Commercial Drone Rules (Part 107)


Drone Law for Drone Training Educators, K-12 Schools, & Universities.

drone-law-education-teacher-professor-school

This article is written to help drone training educators and schools who offer drone training courses to understand the legal issues surrounding drones.

Why? We need drones in the schools to promote STEM education.  If you are an educator or school needing material, I have created a dedicated drone education resource page where I will continually add resources to help you in this area. :)

If you are setting up a drone program, you should check out my article 5 Problem Areas When Integrating Drones Into Large Companies as it brings up many questions that need to be answered by schools or universities setting up a drone program. Also, you might want to take a look over at University of California’s drone policy PDF.

I. Foundations of Drone Law for Drone Training Educators

From my book Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them:

The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.”[1] Congress created the Federal Aviation Agency by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958,[2] but in 1967, Congress changed the name into the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and moved that agency into the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) which is a Presidential cabinet department.[3] The FAA has been given by Congress jurisdiction to regulate navigable airspace of aircraft by regulation or order.[4] . . . .

The FAA has created regulations,[5] known as the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”), which govern the certification of only civil aircraft,[6] civil pilot licensing,[7] airspace,[8] commercial operations,[9] general pilot operating rules,[10] pilot schools and certificated agencies,[11] airports,[12] and navigational facilities.[13]
federal-aviation-regulations-versus-interpretaionsThe FAA also “regulates” in multiple ways by creating advisory circulars, or memos or interpretations on the regulations. Regulations ARE the law while advisory circulars, memos, and interpretations are the FAA’s opinion of how to follow the law, but they are NOT the law.  However, they somewhat become law in effect because even though they are not law, the interpretations change people’s behavior who would rather not pay an attorney to defend them in a prosecution case. They in effect stay out of the grey area like the guy with the yellow shirt in the graphic. When I say grey, I don’t mean that it is not clear as to whether it is law, the grey area is not law, but I mean that it is unclear as to whether a judge would agree with the FAA’s opinion and would find the guy in the yellow shirt to be in violation of the regulations. In short, the law is what you get charged with violating, but the interpretations/memos/advisory circulars are what determine if you are on the FAA “hit list” so they can go fishing to try and get you with the law.

Keep in mind that the FAA has the super vague regulation which prohibits you from acting in a careless or reckless manner[14] which functionally acts as a catch-all. This gets thrown in as a charge for almost every FAA prosecution out there. Out of the 23 FAA enforcement actions against drone operators I studied, all 23 of them were charged with violating 91.13 (107.23 was NOT around at the time the prosecutions started).

Why are these regulations created? They are really safety standards that have been proscribed by the FAA for us to follow to maintain the safety of the national airspace system. The FARs apply to almost everything that touches aviation. A good exercise is to find something that the FARs do NOT regulate.

Below is a graph to help you understand the different areas that the FAA regulates which all contribute to the safety of the national airspace system.

faa-far-standards-pilot-aircraft-maintenance-medical

II. How Drone Training Educators Can Fly Legally

Unmanned aircraft can be flown as public aircraft under a public COA/COW, as civil aircraft flown under a Section 44807 exemption (formerly called Section 333 exemption), as non-recreational unmanned aircraft under Part 107, or under Part 101 as a recreational unmanned aircraft. The classification of the aircraft will determine which set of regulations and standards are used.

We are now going to explore each of the 3 options as they relate to drone education.

1. Public Aircraft Operations Under a Public COA/COW

Public aircraft are those that (1) fall into 1 of 6 statutorily defined owned/operated situations,[15] (2) are flying for a governmental purpose,[16] and (3) are NOT flying for a commercial purpose.[17] The big benefit to obtaining public aircraft status is the public aircraft operator determines their own standards for the pilot, aircraft, maintenance of the aircraft, and the medical standards of the pilot, but they still must fly under the restrictions given to them by the FAA as listed in the public certificate of authorization (COA) and/or certificate of waiver.

Technically, most of the operations will be done under a waiver and not authorization but the industry has used the legally incorrect terminology so long that I’m just including them together as COA/COW.  If you hear a person say a public COA, it’s the same thing as I’m referencing here. It’s a public aircraft operation that needs to obtain a certificate from the FAA to fly under the regulations. Authorizations are for certain regulations while waivers are for certain regulations. </Legal hair splitting rant>

Unfortunately, educators and schools are unable to fly unmanned aircraft under a public COA for education. (Keep in mind many universities are permitted to fly under public COAs for purposes like aeronautical research.)

The FAA answered the question of whether education was a governmental function in a letter from Mark Bury of the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s Office to Jim Williams of the UAS Integration Office by saying:

If the FAA now were to read a concept as broad as education into the statute, it could exponentially expand the operation of unregulated aircraft. As a concept, education is not restricted to age or curriculum, and would include aviation education such as flight schools. All manned flight schools are civil operations, and are subject to significant regulation – none use public aircraft to teach students to fly, nor would we allow uncertificated pilots operating unregulated aircraft to teach others. The same must hold true for UAS, as the statute contains no distinction in the type of aircraft used to conduct a public aircraft operation. Accordingly, we must answer in the negative your question of whether a university could, in essence, conduct a UAS flight school using its COA.

You also asked whether some limited form of education could be found governmental. It would not be defensible to include education as a governmental function but then draw artificial limits on its scope, such as the level of education being provided, the curriculum, or the aircraft that can be used. Since our agency mission is the safe operation of the national airspace, including the safe integration of UAS into it, any analysis of whether the list of governmental functions can reasonably be expanded to include education must contain a clear consideration of the overall effect that such a change would have on aviation as a whole. There is nothing in the law or its minimal legislative history to suggest that Congress intended education to be a governmental function that a state needs to carry on its business free of aviation safety regulations.

Let’s go to the next option for educators.

2. The 44807 Exemption

BRIEF HISTORY:

Originally these were called Section 333 exemptions. The first group of exemptions in 2014 were for the cinematography industry which was focused on creating movies, not on instructing or education. Exemptions are operation specific. The restrictions slowly morphed over time to be “eh O.K.” enough to allow for other industries to use the exemptions. Over a year after the first exemptions were granted in 2014, on November 20, 2015, the FAA finally granted an exemption to Kansas States University to allow for flight instructingThe FAA issued their educational memo on May 4, 2016 and Part 107 was released June 21, 2016 which is far easier to operate under than the exemptions. The idea behind the memo was to allow people to fly for purposes of education without having to obtain an exemption. To further promote flight training, the FAA granted on November 14, 2016 an amendment to a giant list of exemptions to allow many exemptions to conduct training of students.

But with all this great news, Part 107 somewhat hit reset because the FAA stopped renewing exemptions and most of them expired.  The FAA Reauthorization of October 2018 caused a large reset to this area because it changed Part 101 which is what recreational flyers fly under and renamed Section 333 to Section 44807.

CURRENTLY:

Section 44807 gives the Department of Transportation authority to determine that the unmanned aircraft does not need an airworthiness certificate. This authority given to the DOT was created before Part 107 or Part 101 were created. It was used to get drones airborne before Part 107 came into effect which is why under 55 pound aircraft were flying under it. Since Part 107 has gone into effect, Section 44807 exemption is really only for aircraft weighing 55 pounds and heavier.

How the 44807 exemption process works is 44807 takes care of the airworthiness certification regulations and the remaining regulations are taken care of by using the Part 11 exemption process. This is why the paperwork allowing you to fly was nicknamed the 44807 exemption (or Section 333 exemption) process, even though Section 44807 does NOT provide any exemption powers!

Even if you have an exemption, some of these regulations are still very burdensome to comply with. For example, 14 CFR 91.119 requires the aircraft to be at least 500ft away from non-participating people and property which makes it very hard to do aerial photography from 500ft! The operator operates under all the federal aviation regulations, except for those specifically exempted.  Where exempted, the operator flies according to the restrictions which will provide an equivalent level of safety as the regulations they were exempted from.

Just to recap, you use the 44807 exemption process pretty much only when you are flying a 55 pound or heavier aircraft as Part 107 is easier to fly under.

 3. Part 107 (Non-Recreational Operations)  Drone Training 

 

The best choice is for the professor/teacher to obtain a remote pilot certificate. (In-depth step-by-step instructions for obtaining the certificate for first time and current pilots are located here). There are two options for obtaining it:

  1. Manned aircraft pilots certificated under Part 61 and who are also current with a biannual flight review can take a free online training course. They can then get identified from either a certified flight instructor, an FAA aviation safety inspector, a designated pilot examiner, or from an airmen certification representative. They then file through an online portal. They’ll receive and email later notifying them they can print out their temporary remote pilot certificate.
  2. Brand new pilots can take the remote pilot initial knowledge exam ($150) at a testing center. Also, manned pilots who are not current will have to take the knowledge exam.

If you are brand new to all of this and don’t know much about Part 107, read my article on the Part 107 Drone Regulations.

There are many resources out there to study for the exam. There are some paid courses out there (like www.rupprechtdrones.com), but I have created a FREE 100+ page study guide for this test.

Part 107 Articles You Might Enjoy

Important Points About Part 107 For Educators & Schools:

Please understand that this is NOT a complete list.

The minimum age of the remote pilot in command is 16 years of age. Keep in mind there is no limit how young a person can be who is flying under the direct supervision of the teacher.

Part 107 is for OUTSIDE buildings while in the national airspace. You can get around the regulations by operating in a completely closed building.

The FAA said on page 103-104 of the preamble to the final rule:

To further enable the educational opportunities identified by the commenters, this rule will allow the remote pilot in command (who will be a certificated airman) to supervise another person’s manipulation of a small UAS’s flight controls. A person who receives this type of supervision from the remote pilot in command will not be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate to manipulate the controls of a small UAS as long as the remote pilot in command possesses the ability to immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft. This ability is necessary to ensure that the remote pilot in command can quickly address any mistakes that are made by an uncertificated person operating the flight controls before those mistakes create a safety hazard.

The ability for the remote pilot in command to immediately take over the flight controls could be achieved by using a number of different methods. For example, the operation could involve a “buddy box” type system that uses two control stations: one for the person manipulating the flight controls and one for the remote pilot in command that allows the remote pilot in command to override the other control station and immediately take direct control of the small unmanned aircraft. Another method could involve the remote pilot in command standing close enough to the person manipulating the flight controls so as to be able to physically take over the control station from the other person. A third method could employ the use of an automation system whereby the remote pilot in command could immediately engage that system to put the small unmanned aircraft in a pre-programmed “safe” mode (such as in a hover, in a holding pattern, or “return home”).

III. Potential Liability Issues that Drone Training Instructors and Schools Face

Instructors and schools face liability issues from multiple areas. Please understand that this is NOT a complete list. You should talk to an attorney to find out what applies to your situation.

A. State and Local Law Issues

All sorts of states, towns, and counties have started creating drone laws. It is becoming very problematic to keep track of them all since they are springing up like mushrooms. It is almost as if drones laws are the like the latest fad for government officials – like Pokemon and we are now as drone operators trying to catch them all.

Here are two resources that could be very valuable to help you find out your STATE laws:

Regarding county, city, and town laws…good luck.  You are on your own there. This is a big problem for the industry because there is no easy way to track the laws. The databases aren’t complete and these local governments all are wanting to play FAA use all sorts of different terms (drones, UAS, unmanned aircraft, model aircraft, model airplanes, etc.).  You end up having to search for a bunch of different terms and hope one get’s a hit; otherwise, you are stuck in the land of uncertainty wondering if you didn’t find the drone law out there or there aren’t any.

The reason I bring this up is there are state laws that have criminal penalties and other liability issues. For example, Florida’s law provides for a private right of action for an individual to sue the drone operator using a drone to gather data of the person’s property that was not able to be seen at eye level. Make sure you check your local laws! The FAA is NOT the only one trying to regulate your drones.

B. Students Versus the Teacher

Let’s say a student is flying the drone and the teacher isn’t paying attention to the student’s flying. BAM. Now the student injured himself, the teacher, or another student.  Uhhh ooo.

Was the teacher proficient in instructing? Was there a means to override the student’s actions to prevent this? Is there insurance covering the teacher, school, and student?

C. Third Party Bystander Versus Teacher (Now & Later)

This area of liability can be broken down into current liability and a residual type of liability.

The current type of liability would be the teacher and student versus other third parties in the area at the time. (Maybe a mom jogging with a baby stroller, the mailman, old guy walking his dog, etc.)

The more subtle and dangerous type of liability is the lingering residual type of liability that happens when you train many students. If you train 100 students, that is 100 reasons flying around to get you sued. If one of them crashes into someone, you could get brought into a lawsuit as a defendant under the idea that you provided negligent instruction to the student. Hopefully, you will have an insurance policy that will cover this. This is why myself, and other flight instructors, stop instructing altogether because we don’t want to have this lingering liability.

You should also document the living daylights out of all the training you give to students. This will come in handy later on if there is a lawsuit. I created a drone operator’s logbook which will be helpful for documenting training.  Yes, it is a paper logbook which means you WON’T have battery, connectivity, firmware, IOS version, etc. problems.

I talk about liability and insurance in greater depth in my drone insurance article.

Conclusion

This is an evolving area of the law. On top of that, it is confusing. If you are setting up a program or currently are running one, you might want to consider working with an aviation attorney to help you navigate this area safely.  Additionally, you might need waivers and/or authorizations for some of your operations. If you are needing help, contact me so we can get your program off the ground and soar to new heights of success by integrating drones to save time, money, and lives.

[1] U.S Const. art. I, § 8; see also 49 U.S.C. § 40103 (a)(1)(“The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.”).

[2] Federal Aviation Act, Pub. L. No. 85-726, 72 Stat. 731 (1958).

[3] See A Brief History of the FAA, Fed. Aviation Admin., http://www.faa.gov/about/history/brief_history/

[4] See 49 U.S.C. § 40103(b)(1)(Congress delegated to the FAA the job to “develop plans and policy for the use of the navigable airspace and assign by regulation or order the use of the airspace necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use of airspace.”)(emphasis mine).

[5] 14 C.F.R. §§ 1-199.

[6] 14 C.F.R. §§ 21-49.

[7] 14 C.F.R. §§ 61-67.

[8] 14 C.F.R. §§ 71-77.

[9] 14 C.F.R. §§ 119-135.

[10] 14 C.F.R. §§ 91-105.

[11] 14 C.F.R. §§ 141-147.

[12] 14 C.F.R. §§ 150-161.

[13] 14 C.F.R. §§ 170-171.

[14] 14 C.F.R. § 91.13; 107.23.

[15] See 49 U.S.C § 40102(a)(41).

[16] See 49 U.S.C. § 40125(a).

[17] See id.


5 Problem Areas When Integrating Drones Into Large Companies

5 Areas to Consider When Integrating Drone Operations into a Large Company

This article is written based on my experience interacting with small to multiple billion dollar companies. This article is designed to ask questions which will be the starting point for discussions which need to happen internally in a company. If you are a company wanting to continue the discussion further, contact me. 

1. Operations – (Internal, External, & Flight Operations Procedures Manual)

A. Internal Operations Within the Company Between the Different Departments

drone-enterprise-internalHow does the drone department fit into the immediate company?  How will it interact with the other departments? For example, is the drone department also going to be doing the R & D for business cases using drones, or will the R & D department do the business cases for drones?  Are there are other departments which might want to use the drone technology such as the marketing department for obtaining photos or videos?

How is the legal department going to exercise oversight? It might not be the wisest use of company resources to have an attorney in legal do the aviation law compliance work but instead work with experienced outside counsel who focuses on this area. Additionally, many states, counties, cities, and towns are all trying to create drone laws. Who is going to manage that? The legal department or more outside attorneys?

Is the drone flight department going to be its own department completely separate from the corporate flight department with the jets or will the drone department be located in the corporate flight department?

drone-enterprise-flight-department-drone-department

In addition to WHERE will the department go, WHO will be the one in charge of it. (We all know everyone wants to be in charge of it.) This will cause some interesting dynamics between different departments.  Will the drone department be on its own or be under supervision from the flight department?

B. External Operations Outside the Company?

Where is the drone flight department(s) going? For smaller and mid-sized companies, this might not be a problem, but for large companies which have multiple subsidiaries, it can be an issue.  For example, a parent company might want to create a completely new service company by which to service their other companies or they might want to create a drone flight department in each of their subsidiaries.

drone-enterprise-company-interactionIn Scenario 1, if each company is to have its own drone department, who is actually responsible for updating manuals and distributing them to the other departments You don’t want to be paying for duplicate work. Who is responsible for recurrent training?

What are the long term goals of the company? Scenario 2 with a completely separate drone department is already set up (D) for doing business with other companies who might want to supplement their drone operations (X & Y) or hire out for certain regions because it is more cost effective. Company D could service other companies (potentially even competitors) in the same industries as A, B, and C who haven’t established drone inspection departments. D could be a revenue generator.

Why would a company hire their competitor for drone service?  Trying to find a legitimate drone service provider is the equivalent of trying to find a legit pair of sunglasses at the flea market. I would trust my competitor’s drone inspection department more than an independent drone service provider’s.

C. Flight Operations Procedures Manual Outlining Step-by-Step Procedures for Internal & External Interactions

How many different operations are needed? (Day, night, beyond visual line of sight, moving vehicle, operating near an airport in controlled airspace, etc.) Each operation might need its own operations manual.  Why?  Each type of operation has its own unique set of hazards which need to be mitigated. Those mitigations are built into the manual and checklists.

There are hazards everywhere. Some we know about and some we don’t know about. As operations go on, new hazards will be identified and will need to be reported back to the flight department.  For example, let’s say a Phantom 5 comes out and certain drone operators are starting to experience flight controller problems. Who is to receive this information and who will track it?

Another thing to consider is the procedures and quality controls on delivering the data to the appropriate people without it falling through the cracks. For example, if a utility sub-station is being inspected and an element is found to be overheating, who is to receive this knowledge? How is it to be documented?  If during a line inspection, vegetation is found starting to get very close to the powerlines, who is supposed to be get notified? Should the drone operator in the field make the direct calls to the appropriate department? Should the drone operator just report back to a dedicated individual in the drone flight department who will make sure the situation is resolved?  Maybe both?

What type of data and how much is to be collected? Should the drone operator quickly take some pictures and send those to the appropriate department so they can prioritize the response in their schedule?  Is video needed? Where is that data to be stored and what happens if there is a lawsuit with a clever attorney requesting all the data? The legal department knows where to find that data right?

2. Aircraft – (Mission Type, Maintenance, Aircraft Manuals, & Batteries)

A. What Types of Missions Will the Aircraft Perform?

Going back to the two scenarios above, drone departments in Scenario 1 might want mission specific aircraft while Scenario 2 might want a platform that will be adequate for all missions across the multiple companies.

There are a few popular aerial platforms out there that are not that expensive, but certain missions might require aircraft specifically built for that operation which means they will be more expensive.

B. Will the Aircraft Have a Maintenance Program? (Preventive & Corrective Maintenance).

How robust will the maintenance program be? Will it cover all types of repairs?  As the repairs needed are more sophisticated, there will be a bigger need for a specialist to conduct those repairs. Will you send it to the manufacturer or will you hire a specialist in-house.  Many logistical issues arise; for example, where do you base an in-house specialist if you have offices across the country?

Since unmanned aircraft are getting cheaper and cheaper, you could go to a completely disposable set up. Think of laptops and cellphones as opposed to airplanes. The question is what damage will be considered minor and what or how much damage will cause you to just scrap the drone.  You could always sell off the scrap to an aftermarket repair company.

Regarding either scenario, you’ll need to still set up periodic inspection schedules on the aircraft. How are you going to arrange that? Are you checking everything or certain things? What about updates for the drone and the ground station? What about any peripheral equipment like iPads?

C. Aircraft Flight Manuals

Many of the manuals that come with these drones are a joke. You might want to develop your own standardized aircraft flight manuals that are standardized for all platforms.  For example, Chapter 1 is Definitions, Chapter 2 Quick Specifications, etc.

D. Batteries

How many batteries will you need per drone operator to have in the field?

Batteries are hazardous. If you accidentally drop one just right, you can start a fire.

If you drop something on one, you can start a fire.

If you look at it funny, you can start a fire. Starting to get the picture?

Watch this video of what happened to a LiPo battery in a car:

 

 

Here is another story where a guy was charging some batteries and a fire erupted which damaged his home:

 

Where are they going to be charged? In the car while in the field or back at the office?

If you are going to charge these at the office, how do you prevent them from being a big fire hazard like what happened to the guy in the 2nd video where he had multiple batteries next to each other?

Are there requirements for your operators on the storage of the batteries in the cars when driving out to job sites? It would be a big problem if a vehicle was rear-ended and caught on fire. Will they carry a fire extinguisher? Are the extinguishers appropriately rated for a chemical fire?

E. The Aircraft Manufacturer

From Gus Calderon:

“Selecting the appropriate drones for your intended operation type is a critically important decision. Too often, companies are influenced by drone salesmen boasting features such as a fully autonomous operation. There will always be a need for a skilled and experienced pilot so don’t be fooled by this common sales pitch. You should be most concerned about reliability and safety. When considering safety, keep in mind that the more a drone weighs, the more damage it could cause if it has an “unscheduled landing.”

Another consideration is how long the manufacturer has been in business? What is their product support like? What is the availability of replacement parts and consumables for the drones you select? Also, are training courses available for the drones you are considering?”

3. Drone Pilots – (Pilot Standards, Quality Control, & 107 Waivers and Training.)

A. What Are the Standards for Selecting Pilots?

You are going to have to figure this out if you hire with in-house or outside help. What will be the objective grading criteria you will use for selecting pilots? Will it be based upon test proving just skills? What about experience? Do you use hours or cycles? Do you give more weight to time in certain environments as opposed to others?

B. What Are the Quality Controls?

If you are planning on hiring purely outside help or maybe a hybrid with in-house, how are you going to audit them?  I was talking with another drone attorney and this one drone service provider company name came up. We shared the same story of this company that was basically being shady to their clients and not admitting they were NOT approved to fly at the location. That company was trying to get the work done and hoped the clients didn’t ask any questions. Drone service providers like dumb clients.  You should seriously consider getting either an aviation attorney or someone in the flight department to do vetting on the front end and some random audits on whoever you hire outside.

C. What Type of Training Will You Provide the Pilots so They Can Fly Under a 107 Waiver?

Certain waivers, like night waivers, require training that is required to be documented and available for inspection if the FAA were to ask for it. How are you going to set up that training? Who is going to deliver it and what are the standards for determining the qualifications of that pilot? If you hire someone outside of the company to train the pilots, how do you vet them and make sure they have instructing insurance?

4. Legal – (107 Waivers or Section 44807 Exemptions, External or In-House Counsel, & Crash/Accident Response).

A. Will Your Operations Need a 107 Waiver or Section 44807 Exemption or Maybe Both?

This will be important to figure out for purposes of determining costs, operations, and training. Some jobs cannot be done under 107 or 107 waivers (like 55 pound and heavier operations) so you’ll need to go the 44807 exemption route. It would be wise to involve a competent aviation attorney at this point to help you determine if you can do all of your operations under just Part 107.

B. Will Legal Be Performed by In-House or with Outside Counsel?

I think the most effective use of company resources will be hiring outside counsel for dealing with the FAA.  Most companies do not have any aviation attorneys in their company, and the flight departments, while skilled in navigating the FARs, are not licensed to practice law. Most states consider the unlicensed practice of law a crime.

Furthermore, it can get interesting if there is a lawsuit. Why? Attorneys have the attorney-client privilege while there is no such thing as a drone consultant – client privilege or flight-department-guy- client privilege.   Just run this little statement by legal and I’m sure they will 100% agree with me that an attorney is the best way to go. Otherwise, your drone-consultant could get served with a subpoena in a lawsuit and then be forced to either (1) commit perjury, (2) testify against you, or (3) be held in contempt of court if they don’t testify.

Moreover, many attorneys carry malpractice insurance while I highly doubt many of the consultants in this area carry some type of insurance to protect their clients. The insurance is there to make whole injured clients. Do the consultants or attorneys you are working with carry insurance?

C. Does the Company Have Attorneys Designated to be Involved in Post-Crash/Accident Investigations and Communications?

Following on what I just said regarding having an attorney involved PRE-ACCIDENT, an attorney should be designated to be involved post-accident.  Do you have an emergency response plan (ERP)? Remember that everything your employees say can and will be used against the company in a lawsuit.

There are also reporting requirements that are to be made to the NTSB and the FAA in certain situations. It also might be beneficial to know if a NASA form should be filed or not. See my article What Are You Legally Required to do After a Drone Crash.

Setting liability aside, there is also a public relations issue here. How will your PR department be brought in?

5. Manuals & Checklists (Training, Aircraft, Flight Operations, & Maintenance).

A. Training Manuals Should Be Integrated with Pilot Standards and 107 Waiver Training Requirements.

Echoing what was said before, the training standards need to be to that of what waivers will require. Night waivers will need pilots and visual observers who are trained to recognizing the problems with operating at night.

B. Who Will Maintain the Aircraft Flight Manuals?

As time goes on, the FAA will issue interpretations. Aircraft will have software upgrades and their control stations as well. There will need to be a person who updates the manuals and ensures that the managers are briefed on the new updates and that the information is relayed to the pilots as well.

C. How Will You Ensure the Flight Operations Manuals Are Updated to Mitigate New Hazards?

The remote pilots operating out in the field will notice new hazards that were maybe not identified in the beginning or the pilots discovered that the mitigation to counter the hazard created a whole new hazard that needs to be mitigated. These hazards need to be relayed to a central point who will determine an appropriate mitigation and then update the manuals and disseminate them to the managers to relay to the pilots.

Conclusion

This article is merely the beginning of a discussion on these 5 problematic areas. I would highly suggest you take a good long look at your operations and see how these pieces of the puzzle interact.

I would also highly, highly suggest getting knowledgeable people involved in these discussions quickly. Why?  The larger the company, the larger the group or committee working on the project. This creates more indecisiveness. On top of that, these indecisive committees can have 3-10 people on them which creates 3-10 man hours of – wasted time.

How much did it cost the company to have those 3-10 people try and figure out something? Worse yet, how much did it cost the company by not implementing drone operations? Remember, drones don’t make money, but save money. There are operating costs that can be immediately lowered or risks lowered (thus, lower insurance premiums or less chance of an accident).

I would suggest to you that the bigger the company, the overall cost will be lower to immediately get involved competent people to (1) allow the drone group/committee to rapidly make decisions and (2) accelerate the time from discussion to implementation to enable the company the use of drones to save time, money, and lives.

Can you really afford not to start? Contact me and let’s get started.


FAA Form 8710-13 (Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate)

FIlled out FAA Form 8710-13

Most people will attempt to get their remote pilot certificate via the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (“IACRA”); however, that is NOT the only way. FAA form 8710-13 is the paper form you fill out instead of using IACRA when you are either (1) a current Part 61 certificated pilot who wants to pick up a temporary remote pilot certificate quickly or (2) you are a first time pilot and don’t want to do IACRA.

Why Is FAA Form 8710-13 Valuable?

It allows already existing, and current, Part 61 pilots to obtain their remote pilot certificate the same day as they apply for it at the local FSDO.  This is very valuable if you have a job that needs to be done ASAP. It will NOT allow new first-time pilots to obtain their remote pilot certificate that day. New pilots will have to pass a TSA background check.

This route is for current pilots meaning they have a biannual flight review in their logbook and took the online training exam (different than the initial knowledge exam). Non-current pilots will have to take the online training exam and get current with a BFR or have to pass an initial knowledge exam.

It is still unclear whether non-current Part 61 pilots who have passed the initial knowledge exam are also eligible to pick up their temporary remote pilot certificate in person using the 8710-13 in person at the FSDO instead of getting their biannual flight review. The FAA has said the non-current pilots with the initial knowledge exams can do the IACRA route, but I don’t know how long the turn around times on that will be.

Why Would A Non-Current Pilot Want To Do The Initial Knowledge Exam?

Yes, the Part 61 pilots have the option of doing the free online training course BUT they also need to be current. An initial knowledge exam costs $150. If doing your BFR will cost more than $150, it might be more beneficial to only do the initial knowledge exam route. For example, take a Cessna 152 running at $95/hr wet and an instructor at $40. For most people, they will need a minimum of 1 hour of ground and 1 hour of air time with that instructor. The cheapest it will be for most people is 2 hours of instructor at ($40) + ($95)= $175.

Why Don’t The Part 61 Pilots Have To Do A TSA Background Check?

“The FAA notes that after initial vetting, TSA conducts recurrent or daily vetting to ensure that certificate holders do not subsequently become a security threat. All FAA certificate holders are subject to this recurrent vetting, which serves to identify any certificate holder that may later become a security threat.”[1]

How Can A Current Part 61 Pilot Get His Remote Pilot Certificate?

  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. Online at IACRA or print out a paper copy.
    2. Validate applicant identity on IACRA.
      • Contact a FSDO, a FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or a 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 where your local FSDO is located and make an appointment. Note: FSDOs 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.
        • 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).
  2. A permanent remote pilot certificate will be sent via mail once all other FAA internal processing is complete.
  3. Start thinking about what types of waivers from Part 107 you will need so you can remain competitive and profitable since you are now up and running. Do you need a night waiver, certain types of airspace waivers, etc.?

FAA Form 8710-13 is located here.

This article is part of an overall Part 107 series of articles. Make sure you check the other articles out!

[1] Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42063, 42181 (June 28, 2016).


Different TFRs – Flight Restrictions for Good Reason

Let’s get into WHY the different TFRs are issued so you can understand where they can be located. The different TFRs can be somewhat clumped into 4 groups: disasters, special events, special people, or other. Keep in mind this is just a quick way to conceptualize things because there are exceptions. There are times where certain regulations are used as justification for a TFR around odd things to “get the job done.”  For example, 99.7 is used to issue TFRs around the Pope and also as the justification for an FDC notam restricting speeds to 180 knots indicated airspace around the DC VOR. Another is where 91.137 (TFR in vicinity of a disaster) is issued prior to planned mine blasting. Sometimes 99.7 security TFR’s are done on top of sporting events.

fire-fighting-small

Disasters:
Section 91.137
, Temporary Flight Restrictions in the Vicinity of Disaster/Hazard Areas 

There are three subsections to this section. If you are wanting to operate in a TFR, it important to know which regulation was cited because each has different restrictions on who can operate in that type of TFR. Examples of these disasters would be: toxic gas leaks or spills; fumes from flammable agents which, if fanned by rotor or propeller wash could endanger persons or property on the surface, or if entered by an aircraft could endanger persons or property in the air; volcanic eruptions that could endanger airborne aircraft and occupants; nuclear accident or incident; hijackings; wildfire suppression; and aircraft relief activities following a disaster (e.g., earthquake, tidal wave, flood, hurricane, etc.).

Section 91.138, Temporary Flight Restrictions in National Disaster Areas in the State of Hawaii.

TFRs issued under section 91.138 address a determination that an inhabited area within a declared national disaster area in the State of Hawaii needs protection for humanitarian reasons.

Pro Tip: It is easy to tell these two types of TFRs apart because one smells like coconuts. Another tip is you could look for a fire-fighter in a hula skirt.

 

baseball-stadium-tfr-small

Special Events:

Section 91.145, Management of Aircraft Operations in the Vicinity of Aerial Demonstrations and Major Sporting Events. Major Sporting events – Congress mandated flight restrictions over specific major sporting events through Public Law 108-7 as amended by Public Law 108-199. These events are: Major League Baseball, National Football League, NCAA Division One Football games, a NASCAR cup, Indy Car, and Champ Series races. FAA has issued a standing NOTAM detailing the restrictions and conditions that apply to those events. For sporting events not covered by the Congressional mandate, the FAA will consider requests submitted based on the criteria listed in 14 CFR 91.145(b).

four airplanes in formation on airshow

Section 91.145(a) says:

These demonstrations and events may include:

(1) United States Naval Flight Demonstration Team (Blue Angels);

(2) United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron (Thunderbirds);

(3) United States Army Parachute Team (Golden Knights);

(4) Summer/Winter Olympic Games;

(5) Annual Tournament of Roses Football Game;

(6) World Cup Soccer;

(7) Major League Baseball All-Star Game;

(8) World Series;

(9) Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta;

(10) Sandia Classic Hang Gliding Competition;

(11) Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. 

Keep in mind that FDC NOTAM 4/4319  issued under 99.7 is applicable to a “3 NMR OF A QUALIFYING STADIUM OR OTHER SPORTING VENUE HOSTING A QUALIFYING EVENT UP TO AND INCLUDING 3000FT AGL. QUALIFYING LOCATIONS AND EVENTS ARE DEFINED AS ANY STADIUM OR OTHER SPORTING VENUE HAVING A SEATING CAPACITY OF 30,000 OR MORE WHERE: 1) A REGULAR OR POST SEASON MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, NATIONAL FOOTBALL [ ] FOR SELECT LEAGUE, OR NCAA DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL GAME IS OCCURRING; OR 2) A NASCAR CUP, INDY CAR, OR CHAMP SERIES RACE IS OCCURRING, EXCLUDING QUALIFYING AND PRE-RACE EVENTS. THIS FLIGHT PROHIBITION IS IN EFFECT ONE HOUR BEFORE THE SCHEDULED START UNTIL ONE HOUR AFTER THE END OF A QUALIFYING EVENT.”

presidential-TFR

Special People:

Section 91.141, Flight Restrictions in the Proximity of the Presidential and Other Parties. TFRs issued under section 91.141 address security with respect to airspace over presidential and other parties. Specifically, no person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the FAA and published in a NOTAM.

Section 99.7, Special Security Instructions. The FAA, in consultation with the Department of Defense, or other Federal security/intelligence agencies may issue special security instructions to address situations determined to be detrimental to the interests of national defense.  This TFR is also used for special foreign dignitaries such as the Queen or the Pope. It is also used to augment restrictions near major events under FDC NOTAM 4/3621. (Mentioned above).

Interestingly, the FAA has used Section 99.7 to create over 500 drone specific TFRs across the country at military facilities and bases. You can view them here. It is interesting because manned aircraft can fly over many of those locations but unmanned aircraft cannot. The idea is that drones can fly close to the ground while manned aircraft would be limited to minimum safe altitude.

Other:

Section 91.139, Emergency Air Traffic Rules.  This TFR is issued if the Administrator determines that an emergency condition exists, or will exist, relating to the FAA’s ability to operate the air traffic control system and during which normal flight operations cannot be conducted consistent with the required levels of safety and efficiency. The Administrator issues an immediately effective air traffic rule or regulation in response to that emergency condition. In other words, September 11th.  “It was no error for the Administrator to conclude on the morning of September 11th that the terrorists’ attacks and possible unknown attacks to come might pose such a condition.” Blakey v. Somerville, EA-5086, NTSB (March 31, 2004). See also SCANTANA.

space-shuttle-tfr


Section 91.143
, Flight Limitation in the Proximity of Space Flight Operations. These are typically in Florida, New Mexico, and California. TFRs issued under section 91.143 are used to
segregate nonparticipating aircraft from space flight operations to prevent collision. Specifically, no person may operate an aircraft of U.S. registry, or pilot an aircraft under the authority of an airman certificate issued by the FAA within areas designated in a NOTAM for space flight operations except when authorized by ATC, or the proponent for the flight operation.  TFRs issued under section 91.143 may be issued for Class 2 high-power rockets and Class 3 advanced high-power rockets. These rockets can, very quickly, fly high into the airspace and have the potential to significantly interfere with air traffic. These TFRs cannot be issued for Class 1 amateur rockets because they cannot affect air traffic when operated in accordance with FAA regulations. Sometimes a 99.7 TFR was put around a Space Shuttle launch.

Section 91.144, Abnormally High Barometric Pressure Conditions. The aneroid barometers in aircraft can only work in certain conditions.

If you flew into a TFR or need a waiver to operate within a TFR (i.e., sport event filming), contact me. 

I hope these articles have helped you understand more about TFRs so you can pass your knowledge exams and fly safely and competently in the national airspace. In the unfortunate situation that you violate a TFR, it is extremely important to work with a competent aviation attorney for help to present the best defense. Contact Rupprecht Law, P.A. today if you are needing help.


FAA TFR Violation Punishments

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

FAA-temporary-flight-restrictions-.punishment-fines-jail

Depending on the type of TFR, you can get punished in three different ways for a TFR violation: (1) you can be criminally punished up to a maximum of 1 year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine, (2) you can have your pilot license suspended or revoked, and/or (3) receive a civil penalty by itself or on-top of the $100,000 fine.

Sometimes you can get charged with multiple violations for one flight. For example, a pilot operating under Part 91 can be charged with violating 14 CFR 91.103 which requires him to conduct a pre-flight check of all available information before a flight.  Likewise, the remote pilot of a drone would be required by 107.49 to be familiar with the airspace prior to flight.

The Part 61 pilot in this case got charged with a violation of 91.103 & 91.137 for the same flight by the FAA. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Why? There were only two options: either he did NOT check for TFRs (a violation of the FARs) or he did check and intentionally went into the TFR (a violation of federal criminal code).

I wrote a lengthy article on the 23 drone operators the FAA has been prosecuting and showed that out of the 23 operators, some of them were cited with multiple violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations for the same flight.

Criminal Punishment: Federal prison for up to a Year and/or a $100,000 fine for a violation of a security related TFR.

If you knowingly or willfully violate a security TFR, you can have some serious consequences. These sometimes get put around major sporting events or the President.Recently, the FAA created over 500 of them at military bases across the country that applied only to drones.

In 49 U.S.C.  § 40103(b)(3), the U.S. Congress gave the FAA the ability to:

“(3) To establish security provisions that will encourage and allow maximum use of the navigable air-space by civil aircraft consistent with national security, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secre-tary of Defense, shall—
(A) establish areas in the airspace the Administrator decides are necessary in the interest of national defense; and
(B) by regulation or order, restrict or prohibit flight of civil aircraft that the Administrator cannot identify, locate, and control with available facilities in those areas.”

A person that knowingly or willfully violates section 40103(b)(3) of this title or a regulation prescribed or order issued under section 40103(b)(3) shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.” 49 U.S.C. § 46307.

Intentionally flying into a security related TFR is nothing to mess around with. Doug Hughes flew a gyrocopter onto the US Capitol lawn (a permanent security flight restriction) and he was indicted and prosecuted by the Department of Justice. One of the charges listed § 43607 and § 40103(b)(3). Read the Douglas Hughes indictment. He later pleaded guilty to one of the multiple charges and was sentenced to federal prison for 120 days.

How much of a criminal fine can result from a security related TFR violation?

To know how much a defendant can be fined for a security related TFR, we need to figure out what type of crime had been committed. A security related TFR violation is a Class A misdemeanor because § 46307 says the defendant can not be “imprisoned for not more than one year” and 18 U.S.C.  § 3559 says:

“(a)CLASSIFICATION.—An offense that is not specifically classified by a letter grade in the section defining it, is classified if the maximum term of imprisonment authorized is— [. . .]

(6) one year or less but more than six months, as a Class A misdemeanor;”

A Class A misdemeanor can be punished according to 18 U.S.C. § 3571  which says:

(a)IN GENERAL.—A defendant who has been found guilty of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine.
(b)FINES FOR INDIVIDUALS.—Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, an individual who has been found guilty of an offense may be fined not more than the greatest of—[. . .]

(4) for a misdemeanor resulting in death, not more than $250,000;
(5) for a Class A misdemeanor that does not result in death, not more than $100,000; [. . . ]

FAA Pilot Certificate Suspension or Revocation

For an accidental flight or intentional flight, you can be receiving a FAA order suspending or revoking your Part 61 pilot certificate or your Part 107 remote pilot certificate. The FAA order directed to FAA enforcement teams recommends a “30- to 90-day suspension” for a simple TFR violation. Keep in mind that if you did a bunch of other violations, these numbers will be higher or you’ll be getting a certificate revocation.

FAA Civil Penalty

The pilot license suspension or revocation will be the normal method of punishment, but with more and more drone pilots operating without an airmen certificate, the FAA will have to resort to a civil penalty since there is no airmen certificate to suspend or revoke. Additionally, the FAA has said, “For a deliberate, egregious violation by a certificate holder, regardless of whether the certificate holder is exercising the privileges of the certificate in connection with the violations associated with a UAS operation, certificate action, may be appropriate. Such certificate action may be in addition to a civil penalty.”

The FAA can fine the person $1,414 per occurrence along with other charges. Typically the FAA would charge the person with flying in the TFR along with flying carelessly and recklessly which would result in 2 charges of  1,414 each with a total fine of 2,828. Additionally, the FAA could also suspend or revoke any airmen certificate the pilot has.

Next Page: What are the differences between the 8 TFRs?  Why are some issued?


TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction)

TFR-drone-temporary-flight-restrictionA Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is nothing to play around with. Violations of TFRs can be punished quite severely with a pilot license suspension, civil penalty, or in the worst case: prison time. The FAA has been pursuing enforcement actions against manned and unmanned pilots around the U.S. for TFR violations. In this series of TFR articles, I will help you understand more about each of the TFRs, and give you pro tips based upon my flight instructing experience, so you can pass a knowledge exam and fly safely and confidently.  Also, if you want to create a TFR, get a waiver to fly into a TFR (i.e., sport event filming), or if you accidentally flew in a TFR unauthorized and potentially will be prosecuted by the FAA, contact me.

What is a TFR?

The FAA defines a TFR as “a regulatory action issued via the U.S. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system to restrict certain aircraft from operating within a defined area, on a temporary basis, to protect persons or property in the air or on the ground.” There are different types of TFRs and they are listed out in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). The regulations for TFRs are located in Part 91 and Part 99 which govern manned aircraft operations. For remote pilots, Part 107.47 requires them to comply with all the TFRs located in Part 91 and 99 as well.

How can I tell where a TFR is located?

tfr.faa.gov Website

A TFR is not located anywhere on a sectional chart and can literally temporarily “pop-up” quite quickly. A helpful website is tfr.faa.gov, where the TFR will be portrayed in a picture of an overlay of the TFR on a sectional chart and also described in textual format.

If you go to The picture will tell you the dimensions while the text will tell you the precise dimensions, altitudes, and times. The dimensions of the TFR are going to be explained by reference to a fixed point. Much of the time, the fixed point is a VOR, but sometimes it can be a random set of coordinates on the map (especially when elected officials are campaigning or fundraising). It is incredibly important to check for TFRs before EVERY flight. You should not rely on a pre-flight briefer over at 1-800-wx-brief to catch the TFR or whether it affects you or not.

TFR-description

You should check tfr.faa.gov before EVERY flight. It breaks the TFRs down into states, chronologically on a list, graphically on a map, FAA ATC centers, and TFR types.

Pro Tip: Never trust the flight briefer. If you are close to a TFR, make sure you check.

Drone Specific TFR Map

If you are a drone flyer, you should check tfr.faa.gov, as well as the FAA’s drone specific TFR database housed on a different website.

The tfr.faa.gov website shows the TFRs that apply to manned and unmanned while the ARCGIS powered website shows ONLY the unmanned aircraft TFRS. You go to the drone specific website, type in the address of the location you are flying in the top left, and then see if that falls inside one of the bright red airspaces.

Why should you never rely on the briefer?

Sometimes people call 180WXBRIEF and get the briefer to do all the work in searching for TFRs, but you shouldn’t rely on them. President Obama came to Ft. Lauderdale when I was flight instructing and a TFR popped up. I called over to 1800WXBRIEF and requested a pre-flight briefing before the flight. The briefer told me about the TFR, but said that I was NOT within the TFR. I didn’t trust him so I checked online for the textual description and measured the TFR out. Guess what? I was right within the edge of the TFR and could not take off. The briefer got it wrong. When I was in the FBO, an airplane took off. In about a minute, the phone rang and the FBO manager answered. The manager talked shortly on the phone. He hung and up and turned to me and said, “That was the Secret Service trying to figure out who just took off.”

Who can go into a TFR?

TFRs are NOT always a complete ban on all types of flying. It just means only authorized individuals can fly in those areas. If you are interested in doing some commercial drone work around TFRs, you can contact me about getting those approvals and COAs.

Keep in mind that doing operations in a TFR can have benefits. One big benefit is for certain types of TFRs the airspace is segregated which means obtaining certain types of approvals could be easier.

How many different types of TFRs are there?

There are 8 different types of TFRs. Each has a different set of facts surrounding why they are issued and who can operate in them. Each of these different types of TFRs will be discussed.

  1. Section 91.137, Disaster/Hazard Areas Temporary Flight Restrictions;
  2. Section 91.138, National Disaster Areas in the State of Hawaii Temporary Flight Restrictions;
  3. Section 91.139, Emergency Air Traffic Rules;
  4. Section 91.141, Presidential and Other Parties Temporary Flight Restrictions;
  5. Section 91.143, Space Flight Operations Temporary Flight Restrictions;
  6. Section 91.144, Abnormally High Barometric Pressure Conditions;
  7. Section 91.145, Management of Aircraft Operations in the Vicinity of Aerial Demonstrations and Major Sporting Events; and
  8. Section 99.7, Special Security Instructions. (Drone specific TFRs at military bases are done under this)

Next Page: What type of criminal punishment (prison time) or fines can happen if you fly into a TFR?