Commercial Drone Rules (Part 107)


Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency. (2020)

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Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

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

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

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

My Commentary on Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

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

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

Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

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

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

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

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

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

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

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

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

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

How do I check if someone else is current?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corona Virus is preventing me from taking knowledge test. What can I do?

My remote pilot knowledge test is about to expire, and I can’t go take the test because of Corona Virus. What can I do?

The FAA has your answer. It isn’t just remote pilots. All of aviation is affected by the Corona Virus. https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FAA-2020-0446

The FAA is issuing an emergency special federal aviation regulation (SFAR).

It has not gone into effect yet. This is going to be published in the Federal Register.

Quick Summary:

  • Remote pilots, who are still current, about to lose currency (April through June) and want to take an initial or recurrent knowledge exam, but cannot due to the Corona Virus, can instead take an free online course on the FAA’s website. This allows you to fly for another 6 months from date of online course.
  • Manned aircraft pilots who want to maintain currency for Part 107 can do this provided (1) they are still current but needed a BFR sometime in March-June, (2) within the previous 12 calendar months they obtained 10 hours as PIC in an aircraft they are rated, (3) taken courses totally 3 Wings credits (taken after January 2020), and (4) took the FAA online remote pilot course. Their BFR currency will be for 3 months and their remote pilot currency for 24 months.

Text of Draft Final Rule Applicable to Part 107 Remote Pilots

(7) Aeronautical Knowledge Recency Requirements of § 107.65. A person who has not satisfied the aeronautical knowledge recency requirements of § 107.65(a) or (b) of this chapter within the previous 24 calendar months may operate a small unmanned aircraft system under part 107 of this chapter, provided that person meets the following requirements—

(i) Airmen requirements. The person was current to exercise the privileges of a remote pilot certificate in March 2020 and, to maintain aeronautical currency, is required to meet the aeronautical recency requirements in § 107.65(a) or (b) of this chapter between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

(ii) Qualification requirements. The person must have completed an FAA developed initial or recurrent online training course, available at https://www.faasafety.gov, covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.74(a) or (b) of this chapter. Each person is eligible to take an online training course specified in this paragraph one time for the purpose of obtaining the six calendar month grace period specified in paragraph 2.(b)(7)(iii) of this SFAR.

(iii) Grace period. The person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system under part 107 of this chapter for a duration of six calendar months from the month in which the person completed the online training course specified in paragraph 2.(b)(7)(ii) of this SFAR. Before operating a small unmanned aircraft system under part 107 in the seventh month after the month in which the person completed the online training course, the person must satisfy § 107.65 of this chapter.

Text of Discussing the Final Rule for Part 107

Section 107.65 requires remote pilots certificated under part 107 to establish recency of knowledge every 24 calendar months. To meet the recency of knowledge requirement per §107.65(a) or (b), remote pilots must pass an FAA knowledge test at a knowledge testing center. The initial and recurrent knowledge tests required by §107.65(a) or (b) cover the comprehensive list of knowledge areas specified in §107.73(a) or (b), respectively. Section 107.65(c) allows remote pilots who are also certificated under part 61 and have a current flight review in accordance with §61.56 to complete online training to meet aeronautical knowledge recency. The initial or recurrent training course covers the condensed list of knowledge areas specified in §107.74(a) or (b), respectively, because the part 61 pilot who has a current flight review has already demonstrated knowledge of many of the topic areas tested on the UAS knowledge test.

Even if open, some knowledge testing centers may introduce airmen to risks of exposure to COVID-19. The inability of part 107 operators to remain current could have a negative impact on a community’s ability to support the safe inspection of infrastructure, including power lines, fire and rescue, flood responses, law enforcement, and overall public safety.

Under the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, eligible remote pilots who would normally establish recency of knowledge in accordance with §107.65(a) or (b) may complete online training as an alternative if required to establish recency between April 2020 and June 2020. The remote pilot may complete the FAA-developed initial or recurrent online training courses at www.faasafety.gov one time to establish knowledge recency for six calendar months. As previously stated, the initial or recurrent online training course covers a condensed list of UAS-specific knowledge areas because it is intended for persons who hold part 61 pilot certificates and satisfy the flight review requirements of §61.56. The FAA finds that, for a limited duration of time, allowing remote pilots to complete one of these online training courses is an adequate alternative to passing a knowledge test. However, because these courses do not include all of the knowledge areas under §107.73(a) or (b) that a remote pilot is required to be tested on every 24 calendar months, the remote pilot will need to establish knowledge recency in accordance with §107.65 at the conclusion of the six calendar months. Remote pilots who qualify to establish recency of aeronautical knowledge per §107.65(c) are not included in this relief. Pilots who use the relief from §61.56 in this SFAR may establish recency of aeronautical knowledge per §107.65(c) and retain remote pilot privileges for 24 calendar months.

Text of Final Rule for those Using 61.56(c) to become current under 107.65(c).

(2) Flight review requirements of § 61.56. A person who has not completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar months in accordance with § 61.56 of this chapter may continue to act as pilot in command of an aircraft, provided the following requirements are met—

(i) Airmen requirements. The person was current to act as pilot in command of an aircraft in March 2020 and, to maintain currency, is required to complete a flight review under § 61.56 of this chapter between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

(ii) Qualification requirements. To act as pilot in command of an aircraft during the period specified in paragraph 2(b)(2)(iii) of this SFAR, the person must have—

(A) Within the 12 calendar months preceding the month in which the flight review is due, logged at least 10 hours of flight time as pilot in command in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated; and

(B) Since January 1, 2020 and preceding the date of flight, completed online Wings courses for pilots from the FAA Safety Team website, available at https://www.faasafety.gov. The online training courses must total at least 3 Wings credits.

(iii) Grace period. The person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft for a duration of three calendar months from the month in which the flight review was due. Before acting as pilot in command of an aircraft in the fourth month after the month in which the flight review was due, the person must satisfactorily complete a flight review in accordance with § 61.56 of this chapter.

 

Text Applicable to Part 61 Pilots Utilizing 107.65(c). (Section 61.56(c) Biannual Flight Review)

Section 61.56(c) states that no person may act as PIC of an aircraft, unless since the beginning of the 24th calendar month before the month in which that person acts as PIC, that person has accomplished a flight review in an aircraft for which that person is rated and the person’s logbook has been endorsed for that review by an authorized instructor certifying the review was satisfactorily completed.

The FAA finds, under the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, that extending the 24 calendar month requirement of §61.56(c) by up to three calendar months will not adversely affect safety, provided the extension applies to active pilots and certain risk mitigations are met. The three calendar month extension applies to pilots who were current to act as PIC of an aircraft in March 2020 and whose flight review was due in March 2020 through June 2020. To mitigate any safety risk, the pilot must have logged at least 10 hours of PIC time within the twelve calendar months preceding the month the flight review was due. This flight time must be obtained in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated. In addition, eligible pilots will need to complete FAA Safety Team online courses totaling at least three WINGS credits. The courses must have been completed in January 2020 or later to meet this requirement. Completion of the safety courses demonstrates continued learning and pilot professional development.

Keep in mind that this SFAR applies to many other things such as duration of medical certificates, renewal of flight instructor certificates, etc. You can read the entire 94 page document here.

Frequently Asked Questions (Answered by Jonathan):

My knowledge test already expired. How does this benefit me? 

This is only for those who are presently current. If you already expired, you are not eligible.

How much does the online FAA course cost?

It’s free. The two FAA Courses are ALC-451 (Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (small UAS) Initial) and  ALC-515 (Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (small UAS) Recurrent).

How many times can we do this?

Once.

Does it last 6 months from date of my recency expiration or 6 months from the date I complete the online course?

It’s 6 months from the month you took the online course. So if you took the online course on 5/1, you would be good through the last day November (11/30).

Do the course you have over at Rupprecht Drones count towards this?

No, the night operations course, airspace and chart reading course, and Part 107 regulations over at Rupprecht Drones were not designed for this; however, we area structuring them all (and the future courses in the works) so you could take your future recurrent knowledge exams online through our courses according to the proposed regulations.

Head over to www.rupprechtdrones.com and check out the courses and free videos.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (Answered by the FAA)

Q: Who does the SFAR apply to?
A: The SFAR applies to an airman:
1. Who is certificated as a remote pilot under part 107; and
2. Whose recency of knowledge lapses between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020; and
3. Who must meet recency of knowledge requirements by passing an aeronautical knowledge test per §107.65(a) or (b)

Q: What does the SFAR do?
A: An airman who is eligible and complies with the provisions of the SFAR will be able to take either online training course (ALC-451 or ALC-515) at www.faasafety.gov in lieu of taking an aeronautical knowledge test at a knowledge testing center required by §107.65(a) or (b). Completing the online training course under the provisions of the SFAR will extend an airman’s aeronautical knowledge recency six calendar months.

Q: What happens after the additional six calendar months of aeronautical knowledge recency the SFAR provides or the SFAR is terminated?
A: Unless otherwise extended, an airman who is in their sixth calendar month must comply with §107.65 as written in order to continue exercising the privileges of their remote pilot certificate in the following calendar month. For example, if an airman completes the online training per the SFAR on May 4th, 2020, prior to November 1st , 2020 they will need to establish recency of knowledge by complying with §107.65 as written. Termination of the SFAR will require compliance with §107.65 as written.

Q: When am I due to establish recency of knowledge and when does my recency of knowledge lapse?
A: An airman is due to establish recency of knowledge in the 24th calendar month from the month they last completed training/testing. Recency of knowledge lapses (“expires”) on the first day of the 25th calendar month from the month they last completed training/testing.

Q: My currency expired on March 1, 2020 (or earlier), am I eligible for this relief?
A: No. An airman whose recency of knowledge (“currency”) lapsed on March 1, 2020 were not restricted by COVID-19 pandemic procedures from visiting a knowledge testing center in February, 2020.

Q: What is a “calendar month”?
A: A calendar month contains all dates within that month. For example, if an airman received their initial remote pilot certification (or established recency of knowledge) on April 18th, 2018, they would be current through April 30, 2020 (the 24th calendar month). In this example, on May 1, 2020, the airman would not be permitted to exercise the privileges of their remote pilot certificate until they met the requirements of §107.65.

Q: Does my remote pilot certificate expire?
No. Remote Pilot certificates do not expire. The ability to exercise the privileges of the certificate must be established every 24 calendar months by complying with §107.65.

Q: What happens if I’m not eligible for the SFAR relief?
A: If your recency of knowledge expired in March 2020 (or before), you may still be able to operate under part 107, provided you can comply with §107.12(a)(2). That regulation permits a person to operate a small UAS under part 107 without holding a remote pilot certificate as long as they are under direct supervision of a Remote Pilot who is current per §107.65.

Q: Does this provide relief for initial certification of remote pilots under part 107 as well?
A: No. Applicants for a remote pilot certificate must comply with §107.63. The SFAR does not offer any relief for those requirements.

Q: If I qualify for initial certification under §107.63(a)(2) and I cannot visit a FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), who can process my application?
A: Any FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Airman Certification Representative (ACR), or Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) may process applications under §107.63(a)(2).
Note: CFIs are not authorized to issue a temporary certificate and the applicant will need to wait until the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) notifies the applicant that their temporary airman certificate is available for printing.

Q: Do I need to create an account on www.faasafety.gov in order to take either of the online training courses identified in the SFAR?
A: Yes. In order for credit to be given for completing the online course, the user must create an account. There is no cost for creating an account.

Q: If I don’t have access to the internet or a computer, will I be able to take the training course another way?
A: No. The SFAR only provides relief by completing either training course (ALC-451 or ALC-515) online at www.faasafety.gov.

Q: May a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) endorse my recency of knowledge to meet the requirements of §107.65?
A: No. CFIs are not authorized to endorse recency of knowledge required by §107.65.

Q: Is the FAA extending recency of knowledge without enforcement action, like they did for medical certificates?
A: No. To use the relief provided by the SFAR, an airman must be eligible and complete one of the training courses identified.

Q: If I still meet the currency requirements under §61.56 and I complete the online training course per §107.65(c), do I still get a new 24 calendar month period?
A: Yes. An airman who qualifies for recency of knowledge per §107.65(c) without using the provisions of the SFAR will still be able to complete the online training course and establish a new 24 calendar month period.

Q: If I qualify for §61.56 relief under the SFAR, will I still be able to establish my recency of knowledge per §107.65(c)?
A: Yes. If you are receiving SFAR relief for the currency requirements under §61.56, you may use that relief and establish recency of knowledge under §107.65(c) which will be valid for 24 calendar months.

Q: Can I take the online training identified in the SFAR multiple times to get additional six calendar month extensions?
A: No. An airman operating in accordance with the SFAR will be allowed to take the training course a single time to establish recency of knowledge. Completing the training course an additional time, will not “reset” the six calendar month extension.

Q: Do I need to carry additional documents with me when operating under the provisions of the SFAR?
A: An airmen operating under the SFAR must remain in compliance with §107.7 and make available to the Administrator “Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.” This includes documentation that shows eligibility for the SFAR and the training course completion certificate used under the provisions of the SFAR.

Q: I can’t find my previous aeronautical knowledge test/training course certificate. How may I obtain a copy of my previous certificate required by the SFAR?
A: To obtain a copy of a previous aeronautical knowledge test certificate, contact the Airman Certification Branch at (866) 878-2498. If an airman completed the online training course at www.faasafety.gov, they may re-print their certificate from their account.

Q: What subject areas are not included in the online training courses that are required under §107.73?
A: Airspace classification, flight restrictions, and their operating requirements as well as airport operations are not included in the online training courses. The FAA recommends that remote pilots eligible for relief under the SFAR review those subject areas after completing the online training.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.6.2.2 The recurrent aeronautical knowledge test areas are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

f. General Requirement for Initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i. Credit to Holders of Part 61 Pilot Certificates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Drone Sprayers: Uses, Laws, & Money Saving Tips (2020)

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. Those 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 Benefits

  • You can remove the person from the area being treated. This is a MAJOR benefit. Yes, the crew has to be around the drone while it’s being loaded but that is so trivial compared to spraying some heavily vegetated area where everyone is definitely going to get covered tripping and falling on all sorts of stuff.
  • One trip. Some operations can benefit from the small size of the drone which can be stored in the back of a truck. Instead of driving out to identify what is going on and then going back and picking up some more equipment (argo, ground rig, etc.) you can just spot spray those areas. Yes, a backpack sprayer can do that but how good is that backpack sprayer for swamp, water, rocky uneven areas, etc.? Plus, a drone sprayer can spray those areas faster than a backpack sprayer which could mean the backpack sprayer could cost you more in the long run (more injuries, more hours worked, etc.).
  • Lowers Risk Exposure. Having problems with spraying troublesome areas such as under power lines, rocky inaccessible areas, near powerlines, near towers with guidewires, near highly noise sensitive home owners who complain constantly to the FSDO (which results in ramp checks), box canyons, etc. Send in the drone. If you lose the drone, no biggy. No one is on board. If you have a current Part 137 operation, you should see how you could REPLACE risk by operating a drone instead of a manned aircraft in certain environments. Think about it guys. You send out the flagmen sometimes. Couldn’t ya just have the flagman turn around and “weed wack” the dangerous areas with the drone?
  • Able to get into areas manned aircraft cannot easily get into. Part 137 requires the operator to file a congested area plan if they are operating over a congested area. The problem is manned aircraft cannot operate like a drone. You have to fly the manned aircraft there while a drone can be driven there. This results in the manned aircraft operation having to go through the hassles of filing a congested area plan and getting it approved. I would argue that unmanned aircraft fly in between congested areas. Think about it. You could be treating golf courses, canals, ponds, lakes, etc. all in a suburban/urban environment but you are never over people or property. You drive up in your truck and launch the drone.

 

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 its 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. But your workers could get covered in the chemical. Numb lips anyone?

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, keep reading. I have a section down below.

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.

So ya need to get permission. Now you’re knocking on doors like your a girl scout selling cookies. What if they are in the shower, out of town, in the barn, just don’t care, etc.? Bummer. You have to stay more than 500ft away. Yes, if you are doing the job for the person who owns the cow, barn, and house, you could just get that permission so that resolves that problem….but……what about their neighbors barn, house, or cow which may be near the fence?  Knock knock……Who’s there?

You…knocking and not doing what you need to be doing.

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.

Some choose to solve this situation with an aircraft optimized for over 55 and another optimized for under 55. Another is just have one aircraft and fly it under 55 (with less payload) in the 500ft buffer areas and go 55+ for the fields. Both scenarios would need a under 55 exemption and a 55+ exemption.

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 Sprayer Statistics (# of Operators, Exemptions, Registrations, etc.)

Drone Spray Operators (as of 11/2019):

  • 25 Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Certificate Operators using Drones

Exemptions (as of 11/2019):

  • 53 Exemptions for Part 107 spraying operations (Under 55 pound operations).
  • 24 Exemptions for Part 91 spraying operations. (55 pound + operations)

Registrations (as of 11/2019):

Part 47 registrations for unmanned aircraft is searchable by make and/or model. (If you fly 55 pound +, you must register via Part 47. The Part 48 database is not searchable unfortunately.). This is an important point because it tells you have many 55 pound+ aircraft are capable of legally operating in the US. Some people who purchase aircraft capable of flying 55 pound+ realize they would rather just operate under 55 pounds which means they are not as efficient.

Note: the customer registering could have put the names in incorrectly or the FAA entered them incorrectly so there could things registered incorrectly I missed. For example, there was an entry for the Yamaha REMAX when it’s correctly called RMAX.

  • 15 Yamaha
    • 5  RMAX
    • 4  RMAX Type II
    • 3  Fazer
    • 3  FAZER R
  • 2 Harris Aerial
    • 1 H18
    • 1 Stark HX8
  • 2 Homeland Surveillance & Electronics.   I searched “HSE” “Homeland” “HS&E” for the manufacturer.
    • 1 AG MBA PRO
    • 1 AG V8A+ PRO RTK
  • 1 Pyka
  • 1 Kiwi Technologies
  • 0 Joyance
  • 0 DJI with their T16

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.

My Services & FAQs

Process:

A petition for exemption needs to be filed. In parallel to this process, you go through the agricultural aircraft operating certification at the local flight standards district office level. I’ll give you instructions on how to do this. Basically, you file an application to them and send them the manuals we filed in support of the petition for exemption. Once the exemption is granted, you schedule with the FAA an in-person inspection where they verify your knowledge and skill of flying the aircraft. If you pass, you then obtain an operating certificate.

In order for the spraying operations to be in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations (other laws may apply as well), the pilot needs a remote pilot certificate, the drone must be registered, you need the exemption, AND the agricultural aircraft operating certificate has been issued.

Time:

Turn around times on an exemption from the FAA is about 60-90 days from filing to approval, unless there is a government shutdown. Turn around time on the agricultural aircraft operator certificate can be 3-9 months depending on many factors.

Deliverables:

The deliverables are determined by what you select.

 CostExemptionManualsAgricultural Aircraft Operating CertificateAnswering Whatever Drone Law Questions You Have
Level 11,800Filed by me.I file stock manuals I created. No customization.·  Step-by-step guide.

·  Study material.

·  You file the paperwork and resolve any issues encountered with the FAA.

·  You study on your own and find the answers on your own beyond what I don’t answer in the 30 minutes.

30 Minutes
Level 23,000Filed by me.Work with you to customize manuals to your needs. I then file.·  Answering questions regarding FAA created certification problems

·  Emailing or calling FAA inspectors to resolve problems.

·  Step-by-step guide.

·  study material.

120 Minutes (Useful when preparing for your inspection)

From me, I’ll file the exemption. If Level 2 is selected, I’ll assist you in creating the operations and training manual. I’ll need you to decide on the finished training and operations manual.

From you, I need the contract signed AND payment before I start working. During the process, you’ll need to supply me the aircraft manual (what the manufacturer gave you). If Level 2 is selected, I’ll assist you in creating the operations and training manual. I’ll need you to decide on the finished training and operations manual.

My Experience:

I have helped 13 clients obtain an exemption and 6 agricultural aircraft operating certificates. I have had 0 rejections of my 137 exemption petitions.

FAQs:

  • Can I add aircraft later? Yes, the best way to do it is to have one aircraft on the exemption which is the same you plan on flying during the inspection. The exemption will say you just need to have any future aircraft listed on your letter of authorization (it’s some pieces of paper that comes with your operating certificate and is not to be confused with a certificate of authorization for airspace). You get your local FAA aviation safety inspector to list any additional aircraft on the LOA. 1 exemption and 1 operating certificate with a LOA that can list multiple aircraft.
  • How does it work with aircraft over 55 pounds? Basically, 55+ pound aircraft operate under a different set of regulations (which means we need those specifically exempted in the exemption). The easiest way to do things is just have 2 exemptions: 1 for under 55 and 1 for 55+. Why? because the under 55 exemption does not have any buffer zone issues regarding how far you need to stay away from people or airports while the 55+ exemption DOES which can get problematic when you are near people and airports.
  • My aircraft CAN fly over 55 pounds. Does that mean I cannot get an under 55 exemption?  No, you can have an aircraft capable of flying 55+ but you just limit the payload to keep it under 55 to fly under the exemption without any buffer zone or airspace issues. You can have one aircraft and two different exemptions. You would “mow the lawn” with the 55+ exemption and “weed wack” with the under 55 when you are near people, houses, cars, etc.
  • Can I add waivers later on or do I need to get them now? You can add on the night and/or swarm waivers after you obtain the operating certificate and exemption. This is actually better as it presents less headaches during the initial process. I’ve done it before.

If you are planning on flying aircraft 55 pounds or heavier:

The under 55 pound exemption process is somewhat well defined but 55+ exemptions are not.

The costs for 55+ exemption are proportional to the amount of work I have to do. I’m not presently working on any of those but plan to offer this service in the near future. If the manufacturer can supply a lot of the data, the cost is lower.

If you can choose an aircraft that has been previously through the 55+ exemption process, we can maybe leverage the previous leg work done and skip the aircraft analysis because the aircraft is the same as the one previously approved. The only ones I know of are the Precision Vision 30, Yamaha RMAX, HSE M6A Pro, and HSE M8A Pro.

Another problem is when the aircraft is 55+ pounds, it is hard to get the flight data legally since you don’t have the approval to fly. There are two solutions: obtain an experimental certificate and test fly it to obtain the hours or fly the aircraft inside.

If the aircraft has not been previously approved, here is a list of what needs to go into a 55+ exemption (you’ll notice you can start logging some of the hours under 55 lb. flying):

  • A detailed description of the aircraft design and configuration for the UAS, focusing on the UAS features and flight characteristics to include, but not limited to:

o Three-view drawings of aircraft and support equipment to include wingspan, height, length and/or other geometric dimensions

o Description of the aircraft and support and equipment (ground station) limitations

 Maximum take-off weight

 Empty weight

 Airspeed • Cruise • Maximum • Stall (if applicable)

 Maximum endurance of the aircraft

o Description of major subsystems

 Autopilot

 Command and control (please include spectrum frequencies utilized)

      • Lost link strategies (i.e. communication, control, and data)
      • FCC Permit information (if applicable)

 Propulsion system type

      • Fuel
      • Electrical

 Payload

    • A detailed description of flight, lab, and software testing for the UAS, and, if applicable, the various flight conditions including:

o Airspeeds

o Density altitudes

o Temperatures

o Wind/gust conditions

    • A detailed description of operational history, proposed operations, and proposed operational areas for the UAS, focusing on the intended mission and nature of the operating area to include, but not limited to:

o Total flight hours with the aircraft

o Flight hours by type of mission and operating area

 Class of Airspace

 Daytime or nighttime operations

 Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC)

 Operations over private property or restricted areas

 Operations in rural or urban areas

 Proximity to people (not participating in the mission)

o Detailed incident/mishap data

 Root cause analysis

 Lessons learned

 Design and/or operational changes implemented

      • A detailed description of pilot-in-command (PIC), visual observer (VO, if applicable), and other crew member roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications focusing on training and experience to include, but not limited to:

o Pilot certification

o Medical certification

o Amount of training and experience

o Proficiency

  • A detailed description of maintenance and operational procedures for the UAS, focusing on maintaining the UAS for safe flight over its operating life to include, but not limited to:

o Operational manuals

o Emergency procedures

o Maintenance manuals

o Pre-flight checklist

o Post-flight checklist

o Quick reference aircraft emergency procedures checklist (for use by the PIC and VO during flight)

  • A detailed description of a risk assessment for the UAS, focusing on potential hazards to include, but not limited to:

o Initial risk level

o Residual risk level

Comparison Table of My Services to HSE’s

Here is an apples-to-apples comparison of Rupprecht Law to HSE’s assistance services.

 Rupprecht LawHSE
Legal AdviceI’m an attorney that is licensed to provide legal advice. Can provide legal advice regarding FAA, liability, the law, etc.Cannot provide. It’s illegal for them to do. They might try to outsource to UASolutions Group. If you examine more closely, the bio for Kelly at UASolutions Group says, “was an Attorney at Law” which means they cannot currently provide YOU legal advice.
Aviation ExperienceFAA Certificated Flight Instructor and Commercial Pilot for 10+ years.?
Fiduciary Duty to You?Yes. The Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct regulate my actions towards you.No
Exemption FilingYesYes
ManualsProvides manual templates and works with you to develop manuals to your company.Provides manuals.
Assisting with Agricultural Aircraft Operating CertificateYes.? I don’t know how much they assist with.
Costs1,800 or 3000 (depending on which package).2350 ?
InsuredYes?
Background ChecksYes, from TSA and Florida Bar.?
What happens if they are unethical?You can report me to the Florida Bar and they can investigate me. I could lose my bar license if I violate a rule of professional conduct.  I have “skin in the game.”?
Google Review Ratings as of 12/24/201937 Reviews (5.0 Stars) and no I did not pay for those reviews or hire some company with fake accounts to pump up those numbers.2 Reviews (5 Stars)

 


Ultimate Guide to Over People Waivers & Section 107.39

Are you trying to figure out how to obtain a Part 107.39 Waiver?

You’re not alone. It’s the 2nd most requested waiver behind the night waiver. By the end of this article, you’ll understand a great deal more about section 107.39, the over people waivers, and the issues surrounding over people operations that the FAA will want you to address if you are going to apply for an over people waiver.

Table of Contents

Brief Background on the Over People Waiver

It’s the 2nd most requested waiver. The FAA presented at the 2018 FAA symposium this slide:

And at the 2019 FAA Symposium they posted this:

Why Do You Need an Over People Waiver?

Here is what 14 CFR 107.39 says:

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

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

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

So let’s start with (a). What Are Direct Participants?

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

That’s it.

Your camera man, actor, boss, customer, construction worker, etc. cannot be considered to be participating unless they are one of those 4 things. Those people maybe necessary for the operation but they are not “necessary for the safety of the flight.”

You might say, “Necessary for the safety of flight sounds a little vague. Can’t we get creative with that term and make anyone necessary for the safety of flight?” The FAA did provide an example:

[I]f a small UAS operation employs a person whose duties are to maintain a perimeter to ensure that other people do not enter the area of operation, that person would be considered a direct participant in the flight operation of the small UAS.

So why do direct participants get the special treatment? Can’t I just get the consent of everyone involved? What about big signs saying “Drones Overhead” warning everyone? The FAA answered this in the small unmanned aircraft final rule,

Due to the potential for the small unmanned aircraft to harm persons on the ground, the FAA does not consider consent or the need to do other work in the area of operation to be a sufficient mitigation of risk to allow operations over people. The FAA considers the risks associated with allowing operations over directly participating persons to be a necessary risk associated with the safety of flight because if UAS crewmembers are prohibited from standing near a flying unmanned aircraft, they may be unable to complete their duties. Additionally, some small UAS operations require the aircraft to be hand-launched or retrieved by a person, so it would not be possible to conduct such operations without permitting operations over those people.

Further, the FAA notes that people directly participating in the flight operation of a small unmanned aircraft have situational awareness that provides them with increased ability to avoid a falling unmanned aircraft. Conversely, a non-participant who has consented to allowing operations overhead may not share the same situational awareness and consequently may not be able to avoid being struck by a small unmanned aircraft.

The next option is if the people are protected by a structure or in a stationary vehicle.

Wait. Say what? What about moving vehicles?

Can I Fly A Drone Over a Highway?

Unless you have a waiver to fly over a moving vehicle, you can’t. There has been at least two waivers I know of that were granted to fly over moving vehicles so it’s possible but rare.

The big reason behind this prohibition is that even though the vehicle protects the person from the fall of the aircraft, the person might be startled from the drone impacting the vehicle or near-by and swerve which results in a crash into another vehicle or a tree or something.

Part 107.19(c) (The Rarely Understood Regulation & Brother of 107.39)

So if I don’t fly over people and moving vehicles, I’m good right?

It’s not as simple as that.

Section 107.19 applies which says:

(c) The remote pilot in command must ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other people, other aircraft, or other property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason. (Emphasis mine)

Here is what this graphically looks like.

107.39 prevents you from flying directly over (red) non-participating people while 107.19(c) (yellow) requires you to “pose no undue hazard . . . in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason.”  Any reason like a propeller breaking (you are logging the time on those right to switch them out regularly?) an autopilot going nuts, GPS interference testing happening or GPS multipathing in an urban environment, etc.

Notice 107.19(c) requires you to pose no undue hazard. It’s exposure, not being over. Keep this in mind when doing your operations near people. See my section 107.19 article for a more in-depth discussion. Or maybe take my Part 107 regulations course over at www.rupprechtdrones.com? ;)

Issues Surrounding Over People Operations

The two big issues are transferring kinetic energy and lacerations.

1. Transferring Kinetic Energy

This is an area that is currently being researched to understand how unmanned aircraft transfer energy.  All sorts of things go into decreasing the energy transfer such as shape of the aircraft, the material it is made of, the positioning of certain parts, the size to create a greater distance between the aircraft’s center of gravity and the most outer edge of the aircraft, etc.

Basically, an aircraft has an overall amount of energy while in flight and you have to figure out how to manage the kinetic energy levels and/or decrease the amount of transfer upon impact.

To keep energy levels low, you could fly slowly, low in altitude, into the wind, or decrease the mass of the aircraft. You could also install some type of flight termination system (parachute) which slows the aircraft down to a low kinetic energy level.

Unless you have a solid steel rod, you are NOT going to transfer all the energy into the object. All sorts of energy is dissipated by the aircraft moving, warping, rotating, compressing, etc. This is where it gets tricky in calculating things because you basically have to launch the drone into some crash test dummies (in different realistic configuration) to see what happens.

This is why in the FAA’s over people proposed regulations, they came up with a simplified method. It’s basically assuming all the energy is being transferred and you are just doing energy management with speed, altitude, wind, mass, etc.

And here is another wrinkle in calculating things, when you distance the center of gravity of the aircraft from the center of gravity of the object being impacted, there is decrease in energy transfer because the CG of the aircraft tends to glance off and not transfer all the energy through. Imagine this. Which will transfer more energy into the object? (1) an arrow with the CG close to the back of the arrow near the feathers or  (2) near the tip. (1) would result in glancing and rotating around which means it’s even less probable of nailing the target dead on where the energy would go down through the arrow shaft into the target.

Even when you have figured out calculating things (typically things are static like the aircraft’s energy transfering properties., CG, and mass) the other big hurdle is proving that the energy levels you are at are indeed safe. Is 50 foot-pounds ok? What about 100 foot-pounds? What does that do to the neck or the skull?

There has literally been hundreds and hundreds of pages published on this one point. How much energy can a person really receive and what energy levels will result in what levels of injury where?

Basically, prove a “safe” level of energy and prove your aircraft will be at the safe energy level or lower during impact.

2. Lacerations

The other concern is that these flying lawnmowers might come into contact with people and cause further injuries on top of the blunt injury. The propellers could also break and stab the person.

There needs to be a mitigation for this hazard. One is to stop the propellers if there is an emergency and another is to install prop guards/bumpers.

What Aircraft Have Been Approved to Fly Over People?

Here are some of the ones that have been approved that you can purchase today:

Current Solutions to Obtaining a Flying Over People Waiver

I’m assuming you are wanting to fly as a civil aircraft. (Public aircraft are a completely different animal by themselves so I won’t even address them here.)

  • Obtain a parachute system that is compliant with ASTM standard F3322-18. The most popular system right now is the Parazero SafeAir system. You can then apply for a waiver. If you need help applying for one, contact me. I’ve successfully obtained a day night over people waiver.
  • Fly an aircraft with very low mass. Yes, you’ll still have to show kinetic energy levels but you can use the FAA’s simplified method from the over people NPRM. Your flight time and camera options will most likely stink with this one.
  • Obtain an aircraft with an airworthiness certificate and leverage that information to fly over people. These are rare but they are out there.
  • Fly an aircraft that has extensive data showing low kinetic energy transfer levels. These are rare also but they are out there. This is the way we will be heading. The manufacturers will need to put in effort to show their aircraft are safe as opposed to the poor customers trying to figure this all out.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Over People Waivers & Parachute Systems

Q. So if I get a parachute system and a waiver, I’m cool to fly over vehicles?

A. No, some of the waivers are being given out that specifically restrict flying over vehicles. This becomes an issue if there are roads in the area which effectively will box you into certain locations if there is enough traffic.

Q. These parachute systems sound expensive. Is this really worth it?

A. From a liability standpoint, I think so. Here’s why. You don’t even have to purchase one of the fancy ASTM compliant set ups. Just get one that can automatically deploy if there is an emergency. It reduces the risk of impacting a person at high energy levels. It also creates the potential where a motor failure won’t result in your drone being scrap. Think of it like a cheap physical insurance policy attached to your drone (No, this is not a substitute for drone insurance. Read my drone insurance article.) but it’s an additional layer between you and a bad outcome. Parazero also has some deals to lower insurance that can be checked out here. http://parazero.com/insurance

Q. Do you know of any discounts for a parachute system?

A. Yes, here is a $50 coupon for Parazero. Use the code “Rupprecht50” during checkout.

Solutions on The Horizon

The FAA did propose some new regulations to Part 107 to allow operators to fly certain types of aircraft that are in different categories. I have a brief summary of the whole proposal I wrote for Forbes located here.

The big take-away of this point is there IS a solution the FAA is working on that does NOT require waivers. It will be with regulations. The problem is those regulations won’t be in force until after the FAA figures out their whole remote identification proposed regulations. Buried in the over people proposal was this significant statement:

In particular, the FAA is cognizant of the importance of various stakeholders to be able to identify small UAS to mitigate security concerns that operations may present. Because of the importance of this particular issue, the FAA plans to finalize its policy concerning remote identification of small UAS—by way of rulemaking, standards development, or other activities that other Federal agencies may propose—prior to finalizing the proposed changes in this rule that would permit operations of small UAS over people and operations at night. (Emphasis mine).

So basically first comes remote ID and THEN you can get your over people regulations. When will this happen? Don’t know. Best thing to do is just plan on 2 years or more from now before the remote ID would become final.  Even if you wait, there is no telling when will the manufacturers will get their aircraft approved (which only comes after $, R&D, and testing). If you need to operate over people, just get a waiver.  We don’t know when the FAA or manufacturers will get things finished.

FAA Created Part 107.39 Waiver Application Example

So I’m guessing you want a 107.39 over people waiver application example huh?

Section 352 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 says:

(a) Transparency.–Not later than 30 days after the date of  enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall publish on the FAA  website a representative sample of the safety justifications, offered by  applicants for small unmanned aircraft system waivers and airspace  authorizations, that have been approved by the Administration for each  regulation waived or class of airspace authorized, except that any  published justification shall not reveal proprietary or commercially  sensitive information.

The FAA published a representative sample. I have it below. But before you go and just copy-paste this, the FAA didn’t really craft a representative sample of what the normal every day person would ask for. For example, it says one of the mitigations is “Non-ISM C2” which I’m betting like 99% of y’all don’t have access to. It also says it is for a “nearly neutrally buoyant balloon” which is not operated by 99% of y’all. Is it helpful? Yes, but it isn’t a solution for 99% of y’all. I’m just being up front and honest with ya so you don’t copy-paste and waste your time.

This is a representative sample of an approved waiver application for 14 CFR § 107.39

Description of proposed operation:

John Doe Drones plans to operate the sUAS below 400 feet and only in G airspace. The maximum altitude of the sUA is restricted by a tether, and the sUA will not exceed 25 feet agl. The proposed sUAS operations will occur over persons who are not direct participants in the sUAS operations, and population densities and numbers of persons which would be considered large outdoor assemblies of persons.

The sUA is a Lighter than Air design, with a maximum non-inflated weight of 10 pounds. The 10 pounds includes the envelope, power system, control system, and camera. In flight, the maximum tare weight is .1-2 pounds. This will ensure the sUA always operates with negative buoyancy, but remains controllable without using excessive control inputs or power consumption. In the event of a fly-away, the envelope does have quick release valve that will deflate the envelope. The valve is sized for a controlled gas release, and combined with the maximum operational altitude, keeps the kinetic energy low enough to not cause injury to humans, if it were to impact a person.

The sUA has been demonstrated to not cause a serious injury or worse, if it impacts a person for any reason. Detailed risk assessment information on testing and demonstration is located Appendix 1, titled “Risk Management” in the XYZ Operators Manual (OM). Excerpts from the XYZ Operators Manual:
1. Before flight, the unmanned moored balloon will be filled with helium and checked for buoyancy. The maximum tare weight must be no more than .1kg before takeoff. (OM section 2.1 operational limitations, section 4 operational procedures)
2. In the event of a single power system failure, the redundant ducted fans used for propulsion will keep the aircraft aloft. If all motors fail simultaneously, the aircraft will slowly descend, at a rate not exceeding 1 m/s (OM section 3.5 emergencies. Testing results and methodology to support the descent rate is located in OM appendix 4)
3. The nearly neutrally buoyant balloon, with a tare weight of no greater than .2 pounds, will transfer less than 1 joule of energy to a person. The 1 joule of energy transfer corresponds with a negligible injury risk to humans (OM appendix 5 for detailed assessment of the types of injuries likely to result with a transfer of 1 joule of energy to a human)
4. The sUA construction consists of two layers of rip stop nylon with a rubber like on the interior that allows the envelope to hold helium gas. Details on the material, material limits, construction techniques, failure modes, expected rate of gas loss, and validation testing is located in OM appendix 2.
5. The sUA remains flexible, and is not rigid when inflated to operational pressure. The flexibility assists in the absorption and distribution of impact energy through plastic deformation (OM appendix 5).
6. The sUA has an additional level of safety provided by the use of a small, high strength tether. This tether shall not exceed 30 feet in length, and will be used by the remote PIC to physically restrain the aircraft in the event of a flight control system malfunction, propulsion system failure, and to prevent a sUA fly-away in the event of high winds (detailed description of tether, tether strength, and maximum length in OM section 2.2 operational limitations, and appendix 7). The tether is longer than the maximum operational altitude to allow the pilot additional horizontal flight of the sUA.
7. A complete risk assessment of the proposed operation is located in OM appendix 1. Documentation, validation, and test data for the mitigations is referenced in the footnotes, and all the footnote information has been included in the OM and appendices by OM section number or appendix and page number.
8. There are no rotating parts or sharp edges which could injure a non-participating person. Rotating parts are enclosed in a manner that would not cause injury to a person in any of the above listed failure modes. The thrust vectoring system is contained within a protected housing. The protection grates are sized to not allow a human finger to reach the rotating interior parts (OM appendix 9 for design standard and validation materials to support meeting the design standard).
9. Prior to operations, in addition to being a part 107 certificated airman, John Doe Drones requires completion of the XYZ drone manufacturer training program. The training program includes both initial operator and continuing operator training curriculum. Both programs are taught by the manufacturer, and details, including curriculum, curriculum segments, minimum requirements, and completion standards are located in the John Doe Drones Operator Training Manual (TM). The training program includes ground, hands on training with the sUA, inflight training, and a flight skill test.
10. For all operations over human beings, there will be a second crew member required (OM section 2.6). This crew member must also undergo training (TM section 3). Other examples of risk mitigations that have been used as risk mitigations for a successful waiver application to § 107.39 include:
 sUA size and weight do not pose an injury risk when impacting a human being
 sUA design features reduce the energy transferred to a human being in an impact, and the resulting energy transfer does not pose the risk of a serious injury to a human being
 sUA uses an energy dissipating device to lower the kinetic energy transferred to a human during an impact with a human being, the resulting energy transfer does not pose a risk of a serious injury
 sUAS incorporates a parachute system meeting ASTM F3322-18
 sUA has design reliability equaling the failure rates set forth in 14 CFR Part 23
 Continuing sUA reliability program
 Training
 Operational manual system
 Safety Management System
 Non-ISM C2
 Strategic mitigations to avoid most overflight of human beings, to achieve an acceptable level of safety
 Flight termination system
 Hands free duplex communication devices
 sUAS design has redundant systems and architecture
 sUAS software design assurances and version control
 geo-fence

So you want to learn more? Below is all of the 107.39 and over people related discussions from the final Part 107 regulations published by the FAA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The term “directly participating” refers to specific personnel that the remote pilot in command has deemed to be involved with the flight operation of the small unmanned aircraft. These include the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the controls of the small UAS (if other than the remote pilot in command), and the visual observer. These personnel also include any person who is necessary for the safety of the small UAS flight operation. For example, if a small UAS operation employs a person whose duties are to maintain a perimeter to ensure that other people do not enter the area of operation, that person would be considered a direct participant in the flight operation of the small UAS. Anyone else would not be considered a direct participant in the small UAS operation. Due to the potential for the small unmanned aircraft to harm persons on the ground, the FAA does not consider consent or the need to do other work in the area of operation to be a sufficient mitigation of risk to allow operations over people. The FAA considers the risks associated with allowing operations over directly participating persons to be a necessary risk associated with the safety of flight because if UAS crewmembers are prohibited from standing near a flying unmanned aircraft, they may be unable to complete their duties. Additionally, some small UAS operations require the aircraft to be hand launched or retrieved by a person, so it would not be possible to conduct such operations without permitting operations over those people.

Further, the FAA notes that people directly participating in the flight operation of a small unmanned aircraft have situational awareness that provides them with increased ability to avoid a falling unmanned aircraft. Conversely, a non-participant who has consented to allowing operations overhead may not share the same situational awareness and consequently may not be able to avoid being struck by a small unmanned aircraft. For this reason, a remote pilot intending to operate small unmanned aircraft over nonparticipants must apply for a waiver under this part, which will allow the FAA to evaluate each applicant’s operation on a case-by-case basis.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and Employees, Associated General Contractors of America, Skycatch, Clayco, AECOM, DPR Construction, and the State of Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development said operations over uninvolved persons should be permitted at areas closed to the public (e.g., construction sites, movie sets), as long as the uninvolved persons are aware of and consent to the activity. The National Association of Broadcasters, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Radio Television Digital News Association, commenting jointly, pointed out that the FAA has already granted a number of section 333 exemptions for aerial photography and filming which have allowed small UAS flights over consenting production personnel, and thus urged the FAA to define “directly participating in the operation” to include persons who have “implicitly consented to the operation of the sUAS overhead by nature of their presence on a set where sUAS filming is occurring.” The Motion Picture Association of America similarly asked the FAA to specify that “all parties on a closed set” qualify as “directly participating in the operation,” thereby ensuring that current practices under the filming exemptions are consistent with § 107.39.

As pointed out by the commenters, the FAA currently allows small unmanned aircraft flight over people in only one type of situation: a closed-set movie set which is a controlled-access environment where the person in charge has extensive control over the positioning of people who are standing near the small unmanned aircraft. The FAA currently considers each movie-set exemption on a case-by-case basis through the section 333 exemption process. The FAA will continue considering flight over people on a movieset on a case-by-case basis through the waiver process in this rule. The FAA notes that this framework is consistent with the regulatory framework used for motion picture and television filming in manned-aircraft operations, where a waiver is usually required prior to using an aircraft for filming purposes.103 The FAA also notes that, as discussed in section II.C of this preamble, current section 333 exemption holders who are allowed to fly over people when filming a movie will be permitted to continue operating under their section 333 exemption until they are able to obtain a waiver under part 107. With regard to flight over people in other controlled-access environments, such as construction sites, the FAA will consider that issue on a case-by-case basis through the waiver process. This process will allow the FAA to consider the specific nature of the 103 See FAA Order 8900.1, vol. 3, ch. 8, sec. 1. controlled-access environment to determine how that environment would mitigate the risk associated with flight over people.

The Association of American Railroads said operations over railroad personnel during a railroad incident investigation or routine railroad inspections should be permitted. The Association noted that the risks associated with such operations can be mitigated by giving those personnel a small UAS operations and safety briefing before flight is commenced.

The FAA disagrees. While this rule will allow flight over direct participants in a small UAS operation after they receive important safety information, the information does not, by itself, completely mitigate the risk posed by flight over people. As discussed earlier, the reason this rule allows flight over direct participants in a small UAS flight operation is because without this exception, those people may be unable to complete their duties to ensure the safety of the small UAS flight operation. People who are not directly participating in the small UAS flight operation are not needed to ensure the safety of that operation, and as such, this rule will not allow flight over those people without a waiver.

The Property Drone Consortium said homeowners inside their homes while an inspection operation is conducted overhead, or homeowners who are in their back yards while an inspection operation is conducted in their front yards, should be considered “protected” for purposes of the ban on flight over non-participants.

A homeowner who is inside his or her home would be under a covered structure and flight over him or her would be permitted if the home can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft. However, a person who is inside his or her backyard would presumably not be under a covered structure and could be injured by a falling small unmanned aircraft. Accordingly, a person who is in his or her backyard would not be considered protected if that backyard is not covered.

The Institute of Makers of Explosives asked the FAA to expand or clarify the proposed prohibition on operation of a small UAS over “most persons” to clearly define the persons over whom UAS operations may not be conducted. IME specifically recommended that a UAS not be allowed to operate over any person conducting operations with explosives under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and that the restriction apply to unauthorized, unrelated operators.

As discussed earlier, this rule will prohibit operations over people who are not directly participating in the flight operation of a small UAS and who are not under a covered structure or in a stationary covered vehicle that could reasonably protect them from a falling small unmanned aircraft. This prohibition applies regardless of what the person who is not directly participating in the small UAS flight operation is doing. A number of commenters sought clarification as to what the FAA considers to be an operation “over a human being.” Southern Company asserted that, as written, the proposed provision could either be read strictly, to prohibit operations directly overhead, or it could be read more broadly, to prohibit operations directly overhead and within a short lateral distance of the person. Kansas University UAS Program similarly said the FAA needs to clarify whether by “over a human being” means directly overhead or “within an area that the aircraft could come down on the person.”

Similarly, NAMIC asked the FAA to provide further guidance as to whether the small UAS operation is prohibited directly above persons or “within a proximate area over persons.” NAMIC acknowledged that it does not have the FAA’s understanding of aeronautics or physics, but nevertheless stated its belief that a terminated UAS at 500 feet and 100 mph seems unlikely to fall directly onto a person standing directly under the UAS at the time of the termination. An individual commenter asserted that a small UAS flying towards a person, even if not directly above that person, could still pose a threat. By way of example, the commenter stated that a multi-rotor helicopter flying at a ground speed of 30 mph at 400 feet AGL that experiences a catastrophic failure “will transcribe a parabolic arc that will extend horizontally several hundred feet in the direction of travel.”

Matternet also stated that the proposed restriction “appears to be based on the faulty premise that aircraft only fall straight down when they malfunction or when pilots err” when, in fact, an aircraft in flight will typically follow its original trajectory, subject to aerodynamic forces and gravity. Thus, the company asserted, an operation that passes directly over a person is not significantly more dangerous than an operation that passes several linear feet, or even tens of linear feet, away from that person on the ground.

The term “over” refers to the flight of the small unmanned aircraft directly over any part of a person. For example, a small UAS that hovers directly over a person’s head, shoulders, or extended arms or legs would be an operation over people. Similarly, if a person is lying down, for example at a beach, an operation over that person’s torso or toes would also constitute an operation over people. An operation during which a small UAS flies over any part of any person, regardless of the dwell time, if any, over the person, would be an operation over people.

The remote pilot needs to take into account the small unmanned aircraft’s course, speed, and trajectory, including the possibility of a catastrophic failure, to determine if the small unmanned aircraft would go over or strike a person not directly involved in the flight operation (non-participant). In addition, the remote pilot must take steps using a safety risk based approach to ensure that: (1) the small unmanned aircraft does not operate over nonparticipants who are not under a covered structure or in a stationary covered vehicle; (2) 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 (§ 107.19); and (3) the small UAS is not operated in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another (§ 107.23). If the remote pilot cannot comply with these requirements, then the flight must not take place or the flight must be immediately and safely terminated.

Several commenters recommended that the FAA include specific vertical and horizontal minimum-distance requirements. Continental Mapping and MAPPS recommended that no operations be permitted “within 50 meters vertically or horizontally from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles, with a particular emphasis on takeoff and landing.” MAPPS pointed out that its testing has shown this is a safe distance to perform emergency landings should something go wrong, particularly with rotary wing platforms. NAMIC recommended that FAA prohibit persons from “intentionally operat[ing] a small UAS over or within 100 feet” from a human being who is not directly participating in its operation or not located under a covered structure.

State Farm suggested that FAA remove the word “over” from proposed § 107.39, and instead prohibit persons from “intentionally operat[ing] a small UAS within 100 feet” from a human being who is not directly participating in the operation or not located under a covered structure. Aviation Management similarly suggested that the FAA provide protection to humans on the ground “in close proximity to” small UAS operations by requiring that a small UAS remain a minimum of 100 feet from the nearest human who is not directly participating in the operation (a requirement the commenter pointed out is imposed by Canada and Australia). Stating that an aircraft “needs a fall radius that contemplates kinetic energy, max speed, max altitude,” an individual commenter suggested that small UAS flight be restricted to a vertical cylinder with a radius of 200 feet, centered over an animal or persons not directly involved in the operation.

Several other commenters made suggestions as to how the FAA can more precisely define the requisite separation between a small UAS and persons not involved in an operation. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Czech Republic said the proposed prohibition “should be extended to a safety horizontal barrier, not only directly above people, but also not in an unsafe proximity (for multicopters this should be twice the actual height AGL).” NOAA and Southern Company said proposed § 107.39 should be revised to include specific lateral distances. Colorado Ski Country USA said the final rule should include a definition of “Operations Over a Human Being” that sets out “the proximity in which UAS operations would be prohibited.” The New Hampshire Department of Transportation suggested that the final rule include a “specified three-dimensional space that a small UAS is prohibited from when operating over any person not directly involved with the operation.” The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority suggested that the lateral separation from people or structures be revisited to consider a safety area around the UAS “with regards to momentum, wind drift, malfunction, etc. that would affect people or structures nearby.”

The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) advocated for a larger separation between small UAS and non-participants, and recommended that proposed § 107.39 be revised to prohibit operation of a small UAS “closer than 400 feet” to persons not directly participating in the operation or not located under a covered structure or to “any vessel, vehicle, or structure not controlled by the operator or for which written permission by the owner or licensee of that vessel, vehicle or structure has not been obtained.” NAFI went on to assert that there is no reliable or sufficient database from which to project accident or injury rates, and to urge FAA to “proceed cautiously and relatively slowly in significantly reducing the protection currently afforded to persons and property on the surface from the hazards of small unmanned aircraft systems. Green Vegans asserted that under Public Law 112-95, Congress directed the FAA to implement restrictions for small UAS operations which “include maintaining a distance of 500 feet from persons.”

The FAA considered requiring minimum stand-off distances in this rule, but ultimately determined that, due to the wide range of possible small unmanned aircraft and small UAS operations, a prescriptive numerical stand-off distance requirement would be more burdensome than necessary for some operations while not being stringent enough for other operations. For example, a 5-pound unmanned rotorcraft flying at a speed of 15 mph in a remote area with natural barriers to stop a fly-away scenario would likely not need a stand-off distance as large as a 54-pound fixed-wing aircraft traveling at a speed of 100 mph in an urban area with no barriers.

Thus, instead of imposing a prescriptive stand-off distance requirement, this rule will include a performance standard requiring that: (1) the small unmanned aircraft does not operate over a person who is not directly involved in the flight operation unless that person is under the appropriate covered structure or vehicle; and (2) the remote pilot 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 (§ 107.19(c)). This performance-based approach is preferable, as it will allow a remote pilot in command to determine what specific stand-off distance (if any) is appropriate to the specific small unmanned aircraft and small UAS operation that he or she is conducting. In response to Green Vegans, the FAA notes that Public Law 112-95 does not direct the FAA to promulgate a small UAS rule that includes a requirement for a small unmanned aircraft to maintain a distance of 500 feet from persons.

Some commenters proposed specific vertical distances that they claimed could permit safe operations of a small UAS over persons not directly involved in its operation. Asserting that flights “well above” a person’s head pose minimal additional safety risks, the News Media Coalition recommended that the FAA permit overhead flight so long as the UAS remains at least 50 feet vertically from any person not involved in the operation of the UAS. Cherokee National Technologies and an individual commenter recommended that operations be permitted above people not directly involved in an operation, so long as those operations are not conducted less than 100 feet above those people.

These commenters did not provide data that the FAA could use to evaluate this assertion. The FAA notes, however, that a small unmanned aircraft falling from a higher altitude may actually pose a higher risk because the higher altitude would provide the small unmanned aircraft with more time to accelerate during its fall (until it reaches terminal velocity). This may result in the small unmanned aircraft impacting a person on the ground at a higher speed and with more force than if the small unmanned aircraft had fallen from a lower altitude.

The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Radio Television Digital News Association, commenting jointly, said the proposed rule would limit the potential of unmanned aircraft to serve the public interest, particularly with respect to newsgathering. The associations recommended a few changes to “increase the utility of sUAS for newsgathering and video programming production purposes.” First, the associations said the FAA “should clarify that only flights directly over non-participating people are barred”—i.e., the “FAA should specify that the rule would still permit sUAS with a camera that is capable of filming—at an angle—an area where people are present.” Second, because “the proposed rule raises the question of what level of knowledge a reasonable operator can be expected to have,” the associations said the FAA “should clarify that the operator must have a good faith belief that sUAS will not be flying over people.” Third, the associations said “the FAA should consider relaxing or removing this requirement for sparsely populated areas,” which “would give newsgatherers and video programming producers the freedom to cover events and film entertainment programming with sUAS in areas where the risk to human beings on the surface is extremely low.”

NSAA and several individual commenters recommended that the final rule make clear that the prohibition does not extend to incidental or momentary operation of a UAS over persons on the ground. The Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers requested that exemptions for “unintentional flyovers” be included in the final rule. The Organization noted that, while conducting fish and wildlife surveys in remote areas, UAS may inadvertently be flown over hunters, anglers, hikers, campers, and other individuals participating in recreational activities. The Organization went on to say that “[i]n areas where a UAS may be flown over a person, either intentionally or unintentionally, public notice of the planned survey activity could be issued in advance of the survey.”

In response, the FAA clarifies that this rule allows filming of non-participants at an angle as long as the small unmanned aircraft does not fly over those non-participants. With regard to sparsely populated areas, as discussed earlier, the restriction on flight over people is focused on protecting the person standing under the small unmanned aircraft, which may occur in a sparsely populated area. The FAA notes, however, that because sparsely populated areas have significantly fewer people whose presence may restrict a small UAS operation, a newsgathering organization will likely have significant flexibility to conduct small UAS operations in those areas.

With regard to the remote pilot’s good-faith belief and momentary operation of a small unmanned aircraft over a person on the ground, the FAA notes that the remote pilot in command is responsible for ensuring that the small UAS does not fly over any nonparticipant who is not under a covered structure or vehicle. This may require creating contingency plans or even terminating the small UAS operation if a non-participant unexpectedly enters the area of operation. The FAA declines to amend this requirement because, as discussed earlier, this requirement creates a performance-based standard for a stand-off distance that the remote pilot in command must use to ensure that his or her small unmanned aircraft does not fly over a person.

The National Association of Realtors suggested that more guidance is needed to clarify the operator’s obligations for communicating with bystanders that a UAS flight will occur in the area. Specifically, the commenter wondered: (1) how much notice is required to clear an area of bystanders before the flight takes place; (2) how the notice should be given; (3) for how long an area should be required to be cleared of bystanders; and (4) within what distance bystanders should be provided notice.

This rule will not require that notice be given to non-participants prior to the operation of a small unmanned aircraft. Likewise, the rule will not prohibit the remote pilot from employing whatever means necessary to ensure that the small unmanned aircraft does not endanger the safety of bystanders, such as providing prior notice of operations. Providing notice to bystanders is simply one method that a remote pilot in command can utilize to clear the operating area (assuming that non-participants comply with the notice). However, providing such notice will not relieve the remote pilot in command of his or her duty to ensure the safety of non-participants.

An individual commenter asserted that, taken literally, the proposed prohibition “would require a UA operator to know at all times, the exact location of all people on the ground who are within VLOS of his or her UA.”

As stated earlier, this rule imposes a performance-based requirement concerning flight over people. It is up to the remote pilot in command to choose the specific means by which he or she will satisfy this requirement. The guidance issued concurrently with this rule provides some examples of means that a remote pilot in command could utilize to satisfy the prohibition against flight over non-participants in part 107.

NAMIC sought guidance with respect to when the presence of a third party “can prevent or interrupt UAS use.” Specifically, NAMIC questioned whether, if an insurance review of a private building requires some limited flight over a public street, the street needs to be closed or, alternatively, if the flight can simply take place when there are no pedestrians on the street. An individual commenter similarly questioned what happens when a person enters the operational area once the operation has commenced and the UAS is airborne—i.e., whether the UAS may loiter until the person clears the area or whether the operation must be terminated.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company said that, given the fact that almost any operation of a small UAS over urban areas will necessarily result in flight over human beings, “the final rule should include a reasonableness standard whereby, through a safety assessment such as currently permitted in section 333 exemptions, an operator may determine that a flight over a particular area does not pose a reasonable threat to persons who are not covered by a structure.” If such a reasonable determination is made, Liberty Mutual said, the flight should be allowed. Liberty Mutual noted that this change “would be particularly important for assessing disaster situations or performing surveys over areas larger than a single structure.”

As discussed earlier, this rule prohibits any small unmanned aircraft from flying over a person who is not a direct participant in the small UAS flight operation and is not under a covered structure or vehicle. This is a performance standard: it is up to the remote pilot in command to choose the best way to structure his or her small UAS operation to ensure that prohibited flight over a person does not occur and that the small unmanned aircraft will not impact a person if it should fall during flight. The FAA anticipates that the remote pilot in command will need to determine an appropriate stand-off distance from nearby persons in order to comply with this requirement. With regard to the specific examples provided by the commenters, the FAA notes that the remote pilot in command is not required to cease small UAS flight if he or she can continue operating in a manner that ensures that the small unmanned aircraft will not fly over an unprotected non-participant. Several individual commenters suggested proposed §107.39 be expanded to prohibit operation over any personal property without the permission of the property owner.

Property rights are beyond the scope of this rule. However, the FAA notes that, depending on the specific nature of the small UAS operation, the remote pilot in command may need to comply with State and local trespassing laws.

NAMIC questioned whether a UAS operation over private property is prohibited if the owner wants to watch, “even if the owners agree that they may be in danger.” Southern Company suggested that FAA allow operations over any person who is located on the property, easement, or right of way of the person or entity for whom the small UAS is operated, and any person who is participating in the activity for which the small UAS is being operated. This commenter said such mitigating restrictions could include a lower operating ceiling, lateral-distance limits, a lower speed restriction, and a prohibition on operations over large gatherings of people.

The flight-over-people restriction is intended to address the risk of a small unmanned aircraft falling on and injuring a person. Being the owner or easement-holder of the area of operation does not reduce a person’s risk of being hit by the small unmanned aircraft. Accordingly, this rule will not impose a different safety standard based on the ownership status of the person over whom the small unmanned aircraft is operating. With regard to additional operational mitigations, the FAA will consider those on a case-by-case basis through the waiver process.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) expressed “concern that this (107.39) restriction may severely limit the ability of public sector agencies to incorporate UAS” into certain activities, such as bridge inspections, traffic and incident management activities on public highways, and search and rescue operations. NSAA also said operations over the public should be permitted “in non-normal or emergency operations where life, limb, and property are at risk.” UAS Venture Partners similarly sought an exemption from the proposed prohibition on operations over persons not directly involved in the operation for Civic Municipal Rescue Service agencies and the trained rescue first responders who will be operating the UAS devices. Vail also said the final rule should include specific exemptions from the “directly involved” requirement “for temporary flight over uninvolved persons for emergency and safety uses.”

As discussed in section III.C.3 of this preamble, this rule applies only to civil small UAS operations. It does not apply to public UAS operations which may include governmental functions such as public road and bridge inspections, traffic control and incident management on public highways, and search and rescue operations. To that end, a public UAS operator such as WisDOT may apply for a COA to use its UAS for specific governmental functions instead of operating and complying with the provisions of part 107. With regard to emergency and search-and-rescue operations, it should be noted that those operations are typically conducted by local, State, or Federal government agencies (such as fire departments or police) as public aircraft operations. Public aircraft operations will be granted operational authority by way of a COA and will not be subject to part 107. With regard to civil small UAS operations, the FAA emphasizes that the remote pilot in command’s ability to deviate from the requirements of part 107 to address an emergency (discussed in section III.E.1.d of this preamble) is limited to emergency situations that affect the safety of flight. For emergency situations that do not affect the safety of flight, the remote pilot in command should contact the appropriate authorities who are trained to respond to emergency situations.

The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association suggested that the FAA provide a means by which individuals or companies can limit or eliminate the overhead or adjacent operation of UAS by anyone other than properly certified public service/public safety operators.

Though a governmental entity may choose to operate a small UAS under the civil regulatory structure of part 107, the FAA does not agree that operational distinctions should be made within part 107 regarding the specific entity that is conducting a civil operation. To that end, under part 107 all civil small unmanned aircraft operations are prohibited from operating over a person not directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft and not under a covered structure or in a covered vehicle and not directly participating in the flight operation of the small unmanned aircraft.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) stated safety and privacy concerns are implicated by third-party small UAS operations. IAAPA stated that the operation of UAS over amusement parks and attractions by third parties is also implicated by proposed section 107.39. IAAPA asserted that the facility operator can carefully control the use of UAS over a person who is not directly participating in its operation if the UAS is operated by the facility or its designee, but this degree of control is impossible when hobbyists or other third-parties who do not have the facility owner’s permission operate UAS near or over the perimeter or interior of amusement parks and attractions. IAAPA stated that amusement parks and attractions generally contain large numbers of people, and that the safety risks posed to employees and to visitors enjoying rides potentially traveling 100 miles per hour, watching shows, or walking through amusement parks and attractions are considerable and outside the control of facility operators.

The restriction on flight over people applies regardless of the location in which that flight occurs. Thus, a remote pilot in command may not operate a small unmanned aircraft over a non-participant in an amusement park who is not under a covered structure or in a vehicle. Additionally, the remote pilot in command must ensure that the small unmanned aircraft does not pose an undue hazard to a person in the event of a loss of control for any reason. The FAA also notes that hobbyists or other third parties who do not have the facility owner’s permission to operate UAS near or over the perimeter or interior of amusement parks and attractions may be violating State or local trespassing laws. Aerial Services, the National Society of Professional Surveyors, Continental Mapping, MAPPS, and 12 members of the Wisconsin Legislature said the ban on flights “over populated areas” needs to be removed or modified, because the definition of “populated area” is inadequate and seems to mean “any single person within the area of operation that is not inside a structure.” In response, the FAA notes that this rule does not ban flights over a “populated area.” This rule only restricts flights over a person who is not directly participating in the flight operation and who is not inside a covered structure or vehicle.

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

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

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

Commercial Drone License Guide Table of Contents

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

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I. Background on the  Commercial Drone License 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. How Can I Obtain the Commercial Drone License?

You have two ways to obtain your commercial drone license:

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

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

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

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

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

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

To obtain your commercial drone license you must:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. New Pilot FAQ About the Drone License

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. When does Part 107 go into effect?

August 29, 2016.

6. Where can I take the 107 knowledge exam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. How many different exams are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V. The TSA Background Check for the Drone License Questions

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

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

§107.57   Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drone License Application Process:

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

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

VII. Current Pilot FAQs Regarding the Drone License

1. How long does my temporary certificate last? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

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

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

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

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

How do I check if someone else is current?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

The percentages of questions on topics have changed also.

drone-license-test-subject-percentages

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

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

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

Ok ok. So you still want the free stuff.

You have two methods:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 107 Statistics: 3 Big Take-Aways

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

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

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

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

2. TSA Responded Well to Processing the Applications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

[2] Id. on Page 2.

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

 


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

LAANC

Table of Contents

Quick Summary of LAANC:

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

The FAA said, “LAANC provides:

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

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

Who Benefits from LAANC?

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

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

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

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

So What Cannot be Submitted via LAANC?

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

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

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

No, you can do LAANC or the methods we are currently using, by filing for an airspace authorizations or an airspace waiver on the FAA’s Drone Zone.

What Companies Are UAS Service Suppliers for LAANC?

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

How Many Airports Will Participate in LAANC?

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

Problems I See With This Whole Situation:

  • LAANC does NOT tell us if it fixed the problem it is attempting to alleviate. Is the drone sighting report the FAA released going to identify and take out of the total number the authorized flights?  The FAA’s Federal Register post says LAANC is attempting to make things safer while citing the inflated drone sighting numbers. That’s funny. The FAA left in a ton of crummy data in their drone sightings reports so the numbers are inflated and there is no easy way to “clean” the sightings of the 14,334 COAs already issued.  The FAA gave us some big numbers without indicating how many of these “sighting” were lawful or not. What is the logical conclusion? The FAA just cited bad data as the justification for the LAANC system. There have been COAs granted to commercial flyers for over a year and I couldn’t find any indications the FAA “cleaned” the sightings.
    • At the 2019 FAA Symposium, a powerpoint slide said that there have been over 37,000 manual authorizations granted and 87,000 automated authorizations granted.  This means that there over 124,000 authorizations allowing drones to fly near airports

Resources:

 

FAA Order JO 7210.914 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

FAA Order JO 7210.3BB on LAANC

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

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−2. UAS FACILITY MAPS (UASFM)

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−3. PART 101E NOTIFICATIONS

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

12−10−4. PART 107 ATC AUTHORIZATIONS

[Amended by Order JO 7210.94]

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

12−10−6. VOLUNTARY NOTIFICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

1 Introduction

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

1.1 Background

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

1.2 Problem Statement

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

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

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

1.3 Purpose and Scope

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

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

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

2 Current Operations & Shortfalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.1 Operational Shortfalls

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

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

2.2 Technology Gap

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

3 Guiding Principles

3.1 LAANC

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

3.2 Notification

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

3.3 Request for Authorization

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

3.4 Authorization

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

3.5 Remote Pilot Operator & UAS Operations in Airspace

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

3.6 Use cases and scenarios

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

3.7 Collaboration between Industry and FAA

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

3.8 Collaboration within Industry (Industry to Industry cooperation)

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

4 Assumptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Implementation Alternative

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

6 Description of Key Services

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

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

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

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

6.1 Distribution of Notification Info to Other Airspace Users

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

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

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

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

6.2 Use of Third Party Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Overarching Roles & Architecture

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

7.1 UAS Operator

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

 

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

notification pursuant

to Pub. L. 112-96

§ 336

Notification “No-Fly”AcknowledgeProvide statement to

operator that the

operation could

interfere with other

operations in the

NAS and/or at an

airport

7.2 Third Party Provider

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

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

7.3 Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP)/FAA Processor

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

7.4 FAA ATC

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

7.5 FAA Map Provider and Special Instructions

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

 


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

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

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

Table of Contents

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would you want to fly your drone at night?

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

What is needed for night flying?

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

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

Does a model aircraft flyer need a night waiver? 

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

How long does a night waiver last?

4 years.

What airspace can I fly in under a night waiver?

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

Can my company/agency/ department obtain the night?

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

Can I hire you for a night waiver?

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

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

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

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

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

Why are you qualified to handle my night waiver?

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

-Experience. I have 100+ approvals.

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

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

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

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

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

How can I get started hiring you?

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

 

 

107-night-waiver-fly-cow

 

The Different Definitions in the Federal Aviation Regulations

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

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

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

14 CFR § 91.209 says, “No person may: 

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

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

14 CFR § 107.29 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summarizing What is and is NOT Required

Part 107

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

Section 44807 Operators

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

       

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

      Miami, Florida

      26 Minutes

      25 Minutes

      Seattle, Washington41 Minutes

      37 Minutes

       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future Regulations For Night Flying

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

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

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

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

One Big Benefit to Possessing a Part 107 Night Waiver

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

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

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

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

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

Procedures

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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


Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace. (2019)

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Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace.

The regulation says, “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC).”

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

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

Text of the Memorandum Clarifying Class E Airspace

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

In reviewing Class E Surface Area authorization requirements, we determined that the Class E authorization requirement only pertains to Class E surface areas for an airport, not the Class E extensions to Class D, C and E airspaces. 14 CFR 107.41 states: “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC)”. FAA Order 7400.11B identifies the different types of Class E airspace. The only type of Class E airspace that matches the language in 107.41 is paragraph 6002, which states: “The Class E airspace areas listed below are designated as a surface area for an airport.” The others are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

So what else has the FAA said on 107.41?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This rule does not mandate a specific method of communication with ATC. In its evaluation of a request to fly in controlled airspace, an ATC facility may request two-way radio communications as