

Several commenters recommended the creation of specialized airspace for UAS operations. This may include designated airspace for certain clubs, or the establishment of special airways or corridors. Farris Technology and the University Of Washington promoted the use of corridors or dedicated airways that will allow UAS flights above 500 feet.

Creation of UAS-specific airspace is beyond the scope of this rule because the NPRM did not propose to create any new airspace classifications or reclassify existing airspace.

One commenter suggested that the 500-foot restriction in Class G airspace should only be in place for rotorcraft UAS. However, after careful consideration, the FAA could not find a compelling reason to differentiate between fixed-wing and rotorcraft UAS for the purposes of altitude restrictions. For both aircraft, the threats posed to the NAS are similar. The UAS aircraft class itself does not mitigate those threats in any calculable manner. Therefore, a distinction based on UAS aircraft class is unwarranted. ALPA recommended a change to the preamble discussion regarding the maximum altitude. As currently written, the preamble to the NPRM states that a small unmanned aircraft is prohibited from “travel higher than 500 feet AGL.”95 ALPA recommended replacing the word “travel” with “fly” or “operate.” For added clarity, the FAA will use the terms “fly” or “operate” in discussing the maximum altitude limitation in this preamble.

Several commenters, including Green Vegans, stated that the proposed 500-foot operating ceiling would make it impossible to comply with 14 CFR 91.119, which
prescribes minimum altitudes for part 91 operations. Green Vegans questioned how a small UAS operator could remain in compliance with both part 107 and section 91.119. Except where expressly stated to the contrary, the provisions of part 107 will replace the provisions of part 91 for small UAS operations subject to this rule. Consequently, a small UAS operating under part 107 will not be required to comply with § 91.119

……………………….

The NPRM proposed a maximum air speed limit of 87 knots (100 mph) for small unmanned aircraft. The FAA explained that this speed limit is necessary because if there is a loss of positive control, an aircraft traveling at high speed poses a higher risk to persons, property, and other aircraft than an aircraft traveling at a lower speed. The NPRM also noted that a speed limit would have safety benefits outside of a loss-of-positive-control scenario because a small unmanned aircraft traveling at a lower speed is generally easier to control than a higher-speed aircraft. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will impose an 87-knot (100 mph) speed limit. This rule will, however, make the pertinent speed measurement the groundspeed rather than the airspeed of the small unmanned aircraft. The speed limit will also be waivable. Commenters including NAMIC, the Drone User Group Network, and the Remote Control Aerial Platform Association supported the proposed maximum airspeed. These commenters generally noted that the speed limitation of 100 mph seems reasonable for small UAS operating within visual line of sight.

Other commenters, including the Air Medical Operators Association, the Virginia Department of Aviation, and SWAPA, stated that FAA should lower the maximum permissible airspeed (e.g., to 50 or 75 mph) because, the commenters argued, the proposed speed of 100 mph is too high and would pose undue risks. Several commenters, including Texas A&M University, HAI, the Virginia Department of Aviation and others, asserted that the NPRM failed to demonstrate the safety of the proposed speed limitation. These commenters argued that it would be extremely difficult to maintain positive control of a small unmanned aircraft flying at 100 mph.

Some commenters, including the American Association for Justice, the United States Ultralight Association, and the State of Nevada, asserted that the kinetic energy of a 55-pound object moving at 100 mph could cause significant damage to large aircraft. The US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, and Predesa stated that a lower maximum speed would provide additional time for UAS operators and pilots of manned aircraft to see and avoid each other. Several of these commenters, including the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Kansas State University UAS Program, stated that a 100 mph speed limit would make it extremely difficult (if not impossible) for an operator to maintain visual line of sight with the unmanned aircraft. NBAA, the Airports Council International—North America and the American Association of Airport Executives recommended that the FAA conduct further study and risk assessment regarding appropriate speed limitations for this type of UAS. The Permanent Editorial Board of the Aviators Model Code of Conduct Initiative argued that FAA should establish a lower maximum speed that will create no greater harm than is caused by most birds (approximately 30 knots) until such time as further data demonstrates the safety of a higher speed limitation.

A speed limit of 87 knots (100 mph) must be viewed within the context of the overall regulatory framework of part 107. In other words, a small unmanned aircraft may reach a speed of 87 knots only if the remote pilot in command can satisfy all of the applicable provisions of part 107 while flying the small unmanned aircraft at 87 knots. For example, since this rule requires small UAS operations to be conducted within visual line of sight, a remote pilot in command may not allow the small unmanned aircraft to reach a speed where visual-line-of-sight cannot be maintained in accordance with § 107.31. Additionally, as discussed in section III.E.3.b.vi of this preamble, the remote pilot in command must, prior to flight, assess the operating environment and consider risks to persons and property in the vicinity both on the surface and in the air. The remote pilot in command must also ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason. Thus, if the remote pilot in command plans to have an operation in which the small unmanned aircraft will travel at 87 knots, that remote pilot will, as part of the preflight assessment process, need to take precautions to ensure that the unmanned aircraft will not pose an undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property on the ground. Those precautions will likely be greater than the precautions that a remote pilot in command will need to take for a small unmanned aircraft traveling at a lower speed. Accordingly, a maximum speed limit of 87 knots is appropriate because the remote pilot in command will have to implement mitigations commensurate with the risk posed by his or her specific small UAS operation.

Other commenters, including Textron Systems recommended no limitations regarding airspeed, arguing that as long as the operator can maintain visual line of sight and control of the UAS, there should be no performance limitations.

A speed limit is generally necessary for small unmanned aircraft because an aircraft traveling at high speed poses a higher risk to persons, property, and other aircraft than an aircraft traveling at lower speed. As discussed earlier, the other parameters of this rule (such as visual line of sight and the preflight assessment conducted by the remote pilot in command) mitigate this risk for small unmanned aircraft traveling at speeds up to 87 knots. However, those parameters do not address the risk posed by small unmanned aircraft traveling at speeds faster than 87 knots. Accordingly, this rule will retain the proposed 87-knot speed limit but will make that limit waivable. As part of the waiver process, the FAA will consider operation-specific mitigations to address additional risk posed by higher-speed small UAS operations.

The Kansas State University UAS Program and SWAPA questioned whether there would be any commercial applications of small UAS that would necessitate a 100 mph airspeed. Further, several commenters, including Modovolate Aviation, asserted that many small UAS, such as those employing multi-rotor technology, may not need to or may not be able to reach a speed of 100 mph.

The FAA agrees that there will likely be small unmanned aircraft incapable of reaching a speed of 87 knots. The FAA also agrees that there will likely be small UAS operations that are incapable of satisfying the other provisions of this rule, such as visual line of sight, at a speed of 87 knots. However, that is not a sufficient justification for reducing the maximum permissible speed for all small unmanned aircraft because there may be small UAS operations that can reach a speed of 87 knots and operate safely at that speed in compliance with all applicable provisions of part 107.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation noted that the FAA did not propose any specific equipage requirements for small UAS that would be used to determine airspeed. Similarly, CAPA stated that the NPRM does not require or define how the operator will maintain operations below a specified airspeed other than visually, which the commenter said would be very difficult to do when operating in congested airspace and scanning for other conflicts.

Aerius recommended that the FAA amend the proposed regulatory text to make any speed limitations based on groundspeed because many UAS are not equipped with a system that would provide airspeed to the small UAS operator. Several individuals noted that multi-rotor helicopter UAS cannot sense airspeed, only groundspeed. Another individual suggested that the regulatory text be amended to reference GPS-generated airspeed because all UAS do not have the equipment to provide airspeed to the operator.

As noted by the commenters, the provisions of this rule will not require small UAS to be equipped with a system that would provide calibrated airspeed to the remote pilot in command. The FAA also notes that the groundspeed of the small unmanned aircraft is what is pertinent to the safety of a small UAS operation because that is the information that specifies how quickly the aircraft is moving relative to the ground in proximity to where the remote pilot is located. Because changing the standard to groundspeed rather than calibrated airspeed would not have a detrimental effect on safety and because many unmanned aircraft may not have the equipage necessary to measure calibrated airspeed, the FAA agrees with the commenters and has changed the maximum airspeed standard to be a function of groundspeed. A small unmanned aircraft’s groundspeed could be determined by measures such as GPS-based speed, visual estimation, a radar gun, or timed travel across a fixed distance. This rule will retain the maximum speed limit of 87 knots (100 mph), but that limit will be a measure of groundspeed rather than airspeed.

A few individuals (who self-identified as recreational operators of model aircraft) said the proposed maximum speed would preclude them from holding certain types of model aircraft competitions. In response, the FAA emphasizes that, as discussed in section III.C.4 of this preamble, part 107 will not apply to model aircraft operations that meet the criteria of section 336 of Public Law 112-95.

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Remote Pilot Airmen Certification Standards Explained (2019)

Tape measureIf you are wanting to become a remote pilot, you need to know what is in the Remote Pilot Airmen Certification Standards (ACS).

What Are the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)?

An ACS is a “comprehensive presentation that integrates the standards for what an applicant needs to know, consider, and do in order to pass both the knowledge test . . . for a certificate or rating.” There are multiple types of airmen certificates (private, commercial, remote, etc.) that are issued by the FAA which each have their own privileges an  Each of these certificates have their own ACS.  The ACS is really a standard by which to measure if an applicant is qualified in an objective way. The FAA released a pdf of FAQ’s on ACS in general.

Here is a video explaining the ACS as it is being implemented generally.

How Do I Use the Remote Pilot Airmen Certification Standards to Study for the Part 107 Exam?

The Remote Pilot Airmen Certification Standards includes Areas of Operation and Tasks for the initial issuance of a Remote Pilot Certificate with an sUAS rating. You should study to know the material listed. Each task in the ACS is coded according to a scheme that includes four elements. For example:

UA.I.B.K10:
UA = Applicable ACS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems)
I = Area of Operation (Regulations)
B = Task (Operating Rules)
K10 = Task element Knowledge 10 (Visual line of sight (VLOS) aircraft operations)

The ACS also tells you how the test will be weighted which can allow you to more wisely spend your time when studying. Some topics make a large portion of the knowledge exam which means you should master those topics.

I’m a Part 61 pilot. What about those Practical Test Standards (PTS)?

“The ACS is basically an enhanced version of the Practical Test Standards (PTS).” If you are a manned aircraft pilot, you most likely remember the PTS. The ACS will replace the PTS, but since this Part 107 exam is brand new, their is no remote pilot PTS. It is just a brand new remote pilot ACS. Unfortunately, if you are taking a knowledge exam, the areas you missed on the exam will be displayed on a print out as a learning statement code (LSC), not an ACS code. “The [FAA] is contracting for a test management services system that will include this capability. In the initial ACS implementation phase, however, applicants, instructors, and evaluators will continue to see PLT codes on the airman knowledge test report.”

Has the FAA Change the Remote Pilot Airmen Certification Standards?

Yes. The FAA issued a draft Remote Pilot ACS in 2016 and later issued an updated ACS in July 2016. The most current ACS is dated June 2018. Two of the most significant changes below are the percentages of certain test subjects were INCREASED. Many created study courses, guides, material, etc. to help individuals study for the Part 107 exam used the draft Remote Pilot ACS. I’m not sure how many of them knew that the ACS was updated so buyer beware online.

Keep in mind there were many small edits for continuity or fixing errors, but they didn’t matter. The same message was still conveyed. (One funny one was Appendix 5 which defined CFI as Chief Flight Engineer.)

Changes Between the Draft and the July 2016 Remote Pilot ACS.

LOCATION

NEW

DRAFT

I. Regulations References14 CFR parts 47, 48 and 107, subpart B; AC 107-214 CFR part 107, subpart A; AC 107
I. Regulations

Objective (Add)

To determine that the applicant is knowledgeable of the operating rules of 14 CFR part 107, the registration rules of 14 CFR parts 47 and 48, and other associated operating requirements.To determine that the applicant exhibits competence in knowledge and risk management associated with the general regulatory requirements of 14 CFR part 107.
UA.I.B.K6 (Split)6. Hazardous operations.

a. Careless or reckless

b. Dropping an object

6. Hazardous operations, such as careless or reckless behavior or allowing an object to be dropped.
UA.I.B.K21 (Split)21. Operating limitations for sUAS.

a. Maximum groundspeed

b. Altitude limitations

c. Minimum visibility

d. Cloud clearance requirements

21. Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.
UA.I.B.K22 (Complete change)22. The requirements for a Remote Pilot Certificate with an sUAS rating.22. Model aircraft operations status.
UA.I.B.K23 (Delete)23. Flights defined as public aircraft operations.
UA.I.B.K24 (Delete)24. Requirements for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.
UA.I.D.K1 (Subtraction)1. The waiver policy and requirements.1. The waiver policy and the understanding of the regulatory subject matter, equivalent level of safety requirement, and special provisions in a waiver.
II. Airspace Classification and Operating Requirements

References (Add)

14 CFR part 71; AC 107-2; FAA-H-8083-25; AIM [NOTE: I believe the FAA should have also included 14 CFR Part 73 in here as well]AC 107; FAA-H-8083-25; AIM
UA.II.B.K2ATC authorizations and related operating limitations.Concepts relating to ATC clearances and permissions.
UA.II.B.K3 3.(They merely deleted “maximum altitude limit” from the draft and everything moved up.)Maximum altitude limit.
UA.II.B.K5The NOTAM system including how to obtain an established NOTAM through Flight Service.(this moved up to K4).
UA.II.B.K6 (Deleted)It looks like this was combined into UA.II.B.K56. Temporary flight restrictions (TFR) airspace.
UA.II.B.K7 (Deleted)It looks like this was combined into UA.II.B.K57. Notice to airmen (NOTAMS) system including how to obtain an established NOTAM through Flight Service.
UA.V.A.K8 (Subtraction)

 

Phraseology: altitudes, directions, speed, and time.Phraseology: figures, altitudes, directions, speed, and time.
V. Operations

Task B. Airport Operations

References (Addition)

AC 107-2, AC 150/5200-32; FAA-H-8083-25; AIMAC 107; AIM
V. Operations

Task D. Aeronautical Decision-Making (Subtraction)

AC 107-2; FAA-H-8083-2; FAA-H-8083-25AC 107; FAA-H-8083-25; AC 60-22
UA.V.F.K5 (Addition)5. Persons that may perform maintenance on an sUAS.
Appendix 1 (Add)The knowledge test applicant has up to two hours to complete the test.
Appendix 1 Table (Change)II. Airspace & Requirements

15 – 25%

II. Airspace & Requirements

8- 15%

(Change)V. Operations

35 – 45%

V. Operations

13-18%

Appendix 4 (Add)Part 47
DeleteAC 60-22 (Aeronautical Decision Making)
DeleteAC 91-57 (Model Aircraft Operating Standards)
AddFAA-H-8083-2 (Risk Management Handbook)
Appendix 5 (Abbreviations and Acronyms)  (Delete)AAS (Airport Advisory Services)
AddACR (Airman Certification Representative)
AddAKTC (Airman Knowledge Testing Center)
AddATC (Air Traffic Control)
ChangeCFI (Certified Flight Instructor)CFI

(Certified Flight Engineer)

DeleteDPE (Designated Pilot Examiner)
AddDOT (Department of Transportation)
AddFTN (FAA Tracking Number)
DeleteGCS (Ground Control Station)
AddIACRA (Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Applicant)
DeleteIFO (International Field Office)
DeleteIFU (International Field Unit)
DeleteMOA (Military Operating Area)
AddODA (Organization Designation Authorization)
AddRPE (Remote Pilot Examiner)
ChangeUNICOM (Aeronautical Advisory Communications Stations)UNICOM (Universal Integrated Community)
DeleteUTC (Coordinated Universal Time)
DeleteVMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions)
AddVLOS (Visual Line of Sight)

 

The FAA Part 107 ACS also included a helpful table.

 

AC 107-2 sUAS

Part 61 Pilot Certificate Holders with a Current Flight Review

Online Application After Knowledge Test [1] 

Paper Application [2] After Knowledge Test [1]

Online Application After Online CoursePaper Application [2] After Online Course
Submit an online application using Integrated Airman Certification and/or Rating Application (IACRA.)

 

Receive email notification to print and sign a temporary certificate through IACRA.

 

Receive a permanent certificate by mail.

Complete FAA Form 8710-13 and mail it with the original copy of your Knowledge Test Report to:

 

DOT/FAA Airmen Certification Branch, AFS-760 PO Box 25082 Oklahoma City, OK 73125

 

Do not receive a temporary certificate

Receive a permanent certificate by mail.

Submit an online application using IACRA.

Meet with an FAA-authorized individual [3] to validate your:

• IACRA application ID number

• FAA Tracking Number (FTN)

• Identification

• Online course completion certificate

• Pilot certificate

• Flight review documentation

Receive a temporary certificate in person (or if meeting with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), receive email notification to print and sign a temporary certificate through IACRA) [4].

Receive a permanent certificate by mail.

Complete FAA Form 8710-13.

Meet with an FAA-authorized individual [3] to validate your:

• FAA Form 8710-13

• Identification

• Online course completion certificate

• Pilot certificate

• Flight review documentation

Receive a temporary certificate in person (except when meeting with a CFI)[4]

Receive a permanent certificate by mail.


Ultimate Guide to Drone Laws [2019] Written by a Lawyer

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

Where NOT to Look for Help With Drone Laws

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

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

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

Where to Look for Help With Drone Laws

You should look at resources in this order:

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

I. United States Drone Laws

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

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

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

A. Federal Drone Public Law

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

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

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

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

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

B. Federal Drone Regulations 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. State Drone Laws

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

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

II. International Drone Laws

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

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


Free Part 107 Test Study Guide For FAA Remote Pilot Airmen Certificate (Updated 2019)

 

Needing a Part 107 study guide to help really focus in on what needs to be studied so you can pass on the first try?

I created this free Part 107 test study guide to help my clients and the drone community based upon my experience as a FAA certificated flight instructor and aviation attorney. 

There are two tests: the initial and recurrent knowledge exam. Pick which one of these tests below to be taken to the portion of this page that is directly applicable to you.

The FAA compiled a list of many references in the final airmen certification standards for the remote pilot knowledge exam and FAA created study guide. Unfortunately, they did NOT include everything you need or would find helpful. Below I have included the material the FAA suggested you study along with extra items that the FAA should have included, which are in the bold text, that I added.

 

Part 107 Test Study Guide Table of Contents (Pick One)

First time test taker study guide.

Recurrent knowledge exam study guide.

 

 

First Time Test Taker Study Guide

I want to emphasize, after you pass your test, you should be looking for quality mentorship for the long term. Being a professional is not just about passing a test. If you are looking to be mediocre, I suggest you go to another industry and do us all a favor. It should be about learning the material AND how to apply it properly in practice.  Passing the Part 107 exam is merely the key unlocking the door to begin your journey into aviation, not a certificate saying you have arrived.

To reemphasize, once you pass your test, go find a competent flight instructor who can help you apply the knowledge you will learn to real life situations so you can be profitable, legal, and safe.

Update: I wrote an article on the Part 107 statistics (pass/fails, applications filed, applications approved, etc.)

Disclaimer:  You aren’t guaranteed to pass the test based off this material.

First Timers Step-by-Step Game Plan:

Step 1. Read all the steps.

Step 2. Sign up for the test. Instructions on signing up for the test getting your pilot license is here. You should pick a date based upon how much time you have in relation to how much material you need to go through. You are looking at around 538 pages of material you need to read. Yes, I know there are only 135 pages in THIS document. I reference pages in other documents below.

Step 3. Learn about the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) and read over the Part 107 ACS.

Step 4. Start studying the material below.

Step 5. Once you are done or feel competent. Take the test of 40 sample questions. For your deficient areas, go over those particular areas in the ACS. All 40 questions are answered and explained in this document in the back.

Step 6. In the final stretch of time, study Area II and Area V from the ACS since both of those areas will make up 50-70% of the test.

Step 7. After you passed your test, you should be looking for quality mentorship for the long term. Being a professional is not just about passing a test. If you are looking to be mediocre, I suggest you go to another industry and do us all a favor. It should be about learning the material AND how to apply it properly in practice. Now go find a competent flight instructor who can help you apply the knowledge you learned to real life situations so you can be profitable, legal, and safe.

 

Tips For While You Are Studying:

You will be able to take the test with the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot which is a great resource. There are two reasons why you should look for this supplement and know what is in it: (1) there are helpful legends which will be great for answering sectional map questions and (2) many questions on the test will reference some of the figures in this supplement. At the end of your studying, you should skim through and ask yourself questions based on the numbered areas on the sectional charts.

See a term you don’t know in the ACS? Look it up in the glossary of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) to see what the term means in a short statement. Want to learn more about the term in the ACS? Look up the term in the index of the PHAK and/or Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) which will tell you where to find more information.

Hit ctrl + f and type in the word to search through the PDF rapidly.

 

Free Material to Start Studying

The FAA compiled a list of references in the final ACS and FAA study guide. Unfortunately, they did not include everything you need or would find helpful. Below I have included the extra items that the FAA should have included, which are in the bold text.

I find it interesting the FAA did not note anything about Part 830 (except for one small reference in a PLT code) or the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Both of those programs are focused on safety while the FAA’s accident reporting requirement in Part 107 is focused on safety and enforcement.  A pilot needs to know both of these programs. I find it also interesting the FAA didn’t mention anything about the NASA ASRS which is there for the pilot’s benefit, not the FAA’s, regarding enforcement actions.  Let that sink in for a second. This shows the importance of why you need to have a good aviation attorney in your corner to look after you, as the FAA won’t. Read What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

The total number of regulations and pages is very large. I chopped it up into what pieces of material you should know in entirety and what you should pick pieces and parts of based upon the ACS.

The total test will be 60 questions and you will have 2 hours to complete it. The minimum passing score is 70% which is a maximum of 18 questions wrong or a minimum of 42 questions right.

If there are any errors or broken links in here, for the greater good of everyone studying, let me know so I can correct it and inform everyone.

Reference

Title

Read Entirely

14 CFR Part 45 (Subpart A & C)Identification and Registration Marking
14 CFR part 47 Aircraft Registration
14 CFR part 48Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
14 CFR part 71Designation of Class A, B, C, D and E Airspace Areas; Air Traffic Service Routes; and Reporting Points
14 CFR part 73 [this should have been in there]SPECIAL USE AIRSPACE (Restricted and Prohibited Airspace).
14 CFR Part 91 Sections Referenced in Part 107.Sections:

·         91.17 Alcohol or Drugs

·         91.19 Carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.

·         91.137 Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas.

·         91.138 Temporary flight restrictions in national disaster areas in the State of Hawaii.

·         91.139 Emergency air traffic rules.

·         91.141 Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties.

·         91.143 Flight limitation in the proximity of space flight operations.

·         91.144   Temporary restriction on flight operations during abnormally high barometric pressure conditions.

·         91.145 Management of aircraft operations in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events.

·         91.203(a)(2) Civil aircraft: Certifications required.

14 CFR 99.7§ 99.7 Special security instructions.
14 CFR Part 101 Subpart ESubpart E—Special Rule for Model Aircraft
14 CFR Part 107Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
49 CFR Part 830Notification And Reporting Of Aircraft Accidents Or Incidents And Overdue Aircraft, And Preservation Of Aircraft Wreckage, Mail, Cargo, And Records
SAFO 15010 (2 Pages)Carriage of Spare Lithium Batteries in Carry-on and Checked Baggage
SAFO 10015 (1 Page and 23 minute video)Flying in the wire environment
SAFO 10017 (3 Pages)Risks in Transporting Lithium Batteries in Cargo by Aircraft
SAFO 09013 (1 Page and a 10.5 minute Video)Fighting Fires Caused By Lithium Type Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices
AC 150/5200-32 (11 Pages)Reporting Wildlife Aircraft Strikes
AC 107-2  (53 Pages)Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)
FAA-S-ACS-10 (33 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards
FAA-G-8082-22 (87 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide
FAA-G-8082-20 (17 Pages)Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide

Articles I wrote that will help you understand some of the areas you need to know for the test. (12 webpages total)

·         Part 107 (ACS) Airmen Certification Standards Explained (2 pages)

·         Part 107 Knowledge Test (65 Questions Answered & Explained) (4 pages)

·         TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) (1 page)

·         What Type of Criminal Punishment (Prison Time) or Fines can Result for a TFR Violation? (1 page)

·         8 Different TFRs – Flight Restrictions for Good Reason (1 page)

·         FAA Part 107 Waiver (COA) – What Drone Pilots Need to Know (1 page)

·         What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone? (1 page)

·         How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver from 107.29)

·         More Part 107 Test Questions for Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (22 Super Hard Practice Questions)

Things you should NOT Read in Entirety but ONLY the relevant sections I list or ctrl +f the term in the document for the relevant sections. (The AC00-06, AIM, RMH, PHAK points came from the Knowledge Test Guide Pages 12-16)

Aeronautical Chart User’s GuideAeronautical Chart User’s Guide (21 pages)

·         Pages 13-44

AC 00-6  (200 Pages)Aviation Weather  (42 Pages)

·         Thunderstorms (19-1 through 19-11)  (11 Pages)

·         Winds / Currents (Chapter 7 – 6 pages) (Chapter 9 – 9 pages) (Chapter 10 – 9 pages).

·         Density Altitude (Sections 5.3 through 5.5 – 6 pages).

·         Effects – Temperature (Pages 5-10 through 5-12 already covered)

·         Effects – Frost Formation (Section 22-4  – 1 page)

·         Effects – Air Masses and Fronts (Section 10-1 through 10-8  – already covered)

AC 00-45 – Aviation Weather ServicesAviation Weather Services (17 pages)

·         Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF) (Pages 5-75 through 5-92 – 17 pages)

·         Thunderstorms

AIM Aeronautical Information Manual (54 pages)

·         General Airspace (3-1-1 through 3-5-10  – 26 pages)

·         Authorization for Certain Airspace

·         Airport Operations (4-3-1 through 4-3-4  –  4 pages)

·         Aeronautical Charts (9-1-1 through 9-1-4 Don’t read past Caribbean VFR aeronautical charts.  – 3 pages)

·         Radio Communications – Non-towered & Towered  (4-2-1 through  4-2-8  6 pages)

·         Traffic Patterns

·         Traffic Advisory Services

·         Phonetic Alphabet

·         Scanning / See and Avoid  (4−4−14 & 8−1−6   –  4 pages)

·         NOTAMs (5−1−3  –  6 pages)

·         Temporary Flight Restrictions (3−5−3 Overlap)

·         Hyperventilation (8−1−3  – 1 page)

·         MOA (3−4−5  Overlap)

·         Sources – Weather Briefings / Sources (7−1−2   –  1 page)

·         Prescription and OTC Medications  (8−1−2   –  3 pages)

FAA-H-8083-2Risk Management Handbook

·         Situational Awareness (2 pages)

FAA-H-8083-25Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (77 Pages)

·         Loading/Performance –  Balance, Stability, Center of Gravity (Pages 5-33 through 5-43  – 11 pages)

·         Aeronautical Decision Making – Crew Resource Management (Pages 2-4 through 2-32  29 Pages)

·         Aviation Routine Weather Reports (METAR) (13-6 through 13-8  – 3 pages)

·         Military Training Routes

·         Other Airspace Areas (15-4 through 15-7 – 4 Pages)

·         Reading a Chart

·         Aeronautical Charts (14-3, 16-2 through 16-7 – 7 pages)

·         Informational Sources (1-9 through 1-12  4 pages)

·         Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF) (13-9 – 1 page)

·         Hazardous Attitude (Page 2-4  through 2-6    –    4 Pages)

·         Crew Resource Management  (G-8  – 1 page)

·         Situational Awareness  (2-22  1 page)

·         Effective Scanning  (17-23   1 page)

·         Drugs and Alcohol  (17-15 through 17-18   – 4 pages)

·         Effects – Atmospheric Stability and Pressure   (12-12  through 12-17  – 6 pages)

·         Effects – Temperature

·         Weather Briefings / Sources  (13-5  1 page)

·         Prescription and OTC Medications

FAA-CT-8080-2HAirman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot

·         Know how to use the two legends. Pages 1-19. This supplement will be provided to you when you take the test. If they do not, ask for it. Read Page 7 of this FAA document for proof.

·         Know all the terms in Figure 1. (Look these terms up in the PHAK)

·         Figure 2 – Know how to use.

·         Figure 12- Decode these and study them. You should know how to read these for the real world, not just memorize these so you can pass the test.

·         Figure 13 – You should read over this and know what information is important for you as a drone pilot and what is not.

·         Figure 15 – This is important to know so you can plan operations.

·         Figure 55 – Picture 3 and 7.  This is how pilots dance at parties. After the party, if you ever have a flag and you need to hide it so it doesn’t get stolen at an airport, a great place to hide it is under the tail of an airplane. See Picture 4.

·         Study Figure 20-26, 59, 69-71, 74-76, 78, 80

·         Decode 31, 52, 63, 77, 79, 81,

 

Part 107 Remote Pilot Test Taking Tips:

A bunch of the questions on your test will be answered right by the legend in the supplement. You CAN refer to this while in the test. Make sure the test proctor gives you the correct one that is up to date prior to going into the test. I heard one horror story where the person had an old one so the questions didn’t match up. Make sure you have a current one!

Go with the “spirit of the question,” not the letter of the question. Try and figure out what the FAA is trying to test you on. Remember that these questions were most likely created very hastily and do not make perfect sense. When I took the test, I remember a few questions that looked like they were written by someone who was up at 2AM trying to crank out tons of questions. If you are stumped, then ask yourself, “What is the guy up at 2AM in the morning trying to test me on?”

Always keep in mind how the answers can answer OTHER questions. If you don’t know the answer, or eliminate the wrong ones, keep moving on. Sometimes the questions and answers further down will provide you the answers to the one you are having trouble with. When I took the test, I noticed that there were two questions that were very similar in topic. One of the questions had two really dumb answers which basically gave away the correct answer. If you knew nothing about the topic, just using common sense to eliminate the two bad answer, you could have used the correct answer to answer the first question.

Brain dump everything immediately onto your scrap paper when you start the test. You want to write down everything you think you will forget on the scrap piece of paper. Just dump it all out and any pictures and diagrams you have up in your head.

Try and answer the question BEFORE you read the answers so you don’t get tricked. The FAA likes to create answers where one is a slight “one-off” from the correct answer. By reading the answers, you can introduce doubt. For example, Federal Aviation Administration or Federal Aviation Agency? Which is it? They both seem like good answers.  Is it MSL or AGL?

Eliminate the wrong answers. If you can’t fined the correct answer, find the wrong ones.

Read the test question AND answers carefully. I cannot over emphasize this.

Sleep and eat well. I would just sleep 8-10 hours. Take the test around 10AM-12PM. This way you aren’t rushed and can miss rush hour traffic as you drive there. When I was in law school (3-4hour exams) and taking the Florida bar exam (2 full 8 hour days), I had to make sure my body wouldn’t go out on me. I would eat very greasy foods right before I would go in so I wouldn’t be hungry while I would take a Kombucha vitamin B shot right. Check with your doctor to make sure this is ok with you. The vitamin B would start metabolizing by the time I took the test or started answering questions.

 

 

 

 

Recurrent Knowledge Test Study Guide

If you need help calculating when you need to take your test by, see my article on 107.65 Aeronautical Knowledge Recency. 

Game Plan:

Step 1. Read all the steps. Understand this is for the recurrent exam, NOT the initial exam. That is another study guide on my website.

Step 2. Figure out when you need to take the test by. See the section below talking about when aeronautical knowledge currency expires.

Step 3. Sign up for the test. Instructions on signing up for the test is here. You should pick a date based upon how much time you have in relation to how much material you need to go through. You are looking at around 335 pages of material you need to read. Yes, I know there are only 138 pages in THIS document. I reference pages in other documents below.

Step 4. Learn about the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) and read over the Part 107 ACS.

Step 5. Start studying the material below based upon what was listed in the ACS regarding the recurrent knowledge exam.

Step 6. Once you are done or feel competent. Take the test of 40 sample questions. For your deficient areas, go over those particular areas in the ACS. All 40 questions are answered and explained in this document in the back. Keep in mind that some of those questions are on things that won’t be on the recurrent exam such as weather. You might want to skip those questions or take a crack at it to see if your knowledge is still good.

Step 7. In the final stretch of time, study Area I (the regulations) and Area II (airspace & chart reading) from the ACS since both of those areas will make up 60-80% of the test. Maybe go through the 107 regulations paid video course at Rupprecht Drones with 100+ questions?

 

Helpful Comparison Tables Between the Initial and Recurrent Knowledge Tests

Not everything is on the recurrent knowledge exam like it was with the initial. Here is a table I created for the online video training course on Part 107 being sold over at Rupprecht Drones.

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

The percentages of questions on topics have changed also.

Let’s dive into the three areas to see what is covered.  All of Area I (Regulations) and Area II (Airspace & Requirements) are on the recurrent exam. Nothing from Area III (Weather) or Area IV (Loading & Performance) is on the exam.

Area V (Operations) is mixed.

A. Radio Communications ProceduresNOT on Test
B. Airport OperationsOn Test
C. Emergency ProceduresOn Test
D. Aeronautical Decision-MakingOn Test
E. PhysiologyNOT on Test
F. Maintenance and Inspection ProceduresOn Test

 

Tips For While You Are Studying

  • You will be able to take the test with the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot which is a great resource. The test center should provide you a copy. You can’t bring your own. There are two reasons why you should look over this supplement and know what is in it: (1) there are helpful legends which will be great for answering sectional map questions and (2) many questions on the test will reference some of the figures in this supplement. At the end of your studying you should skim through and ask yourself questions based upon the numbered areas on the sectional charts.
  • See a term you don’t know in the ACS? Look up the term in the index of the PHAK and/or Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) which will tell you where to find more information.
  • Hit ctrl + f and type in the word to search through the PDF rapidly.

 

Free Material to Start Studying

Disclaimer:  You aren’t guaranteed to pass the test based off this material.

The FAA compiled a list of references in the final ACS and FAA study guide. Unfortunately, they did not include everything you need or would find helpful. Below I have included the extra items that the FAA should have included, which are in the bold text.

I find it interesting the FAA did not note anything about Part 830 (except for one small reference in a PLT code) or the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Both of those programs are focused on safety while the FAA’s accident reporting requirement in Part 107 is focused on safety and enforcement.  A pilot needs to know both of these programs. I find it also interesting the FAA didn’t mention anything about the NASA ASRS which is there for the pilot’s benefit, not the FAA’s, regarding enforcement actions.  Let that sink in for a second. This shows the importance of why you need to have a good aviation attorney in your corner to look after you, as the FAA won’t. Read What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

The total number of regulations and pages is very large. I chopped it up into what pieces of material you should know in entirety and what you should pick pieces and parts of based upon the ACS.

The recurrent knowledge exam will be 40 questions and you will have 1.5 hours to complete it. The minimum passing score is 70% which is a maximum of 12 questions wrong or a minimum of 28 questions right.

If there are any errors or broken links in here, for the greater good of everyone studying, let me know so I can correct it.

Reference

Title

Articles I wrote that will help you understand some of the areas you need to know for the test. (12 webpages total)
·         Part 107 (ACS) Airmen Certification Standards Explained (2 pages)

·         Part 107 Knowledge Test (65Questions Answered & Explained) (4 pages)

·         TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) (1 page)

·         What Type of Criminal Punishment (Prison Time) or Fines can Result for a TFR Violation? (1 page)

·         8 Different TFRs – Flight Restrictions for Good Reason (1 page)

·         FAA Part 107 Waiver (COA) – What Drone Pilots Need to Know (1 page)

·         What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone? (1 page)

·         How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver from 107.29)

·         More Part 107 Test Questions for Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (22 Super Hard Practice Questions)

Area I (Regulations)- Read Entirely

14 CFR Part 45 (Subpart A & C)Identification and Registration Marking
14 CFR part 47 Aircraft Registration
14 CFR part 48Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
14 CFR part 71Designation of Class A, B, C, D and E Airspace Areas; Air Traffic Service Routes; and Reporting Points
14 CFR part 73 [this should have been in there]SPECIAL USE AIRSPACE (Restricted and Prohibited Airspace).
14 CFR Part 91 Sections Referenced in Part 107.Sections:

·         91.17 Alcohol or Drugs

·         91.19 Carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.

·         91.137 Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas.

·         91.138 Temporary flight restrictions in national disaster areas in the State of Hawaii.

·         91.139 Emergency air traffic rules.

·         91.141 Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties.

·         91.143 Flight limitation in the proximity of space flight operations.

·         91.144   Temporary restriction on flight operations during abnormally high barometric pressure conditions.

·         91.145 Management of aircraft operations in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events.

·         91.203(a)(2) Civil aircraft: Certifications required.

14 CFR 99.7§ 99.7 Special security instructions.
14 CFR Part 101 Subpart ESubpart E—Special Rule for Model Aircraft
14 CFR Part 107Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
49 CFR Part 830Notification And Reporting Of Aircraft Accidents Or Incidents And Overdue Aircraft, And Preservation Of Aircraft Wreckage, Mail, Cargo, And Records

Area II. (Airspace Classification and Operating Requirements) & Area V (Operations)

Aeronautical Chart User’s GuideAeronautical Chart User’s Guide (21 pages)

Pages 13-44

SAFO 15010 (2 Pages)Carriage of Spare Lithium Batteries in Carry-on and Checked Baggage
SAFO 10015 (1 Page and 23 minute video)Flying in the wire environment
SAFO 10017 (3 Pages)Risks in Transporting Lithium Batteries in Cargo by Aircraft
SAFO 09013 (1 Page and a 10.5 minute Video)Fighting Fires Caused By Lithium Type Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices
AC 150/5200-32 (11 Pages)Reporting Wildlife Aircraft Strikes
AC 107-2  (53 Pages)Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)
FAA-S-ACS-10 (33 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards
FAA-G-8082-22 (87 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide
FAA-G-8082-20 (17 Pages)Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide

Things you should NOT Read in Entirety but ONLY the relevant sections I list or ctrl +f the term in the document for the relevant sections. (The AC00-06, AIM, RMH, PHAK points came from the Knowledge Test Guide Pages 12-16)

AIM Aeronautical Information Manual

·         General Airspace (3-1-1 through 3-5-10  – 26 pages)

·         Authorization for Certain Airspace

·         Airport Operations (4-3-1 through 4-3-4  –  4 pages)

·         Aeronautical Charts (9-1-1 through 9-1-4 Don’t read past Caribbean VFR aeronautical charts.  – 3 pages)

·         Traffic Patterns

·         Scanning / See and Avoid  (4−4−14 & 8−1−6   –  4 pages)

·         NOTAMs (5−1−3  –  6 pages)

·         Temporary Flight Restrictions (3−5−3 Overlap)

·         MOA (3−4−5  Overlap)

FAA-H-8083-2Risk Management Handbook

·         Situational Awareness (2 pages)

FAA-H-8083-25Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

·         Aeronautical Decision Making – Crew Resource Management (Pages 2-4 through 2-32  29 Pages)

·         Military Training Routes

·         Other Airspace Areas (15-4 through 15-7 – 4 Pages)

·         Reading a Chart

·         Aeronautical Charts (14-3, 16-2 through 16-7 – 7 pages)

·         Informational Sources (1-9 through 1-12  4 pages)

·         Hazardous Attitude (Page 2-4  through 2-6    –    4 Pages)

·         Crew Resource Management  (G-8  – 1 page)

·         Situational Awareness  (2-22  1 page)

·         Effective Scanning  (17-23   1 page)

FAA-CT-8080-2HAirman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot

·         Know how to use the two legends. Pages 1-19. This supplement will be provided to you when you take the test. If they do not, ask for it. Read Page 7 of this FAA document for proof.

·         Know all the terms in Figure 1. (Look these terms up in the PHAK)

·         Figure 2 – Know how to use.

·         Figure 12- Decode these and study them. You should know how to read these for the real world, not just memorize these so you can pass the test.

·         Figure 13 – You should read over this and know what information is important for you as a drone pilot and what is not.

·         Figure 15 – This is important to know so you can plan operations.

·         Figure 55 – Picture 3 and 7.  This is how pilots dance at parties. After the party, if you ever have a flag and you need to hide it so it doesn’t get stolen at an airport, a great place to hide it is under the tail of an airplane. See Picture 4.

·         Study Figure 20-26, 59, 69-71, 74-76, 78, 80

·         Decode 31, 52, 63, 77, 79, 81,

TEST TAKING TIPS

  • USE THE SUPPLEMENT LEGEND! A bunch of the questions on your test will be answered right by the legend in the supplement. You CAN refer to this while in the test. Make sure the test proctor gives you the correct one that is up to date prior to going into the test. I heard of one horror story where the person had an old one so the questions didn’t match up. Make sure you have a current one!
  • Go with the “spirit of the question,” not the letter of the question. Try and figure out what the FAA is trying to test you on. When I took the test, I remember a few questions that looked like they were written by someone who was up at 2AM trying to crank out tons of questions. If you are stumped, then ask yourself, “What is the guy up at 2AM in the morning trying to test me on?”
  • Always keep in mind how the answers can answer OTHER questions. If you don’t know the answer, or eliminate the wrong ones, keep moving on. Sometimes the questions and answers further down will provide you the answers to the one you are having trouble with. When I took the test, I noticed that there were two questions that were very similar in topic. One of the questions had two really dumb answers which basically gave away the correct answer. If you knew nothing about the topic, just using common sense to eliminate the two bad answer, you could have used the correct answer to answer the first question.
  • Brain dump everything immediately onto your scrap paper when you start the test. You want to write down everything you think you will forget on the scrap piece of paper. Just dump it all out and any pictures and diagrams you have up in your head.
  • Try and answer the question BEFORE you read the answers so you don’t get tricked. The FAA likes to create answers where one is a slight “one-off” from the correct answer. By reading the answers, you can introduce doubt. For example, Federal Aviation Administration or Federal Aviation Agency? Which is it? They both seem like good answers.  Is it MSL or AGL?
  • Eliminate the wrong answers. You don’t have to always find the correct answer, just the wrong ones.
  • Read the test question AND answers carefully. I cannot over emphasize this.
  • Sleep and eat well. I would just sleep 8-10 hours. Take the test around 10AM-12PM. This way you aren’t rushed and can miss rush hour traffic as you drive there.

Having Trouble Learning the Material?

All the material you need to pass the remote pilot knowledge exam is in this page.  To help speed up the learning process, I’ve been creating online training courses for the sister company Rupprecht Drones. Some people want to learn quicker or don’t have to read so I created online courses to meet their needs that are on Rupprecht Drones. I’m planning on creating many more online courses to help individuals quickly learn the material for the remote pilot knowledge exam so frequently check in. These courses also are great for company training and recurrent training to keep the pilots and crew proficient. The courses on Rupprecht Drones are:

Part 107 Regulations Online Training Course (test prep, waiver compliance, recurrent training, etc.)  40 videos and 35 quizzes totaling to over 100 questions for the entire course!

Night Operations Online Training Course for the Night Waiver. This is the training needed to fly under the Part 107-night waiver. It consists of 8 videos and 8 quizzes. If you pass it, you print out the certificate and keep it for your records in case the FAA audits you.

This is Part of a Part 107 Series of Articles.


New FAA Recreational Drone Laws [May 2019]

recreational-drone-laws

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

On May 17, 2019, the FAA started implementing Section 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. On May 31, 2019, the FAA published Advisory Circular 91-57B which cancelled AC 91-57A and brought everything up-to-date. You need to throw out what you knew about recreational drone laws in the United States as a big reset button has been pressed.

Recreational Drone Laws Table of Contents:

 

Brief History of the Recreational Drone Laws:

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

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

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

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

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

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

In April 2019, the FAA published an official withdrawal of their 2014 model aircraft interpretation.  May 17, 2019, the FAA started implementing Section 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. On May 31, 2019, the FAA published Advisory Circular 91-57B which cancelled AC 91-57A and brought everything up-to-date.

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

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

 

Recreational Drone Law Summary:

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

 

Recreational flyers will now need to know airspace and how to identify where and where not to fly. Fortunately, I’ve created a 40+ video online course on airspace and chart reading. This course will educate recreational, commercial, and public aircraft flyer so they can fly safely and condidently in the national airspace. 

Airspace & Chart Reading for Drone Pilots

 

Comparison of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 Major Changes :

Before

Now

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

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

No test.

Need to pass a test and keep proof.

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

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

No altitude restriction

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

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

Must comply with airspace flight restrictions.

 

 

 

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

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

GENERAL LIMITATIONS:

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

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

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

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

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

(5) In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

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

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

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

 

AIRCRAFT THAT DO NOT CONFORM TO THE GENERAL LIMITATIONS:

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

 

RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES:

(c) OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES.—

(1) OPERATING PROCEDURE REQUIRED.—Persons operating unmanned aircraft under subsection (a) from a fixed site within Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, or a community-based organization conducting a sanctioned event within such airspace, shall make the location of the fixed site known to the Administrator and shall establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the air traffic control facility.

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

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

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

 

FAA SHALL PERIODICALLY UPDATE OPERATIONAL LIMITATIONS:

(d) UPDATES.—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION:

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

 

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

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

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

(2) the registration and marking of unmanned aircraft;

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

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

 

FAA TO CREATE KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST FOR RECREATIONAL FLYERS:

(g) AERONAUTICAL KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST.—

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

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

(A) understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge; and

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

 

COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION:

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

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


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

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

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


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

(d) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:

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

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

(A) instruction of students at the institution;

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

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

(D) other academic activities approved by the institution.

(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—

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

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

 

FAA Advisory Circular 91-57B Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft


Subject: Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft
Date: 5/31/19 AC No: 91-57B

Initiated by: AFS-800 Change:

1 PURPOSE OF THIS ADVISORY CIRCULAR (AC). This AC provides interim safety guidance to individuals operating unmanned aircraft, often referred to as drones, for recreational purposes under the statutory exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft (Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) § 44809). This AC restates the statutory conditions to operate under the exception and provides additional guidance on adhering to those conditions. Per 49 U.S.C. § 44809, recreational flyers may only operate under the statutory exception if they adhere to all of the conditions listed in the statute.

1.1 Effect of Guidance. This guidance is not legally binding in its own right and will not be
relied upon by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other
administrative penalty. Regardless of whether you rely on this guidance, you are
independently required to comply with all existing laws applicable to the operation of
unmanned aircraft. Conforming your actions with this guidance is voluntary and
nonconformity will not affect any right or obligation under any existing statute or
regulation.

2 AUDIENCE. This AC provides guidance to individuals operating unmanned aircraft for recreational purposes in the National Airspace System (NAS) of the United States. The use of the term “recreational operations” in this AC refers to operations described in 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a).

3 WHERE YOU CAN FIND THIS AC. You can find this AC on the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/advisory_circulars.

4 WHAT THIS AC CANCELS. AC 91-57A CHG 1, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, dated January 11, 2016, is canceled.

5 REFERENCES. This guidance relates to 49 U.S.C. § 44809.

6 RELATED READING MATERIAL (current editions):

  • Title 49 U.S.C. Subtitle VII.
  • Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR).
  • AC 107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), which contains 14 CFR
    part 107 guidance.
  • Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK).
  • FAADroneZone: https://faadronezone.faa.gov/.
  • Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Data Delivery System: https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html.
  • Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) listing: http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.
  • The FAA’s Airspace Restrictions website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/where_can_i_fly/airspace_restrictions/.
  • Notices to Airmen (NOTAM): https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/notices/.
  • Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Safety Handbook: https://www.modelaircraft.org/sites/default/files/100.pdf.
  • FAA National Aviation Events Program website: https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/airshow/.
  • FAA Unmanned Aircraft Registration website: https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/aircraft_registry/UA/.
  • Federal Register (FR) Notice 84 FR 22552, Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft.

7 RECREATIONAL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS. Unmanned aircraft are aircraft without a human pilot on board; they are controlled by an operator on the ground. Operators flying unmanned aircraft can endanger other aircraft, people, or property when flying recklessly or without regard to risks. Additionally, most unmanned aircraft manufactured for recreational use are not tested to any FAA standards for airworthiness, meaning they come with no assurance they will stay airborne or fly in a predictable manner, especially when encountering unexpected circumstances such as radio interference, winds, or power failures. When you fly an unmanned aircraft in the United States, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of the flight, and to understand and follow the appropriate Federal, state, and local laws.

1. The FAA assumes owners and operators of unmanned aircraft are generally concerned about safety and willing to exercise good judgment when flying their aircraft. However, basic aeronautical knowledge and awareness of responsibilities in shared airspace are not common knowledge.

2. The FAA intends to provide a process for recognizing community-based organizations (CBO) and their safety guidelines for recreational flyers in consultation with manufacturers of UAS, CBOs, and other industry stakeholders upon full implementation of 49 U.S.C. § 44809. In the meantime, this interim guidance provides information on the statutory conditions and basic safety guidelines for recreational flyers. Nevertheless, recreational flyers must always remain aware that any operations endangering the safety of the NAS (particularly careless or reckless operations, those endangering persons or property, and/or those that interfere with or fail to give way to any manned aircraft) will be subject to FAA compliance action.

3. Operators who do not fulfill the criteria of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a) (e.g., those who wish to fly small unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes) or who wish to obtain an FAA-issued Remote Pilot Certificate, should review part 107 and the associated guidance in AC 107-2. The guidance in AC 91-57 applies to flyers who only operate recreationally under the statutory exception.

7.1 Statutory Conditions. Until further notice, paragraphs 7.1.1 through 7.1.8 provide guidance on how a person may meet the eight statutory conditions of the statutory exception of 49 U.S.C. § 44809 to operate a UAS for recreational purposes. A person who fails to meet any of the statutory requirements of 49 U.S.C. § 44809 may not operate UAS under the statutory exception and would need to operate them under part 107 or any other applicable FAA authority.

7.1.1 The Aircraft is Flown Strictly for Recreational Purposes. Any use of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes must be conducted under part 107 or other applicable FAA regulations (e.g., 14 CFR part 91, 135, or 137).

7.1.2 The Aircraft is Operated in Accordance With or Within the Programming of a CBO’s Set of Safety Guidelines That are Developed in Coordination With the FAA. Once the FAA has developed the criteria for recognition of CBOs and started officially recognizing CBOs, those CBOs’ safety guidelines will be available for use. During this interim period, the FAA offers two means to satisfy this statutory condition. Recreational flyers should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines they are following.

7.1.2.1 The FAA acknowledges that existing aeromodelling organizations have developed safety guidelines that are helpful to recreational flyers. An example is the AMA safety guidelines, which have previously been reviewed by the FAA as part of the organization’s Recognized Industry Organization (RIO) status for participation in the National Aviation Events Program (refer to FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 5, Chapter 9, Section 6, Issue/Renew/Reevaluate/Rescind an Air Boss Letter of Authorization). These or existing safety guidelines of another aeromodelling organization may be used for recreational operations, provided the guidelines do not conflict with the other statutory conditions of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a).

7.1.2.2 The FAA has existing basic safety guidelines for recreational operations, which are available on its website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/) that may be used.

7.1.3 The Aircraft is Flown Within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) of the Person Operating the Aircraft or a Visual Observer Co-Located and in Direct Communication With the Operator. This means that either the recreational flyer or the visual observer must have eyes on the aircraft at all times to ensure it is not a collision hazard to other aircraft or people on the ground. The assistance of a visual observer is generally optional but is helpful in ensuring the recreational flyer is able to check instruments for extended periods. The assistance of a visual observer is necessary if the recreational flyer wants to use first person view (FPV) devices that allow a limited view of the surrounding area from the perspective of a camera aboard the aircraft.

7.1.3.1 Visual observers need to be co-located with the recreational flyer, and able to communicate directly with the recreational flyer without the use of technological assistance.

7.1.4 The Aircraft is Operated in a Manner That Does Not Interfere With, and Gives Way to, Any Manned Aircraft. This makes the recreational flyer responsible for knowing the altitude and position of their aircraft in relation to other aircraft, and responsible for maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft by giving way to all other aircraft in all circumstances.

7.1.5 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 Operator Obtains Prior Authorization From the Administrator or Designee Before Operating and Complies With all Airspace Restrictions and Prohibitions.

7.1.5.1 The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control (ATC) services (these are called controlled or uncontrolled), and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, and equipment requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. Recreational flyers can learn more about the classes and types of airspace in PHAK Chapter 15, Airspace.

7.1.5.2 For now, recreational flyers may fly in controlled airspace only at fixed sites specifically authorized by the FAA, which are posted at the FAA’s interactive map on the UAS Data Delivery System. On the map, small blue circles depict the location of these sites in controlled airspace, and the altitude limits imposed on those sites. The altitude restrictions are derived from the UAS Facility Maps (UASFM) which form the basic structure of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) and its operating procedures. Recreational flyers can access site-specific information by clicking on the blue circle. Recreational flyers may also refer to the actual airspace authorization and a list of sites on the FAA’s UAS website at www.faa.gov/uas.
Note: These sites have existing letters of agreement (LOA) with the FAA. For the CBO to operate in controlled airspace, an agreement between the CBO and the FAA must be in place. Certain sites may have access restrictions or other operating limitations, which are available from the site sponsor.

7.1.5.3 Do not contact local FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorizations.

7.1.5.4 In order to stay notified of airspace restrictions and prohibitions, recreational flyers can determine any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly by referencing the FAA’s interactive map on the UAS Data Delivery System. On the map, semi-transparent polygons depict airspace information. UAS flight restrictions are shown as red polygons. UAS flight restrictions apply to all UAS flight operations, and remain in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Recreational flyers may also refer to:

1. The FAA’s TFR listing; or

2. The FAA’s Airspace Restrictions website.

7.1.6 In Class G (Uncontrolled) Airspace, the Aircraft is Flown From the Surface to Not More Than 400 Feet Above Ground Level and Complies With all Airspace Restrictions and Prohibitions.

7.1.7 The Operator has Passed an Aeronautical Knowledge and Safety Test and Maintains Proof of Test Passage to be Made Available to the Administrator or a Designee of the Administrator or Law Enforcement Upon Request. The FAA is developing the test in consultation with stakeholders. Recreational flyers would have to pass the test, which could be administered electronically, and would be responsible for providing proof of passage upon request from FAA personnel or law enforcement. The FAA will provide additional guidance and notice when the test is available and the date on which adherence to this condition would be required.

7.1.8 The Aircraft is Registered and Externally Marked, and Proof of Registration is Made Available to the Administrator or a Designee of the Administrator or Law Enforcement Upon Request. Additionally, per the statutory requirements of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a)(8), proof of registration would have to be carried and provided to FAA personnel or law enforcement upon request. Recreational flyers may register electronically under 14 CFR part 48 through the FAADroneZone.

7.1.8.1 Persons 13 years of age or older may register aircraft. If the person is younger than 13, they may not register the aircraft, but another person 13 years of age or older may register the aircraft.

7.1.8.2 A person will need an email address, credit or debit card, a physical address, and a mailing address (if different from the registrant’s physical address) to register electronically under part 48.

7.1.8.3 Under part 48, a person may only operate a small unmanned aircraft if the registration number or unique identifier of the aircraft is legibly displayed on an external surface of the aircraft.

7.2 Upcoming Guidance.

7.2.1 CBO Requirements and Procedures. The FAA intends to provide further information on how organizations can be recognized by the FAA as official CBOs.

7.2.2 Basic Aeronautical Training and Test (BATT). The FAA is developing a training module with an accompanying test to provide basic aeronautical education to all recreational flyers and enhance the safety of the NAS through greater education and awareness. The training and test will be developed in consultation with stakeholders. The FAA expects to provide the training module and test to recognized CBOs for online administration to their members and also to the general public.

7.2.3 LAANC. The FAA currently is upgrading the LAANC system, which will allow recreational flyers far greater flexibility in the future to obtain automated authorization to controlled airspace. The FAA also is exploring upgrades to FAADroneZone to enable access for recreational flyers.

8 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION. For additional information on unmanned aircraft, please visit the FAA’s UAS website at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.

9 AC FEEDBACK FORM. For your convenience, the AC Feedback Form is the last page of this AC. Note any deficiencies found, clarifications needed, or suggested improvements regarding the contents of this AC on the Feedback Form.

Robert C. Carty
Deputy Executive Director, Flight Standards Service

 

 

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

 

 

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


II. Statutory Conditions and Additional Guidance

The eight statutory conditions are as follows:


1. The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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



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

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

 

5. In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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


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


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


LIST OF WAIVED REGULATIONS BY SECTION AND TITLE
N/A


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

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

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

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

Scott J. Gardner

Acting Manager, FAA, Emerging Technologies Team

SPECIAL PROVISIONS


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

 

 

Actual Leaked FAA Memo Regarding New Recreational Drone Laws

 

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

 

Memorandum

Date: May 10 2019

To: Distribution

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action/Deadline:

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

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


Distribution:

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

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

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

 

Actual Leaked Text of New Hobby Drone Law PowerPoint Pages

 

FAA Reauthorization Bill

Recreational Flyers

Old Law (2012 FAA Bill – Section 336)

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

 

FAA Reauthorization Bill

Recreational Flyers

NEW LAW (2018 FAA Bill – Section 349)

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

 

FAA Reauthorization Bill

Recreational Flyers

Controlled Airspace Access Continued

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

 

ATC Facility Instructions

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

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

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

 

How will Recreational Users Know About These New Procedures?

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

-Advisory Circular 91-57B

 

 

 


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

drone-spraying

Interested in buying or using a drone sprayer?

IMPORTANT:Before you buy one, read the part of this article talking about how the law affects the economics of your operations. I’ve had phone calls with people who purchased drones to later realize they purchased a drone NOT efficient for their operations. They were painful phone calls.

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

As of 10/31/2019, I’ve helped 13 clients obtain exemptions for agricultural aircraft operations and 6 clients obtain agricultural aircraft operating certificates. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I distilled into this article some of the important points that I have used as I have assisted clients in successfully obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate their drone sprayers. If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

Table of Contents:

Drone Sprayer Examples:

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

A. Pollen Drone Sprayer

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

As a Digital Trends article put it,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. Drone Tree Seed Planter

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

E. Wind Turbine De-Icing Drone Sprayer

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

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

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

Drone Sprayer Economics

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

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

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

Each of these platforms has pros and cons that need to be weighed against the benefits of the drone sprayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Humans (Backpack Sprayer)

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

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

So Where Do Drone Sprayers Fit In?

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

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

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

Can You Give Me Some Drone Spraying Examples?

  • High value crops that tend to cover smaller acres of land (vineyards, apple orchards, almond orchards, etc.).
  • Spraying pollen on higher value crops to increase crop yields.
  • Crops on terrain that is too inaccessible or inconvenient to get to with a ground sprayer yet is too small to justify hiring a manned aircraft spraying operation.
  • Herbicide spraying on rocky embankments near a water reservoir where you don’t want to endanger your employees or you have a hard time getting to the rocky areas with the ground rig.
  • Mosquito abatement in areas that ground vehicles (or boats) cannot easily get to and that don’t justify the use of manned aircraft.
  • You’re a company that is running an in-house operation testing out aerial application of chemicals or on a particular type of plant.
  • I heard a person one time say they wanted to spray 4,000 acres with a drone. I said you’ll never do that economically. Manned aircraft will be far far cheaper you’ll ever be. Do NOT think 4 farms of 1,000 acres each but 1,000 farms of 4 acres each.  You focus on what businesses are on 1-10 acres.  Nurseries, specialty crops, orchards, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

United States Drone Spraying Law

A. Federal Drone Spraying Law

1. Federal Aviation Regulations

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

Part 107

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

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

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

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

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

Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations. 

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

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

Part 137.3 defines economic poison:

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

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

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

2. Other Federal Regulations

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

B. State & Local Drone Spraying Laws

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

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

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

How Drone Spraying Laws Heavily Influence the Economics

A big mistake some make when getting into drone spraying is that the size of the aircraft ONLY affects the cost per acre. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is the most important point of this entire article.

A drone that weighs 55 pounds or more on take-off, will be required to fly under a different set of regulations and restrictions. Yes, the weight of the aircraft will determine what set of regulations you will fall within.These restrictions can be extremely burdensome in some environments and inconsequential in others.

The two big restrictions facing 55 pound and heavier aircraft are (1) the 500ft bubble and (2) the Blanket COA 5-3-2 airspace bubble.

The 500 Foot Bubble

Under 55 pound operations do not have the 500ft buffer zone but 55 pound and heavier operations do.

To operate a spraying drone 55 pounds and heavier, you’ll need an exemption from some of the regulations in Part 91. One of them is 91.119(c). The exemptions being given out which grant regulatory relief from 91.119(c) require under restriction “27. All flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all persons who are not directly participating in the operation, and from vessels, vehicles, and structures[.]”

People really don’t fully appreciate how big of a buffer zone this is. Let this sink in.

In order to spray operating 55 pound+, the width of the field needs to be at least 500ft ON BOTH SIDES of the drone. Every road, person, house, car, etc. is a problem.

The only exceptions to the buffer zone are to the following three:

a. Over or near people directly participating in the operation of the UAS. No person may operate the UAS directly over a human being unless that human being is directly participating in the operation of the UAS, to include the PIC, VO, and other personnel who are directly participating in the safe operation of the UA.

b. Near nonparticipating persons. Except as provided in subsection (a) of this section, a UA may only be operated closer than 500 feet to a person when barriers or structures are present that sufficiently protect that person from the UA and/or debris or hazardous materials such as fuel or chemicals in the event of an accident. Under these conditions, the operator must ensure that the person remains under such protection for the duration of the operation. If a situation arises in which the person leaves such protection and is within 500 feet of the UA, flight operations must cease immediately in a manner that does not cause undue hazard to persons.

c. Near vessels, vehicles and structures. Prior to conducting operations, the operator must obtain permission from a person with the legal authority over any vessels, vehicles or structures that will be within 500 feet of the UA during operations. The PIC must make a safety assessment of the risk of operating closer to those objects and determine that it does not present an undue hazard.

Basically, you must stay away from non-participating people and property, unless protected.

In some circumstances, this is a deal breaker for 55 pound and heavier operations which means you have to do your operations under 55 pounds under Part 107 which does not have the 500ft buffer zone.

 

The Blanket COA 5-3-2 Airspace Bubble.

The blanket certificate of authorization (COA) being given out with the exemptions for 55 pound and heavier drone spraying operations say the following:

Beyond the following distances from the airport reference point (ARP) of a public use airport, heliport, gliderport, or seaport listed in the Digital – Chart Supplement (d-CS), Alaska Supplement, or Pacific Chart Supplement of the U.S. Government Flight Information Publications:
(1) 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
(2) 3 NM from an airport having a published instrument flight procedure, but not having an operational control tower; or (3) 2 NM from an airport not having a published instrument flight procedure or an operational control tower; or
(4) 2 NM from a heliport.

This is what it looks like on a sectional chart for the airspace around Austin, Texas.

You can obtain approvals to fly in those red areas. The blanket COA says, “For all UAS requests not covered by the conditions listed above, the exemption holder may apply for a new Air Traffic Organization (ATO) COA at https://caps.faa.gov/coaportal.”  It just means another hoop you have to jump through if you need to fly there.

In heavily congested airspace environments, this is a deal breaker for 55 pound and heavier operations which means you have to do your operations under 55 pounds under Part 107 which does not have the 500ft buffer zone. This is the same area under Part 107 regulations. Those 3 red areas are where a COA is required under Part 107.

107-airspace-austin

When it comes to getting COA approvals. Part 107 wins. The CAPs portal above for 55+ operations is a super pain to connect to and takes longer than LAANC which is the FAA’s new way of granting COAs electronically within seconds in certain locations.

Because of these reasons, not too many people operate 55+ legally. If you go to the FAA registration database and type in different make and models of spray drones capable for flying over 55 pounds, you’ll notice very few aircraft are registered under Part 47 which is the only way you can register 55 pound+ drones. The aircraft you see are those that can legally operate 55+ and heavier in the US. Explanations for low numbers could be (1) the registrant incorrectly registered under Part 48 which is ONLY for SMALL drones, (2) the registrant chose to operate their drone under 55 pounds according to Part 107 and use the easier Part 48 online registration process (even though they could physically operate heavier), or (3) they just chose to illegally operate without registration.

A Solution!

Nothing prohibits you from having two exemptions. :)

You can have one aircraft that can operate under either one depending on the needs of the environment.

Conceptually, you “mow the lawn” with the 55+ exemption with the 500ft buffer while you “weed wack” the edges under Part 107 without the 500ft buffer zone. There are some issues you will run into if you already have one of the exemptions and you are trying to add on another, you’ll want to schedule a phone call with me so we can go into all the issues with the endorsement, manuals, LOA, etc. There are issues with jumping back and forth between the two also.

Drone Sprayers (and Spreaders) for Sale

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

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

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

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

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

1. Work With an Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


Section 107.73 Initial and recurrent knowledge test. (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents:

Part 107 Initial Knowledge Test

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

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

Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

Differences Between the Initial & Recurrent Knowledge Test

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

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

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

Comparison Using the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)

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

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

Comparison Using the Regulations

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

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

 

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

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

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

Part 107 Initial Knowledge Practice Test Questions

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Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test Practice Questions

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