Government Drone Operations (Public COA)


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Section 333 Exemption vs. Part 107 vs. Public COA vs. Blanket Public COA

section-333-exemption-vs-part-107-public-COA-toolbox.jpg

A common question I receive is “which certification, authorization, exemption, etc. is right for me? There are so many choices.” If this question accurately reflects where you are in life, you are in the right place.

 

There is much confusion on this issue because of the of the different terms, their locations in the law, and the reasons why the different methods of getting a drone airborne legally were created. You need to think of each of these different terms like it was a tool. Each tool was designed to fix certain problems at a certain point in time.

 

Hopefully, this article will bring to light the main differences between the different methods. Keep in mind that the different methods listed below are only SOME of the methods. I picked the most popular methods of getting airborne legally but there are other alternatives to the ones listed.

 

Please keep in mind that this article is designed to compare and contrast SOME of the major provisions and is NOT an exhaustive study on all the issues.  In other words, you should not rely on this article for legal advice because there are many issues in play. This is for educational purposes only.

 

Table of Contents

I. Graph Comparing Aircraft, Pilot, Airspace, and Operational Requirements

II. Part 107

III. Section 333 

IV. Airworthiness Certificates

V. Public COA

Example of a 333 Exemption

Example of a Blanket COA

Example of a Public “Blanket” COA (Version 1.0 ~ Mid-Late 2016)

Example of a Public “Blanket” COA (Version 1.2)

 

I. Graph Comparing Aircraft, Pilot, Airspace, and Operational Requirements

Please keep in mind these are the major points and not ALL of the points in contrast. If I put everything down, the table would get messy and hard to read.

 Aircraft RequirementsPilot RequirementsAirspace RequirementsTypes of Operations
Part 107Under 55lbs.Remote Pilot Certificate with SUAS RatingClass G, unless authorized or waivedDaylight, visual line of sight, 400ft AGL(unless within 400ft of a structure), not over people, etc.
Section 333As Required in the ExemptionPart 61 Certificate (Sport, Recreational, Private, Commercial, ATP, but not Student). Driver’s license or 3rd class medical.Within “Blanket” COA or Standards COA RequirementsAs defined by the exemption. Can be over 55lb+ or beyond visual line of sight.
Special Airworthiness Certificate (Experimental Category)Experimental Special Airworthiness Certificate.Part 61 Certificate (Sport, Recreational, Private, Commercial, ATP, but not Student).Within Standard COA RequirementsR&D, Showing Compliance with Regulations, Crew Training, Exhibition, Air Racing, Market Surveys. See Section 21.191.
Special Airworthiness Certificate (Restricted Category)Previously type certificated or manufactured & accepted by an Armed Force of the United States.Part 61 Certificate (Sport, Recreational, Private, Commercial, ATP, but not Student).Within Standard COA RequirementsAgriculture, forest and wildlife conservation, aerial surveying patrolling, weather control, aerial advertising,  or any other operation specified by the FAA. See Section 21.25.
Standard Airworthiness CertificateNo small unmanned aircraft has this certification
Public “Blanket” COA (Version 1.2)Under 55lbs.Self-CertifyClass G & at or below 400ft AGL. Beyond 5/3/2 airport distance requiresments.Section 40102(a)(41) & 40125(a)(2) and within public “blanket” COA limitations.
Public COASelf-CertifySelf-CertifySelf-Certify49 USC §§ 40102(a)(41);  40125
Part 101Under 55lbs unless certified through a community-based organization (CBO) safety program.CBO standardsNotification required to manager and tower if within 5 miles of an airport.Hobby or recreational only. Does not interfere and gives way to manned aircraft. Within CBO  safety guidelines. Cannot endanger safety of national airspace system.

 

 

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This graphic compares the four most popular methods of getting airborne. The  FAA has delegated some of the standard setting to the remote pilot in command (purple) or the FAA determined the standard by which the remote pilot must follow (grey).

part-107-101-333-exemption-publicc-coa-comparison


II. Part 107

This part of the regulations went into effect on August 29, 2016. Prior to 107, we were operating predominately under a Section 333 exemptions.

 

For many, Part 107 is the best solution; however, there are particular operations which cannot be done under just Part 107 or a Part 107 waiver such as over 55-pound and heavier operations, crop dusting operations, beyond visual line of sight property transport or moving vehicle in a congested area property transport, etc.   If you are needing help with any of those, contact me.

 

For operations, that cannot be completed under Part 107, a Section 333 exemption could be a good alternative, but not always the best. The idea I want to to take away is that there are different tools for different problems. Some operators can have multiple tools in their toolbox to accomplish their missions depending on the particular facts. For example, a fire department could have 107 remote pilots, a section 333 exemption, and a public COA all at the same time. The problem at hand determines which tool you would pull out of the toolbox.

 

III. Section 333 Exemption

This basically is a legal Frankenstein created using the FAA’s authority given in Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Part 11’s exemption process, and the Part 91 waiver process. The first exemptions came out in September 2014 and were the backbone of the commercial drone industry till Part 107 came out which had far less restrictive requirements. See an Example of a 333 Exemption

 

From September 2014 -November 2016, we saw multiple versions of the exemptions which morphed and changed over time. For example, the early exemptions had restrictions requiring the pilot to keep a 25% battery reserve, it then changed to 30%, and then a 5 minute reserve which goofed over the cinematographers who originally worked with the FAA to craft the 333 exemptions! Why did it hurt cinematographers? Because if their large heavy lift drones had a flight time of 15 minutes, under the original exemptions they would be required to keep a 25% battery reserve (3.75 minutes) while under the newer restrictions it is 5 minutes which results in a loss of available flight time.

 

In November 2016, the FAA unilaterally updated over 5,000 to all have the same set of restrictions. One wonders how that was not arbitrary and capricious.

 

The two most problematic restrictions for the 333 exemption operators were the 500ft “bubble” around the drone of which non-participating people and property must stay out of and the requirement to operate under a certificate of authorization.

 

Early on, the 333 exemptions did not come with COAs and people had to apply for them. The FAA quickly learned the error of that and created the “blanket” COA which was issued to all the 333 exemption holders upon approval. The FAA updated the “blanket” COA over time from 200ft AGL to 400ft AGL.  But here is the problem why the certificate of authorization was the second biggest problem, the “blanket” COA sis good for operations outside of 5 NM from a towered airport, 3NM from an airport with an instrument approach procedure, or 2NM from an airport, heliport, glider port, etc.  This made operations in cities or near them almost impossible because you would have to apply for a new COA, because the “blanket” COA would not work, and the wait 6 months +. The jobs would go to the illegal operators.

 

IV. Airworthiness Certificates

The FAA has been charged with maintaining the safety of the national airspace system and protecting people on the ground. One of the ways the FAA ensures safety is by certifying the aircraft to make sure it is airworthiness (it won’t fall out of the sky and kill people). This process which was originally designed for manned aircraft has been used for unmanned aircraft successfully.

 

There are two types of airworthiness certificates: (1) standard and (2) special.  To date, no small unmanned aircraft has obtained a standard airworthiness certificate, but I know some companies are in the process of trying to obtain them for their aircraft. There have been some special airworthiness certificates given out in the experimental and the restricted categories.

 

Obtaining an airworthiness certificate is time-consuming. A major reason it is rarely used today is an operator could just go the Section 333 exemption route or the Part 107 route which allow the pilot in command to determine the airworthiness of the aircraft. However, there are some instances where a special airworthiness certificate could be more beneficial than the 333 exemption or Part 107. It just depends on the facts of the intended operations. Different tools in the toolbox.

 

One point to mention is that an unmanned aircraft would not just need an airworthiness certificate but also a COA as well for the operations to be in compliance with the regulations.

 

V. Public COA

This method is only available for government agencies. The agency has to be fulfilling certain specific governmental functions under certain conditions for the operator to get the ability to self-certify their own pilot, aircraft, maintenance, and medical standards. The FAA is very strict on the missions and requirements because it does not want government agencies to run commercial types of missions or non-government missions under a public COA which is far less restrictive than other methods.

 

A government operator obtains a public COA by first sending the FAA a declaration letter outlining that the agency and its intended missions fall within the public aircraft statutes, the FAA reviews the declaration letter to determine if it is sufficient, the FAA gives the agency access to the COA portal to file a COA application, the government agency files the COA application, the FAA reviews the COA application and either approves, denies, or asks for more information.  The agency then operates under the public COA and the Federal Aviation Regulations.

 

When the 333 exemption method was getting into full swing,  public aircraft operators noticed that the Section 333 process seemed quicker and the “blanket” COAs that were being given out were for the entire United States, except for certain areas, while the public COAs were mission. aircraft, and location specific. This was a no brainer so government agencies started obtaining 333 exemptions because they were less restrictive than the public COAs.

 

Other government agencies were upset and wanted a similar deal to the 333 exemption’s blanket COA so the FAA created the “blanket” public COA which is basically a frankensteined version of a public COA, a section 333 exemption, and the blanket COA. Agencies were happy for a while but caught on that the Section 333 exemptions were evolving to be less restrictive while the blanket public COA stayed the same. For example, the blanket public COA requires the pilot to have a private, commercial, or ATP certificate to operate near certain types of airports while the 333 exemptions required as little as a

Agencies were happy for a while but caught on that the Section 333 exemptions were evolving to be less restrictive while the blanket public COA stayed the same. For example, the blanket public COA requires the pilot to have a private, commercial, or ATP certificate to operate near certain types of airports while the 333 exemptions required as little as a sport certificate. Additionally, when Part 107 came out, the public blanket COAs still said that the pilot had to have passed the private pilot knowledge exam to fly in most of Class G airspace while a government operator could have their pilots obtain a remote pilot certificate by passing a remote pilot knowledge exam which is easier than a private pilot knowledge exam!

 

This is why few government agencies today go for a public COA or public blanket COA; however, there are sometimes when a public COA is the best solution for the mission but that is fact specific. Different tools for different problems.

 

Conclusion

I outlined a brief summation of some of the major points above. There are all sorts of little contrasts between each of the different methods. If you are needing help with obtaining a tool to put in your toolbox (waiver, authorization, exemption, public COA, etc.), contact me. Paying for 30 minutes of my time can save you lots and lots of headache, time, and money. We can outline a game plan for your operations in  30 minutes so you can stop wasting time reading and focus on achieving your goals of operating a drone to save time, money, or lives.

Stop wasting time and contact me to schedule a phone call. :)

If you interested in learning more, I have put below an:

Example of a 333 Exemption

Example of a Blanket COA

Example of a Public “Blanket” COA (Version 1.0)

Example of a Public “Blanket” COA (Version 1.2)

 

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Example of a 333 Exemption

Dear Section 333 Exemption Holder:
This letter is to inform you that we are amending your exemption that authorizes unmanned aircraft operations under Section 333.1 It explains the basis for our decision, describes its effect, and lists the revised Conditions and Limitations.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that good cause exists for not publishing a summary of the petition in the Federal Register because this amendment to the exemption would not set a precedent, and any delay in acting on this petition would be detrimental to the petitioner. The unmanned aircraft authorized in the original grant are comparable in type, size, weight, speed, and operating capabilities to those in this petition.

 

Additionally, the FAA has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) (part 107, Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems). The new rule, which went into effect August 29, 2016, offers safety regulations for sUAS weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. The vast majority of operations authorized under previously-issued exemptions under Section 333 have been addressed by part 107; now that part 107 is in effect, these operations do not necessitate an exemption. However, your Section 333 exemption remains valid until it expires. You may continue to fly following the Conditions and Limitations in your exemption and under the terms of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). If your operation can be conducted under the requirements in part 107, you may elect to operate under part 107; however, if you wish to operate under part 107, you must obtain a remote pilot certificate and follow the operating rules of part 107. For more information, please visit: http://www.faa.gov/uas/.

 

The Basis for Our Decision
The FAA has previously issued a grant of exemption for relief from §§ 61.23(a) and (c), 61.101(e)(4) and (5), 61.113(a), 61.315(a), 91.7(a), 91.119(c), 91.121, 91.151(a)(1), 91.405(a), 91.407(a)(1), 91.409(a)(1) and (2), and 91.417(a) and (b) of Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR). That exemption allows the operators to operate UAS to perform aerial data collection or aerial data collection and closed-set filming and television production.
The FAA has revised the Conditions and Limitations issued in exemptions authorizing unmanned aircraft operations under Section 333 since the petitioner’s previous grant of exemption to those found in Exemption No. 15005 to Thomas R. Guilmette (see Docket No. FAA-2015-5829). Also in Exemption Nos. 13465A to Kansas State University (see Docket No. FAA-2014-1088), 11433A to Cape Productions (see Docket No. FAA-2015-0223), 11213 to Aeryon Labs, Inc. (see Docket No. FAA-2014-0642), 11062 to Astraeus Aerial (see Docket No. FAA−2014−0352), 11109 to Clayco, Inc. (see Docket No. FAA−2014−0507), 11112 to VDOS Global, LLC (see Docket No. FAA−2014−0382), the FAA found that the enhanced safety achieved using a sUAS with the specifications described by the petitioner and carrying no passengers or crew, rather than a manned aircraft of significantly greater proportions, carrying crew and flammable fuel, gives the FAA good cause to find that the UAS operation enabled by this exemption is in the public interest.

 

Our Decision
The FAA has modified the Conditions and Limitations to address aircraft, training, tethered operations, aircraft registration, and flight operations near persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures. Additionally, in previous exemptions, the FAA limited UAS operations to outside 5 nautical miles of an airport reference point (ARP) as denoted in the current FAA Airport/Facility Directory (AFD) or for airports not denoted with an ARP, the center of the airport symbol as denoted on the current FAA-published aeronautical chart unless a letter of agreement (LOA) with that airport’s management is obtained or otherwise permitted by a COA issued to the exemption holder. The FAA has removed that condition. In order to maintain safety in the vicinity of airports in Class B, C, or D airspace, the petitioner must apply to the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) for a new or amended COA. The FAA has determined that the justification for the issuance of Section 333 exemptions remains valid and is in the public interest. Therefore, under the authority contained in 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 40113, and 44701, delegated to me by the Administrator, the operator is granted an amendment to its exemption from 14 CFR §§ 61.23(a) and (c), 61.101(e)(4) and (5), 61.113(a), 61.315(a), 91.7(a), 91.119(c), 91.121, 91.151(a)(1), 91.405(a), 91.407(a)(1), 91.409(a)(1) and (2), and 91.417(a) and (b), to the extent necessary to allow the petitioner to conduct UAS operations. This exemption is subject to the Conditions and Limitations listed below.The list of affected docket numbers is included in Appendix A. The operator shall add this amendment to all previously-issued exemption(s). Without the original exemption and all subsequent amendments, this amendment is not valid.

 

Conditions and Limitations
The Conditions and Limitations within the previously-issued grant of exemptions have been superseded, and are amended as follows. Failure to comply with any of the Conditions and Limitations of this grant of exemption will be grounds for the immediate suspension or rescission of this exemption.

  1. The operator is authorized by this grant of exemption to use any aircraft identified on the List of Approved Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) under Section 333 at regulatory docket FAA–2007–3330 at www.regulations.gov, when weighing less than 55 pounds including payload. Proposed operations of any aircraft not on the list currently posted to the above docket will require a new petition or a petition to amend this exemption.
  2.  If operations under this exemption involve the use of foreign civil aircraft the operator would need to obtain a Foreign Aircraft Permit pursuant to 14 CFR § 375.41 before conducting any commercial air operations under this authority. Application instructions are specified in 14 CFR §375.43. Applications should be submitted by electronic mail to the DOT Office of International Aviation, Foreign Air Carrier Licensing Division. Additional information can be obtained via https://cms.dot.gov/policy/aviation-policy/licensing/foreign-carriers.
  3. The UA may not be operated at a speed exceeding 87 knots (100 miles per hour). The operator may use either groundspeed or calibrated airspeed to determine compliance with the 87 knot speed restriction. In no case will the UA be operated at airspeeds greater than the maximum UA operating airspeed recommended by the aircraft manufacturer.
  4. The UA must be operated at an altitude of no more than 400 feet above ground level (AGL). Altitude must be reported in feet AGL. This limitation is in addition to any altitude restrictions that may be included in the applicable COA.
  5. Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). All operations must be conducted in accordance with an ATO-issued COA. The exemption holder must apply for a new or amended COA if it intends to conduct operations that cannot be conducted under the terms of the enclosed COA.
  6. The Pilot in Command (PIC) must have the capability to maintain visual line of sight (VLOS) at all times. This requires the PIC to be able to use human vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, as specified on that individual’s FAA-issued airman medical certificate or valid U.S. driver’s license issued by a state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, a territory, a possession, or the Federal Government, to see the UA.
  7. All operations must utilize a visual observer (VO). The UA must be operated within the visual line of sight (VLOS) of the VO at all times. The VO must use human vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses to see the UA. The VO, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS, and the PIC must be able to communicate verbally at all times. Electronic messaging or texting is not permitted during flight operations. The PIC must be designated before the flight and cannot transfer his or her designation for the duration of the flight. The PIC must ensure that the VO can perform the duties required of the VO. Students receiving instruction or observing an operation as part of their instruction may not serve as visual observers.
  8. This exemption, the List of Approved Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) under Section 333 at regulatory docket FAA-2007-3330 at www.regulations.gov, all previous grant(s) of exemption, and all documents needed to operate the UAS and conduct its operations in accordance with the Conditions and Limitations stated in this exemption, are hereinafter referred to as the operating documents. The operating documents must be accessible during UAS operations and made available to the Administrator upon request. If a discrepancy exists between the Conditions and Limitations in this exemption, the applicable ATO-issued COA, and the procedures outlined in the operating documents, the most restrictive conditions, limitations, or procedures apply and must be followed. The operator may update or revise its operating documents as necessary. The operator is responsible for tracking revisions and presenting updated and revised documents to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request. The operator must also present updated and revised documents if it petitions for extension or amendment to this exemption. If the operator determines that any update or revision would affect the basis upon which the FAA granted this exemption, then the operator must petition for an amendment to its exemption. The FAA’s UAS Integration Office may be contacted if questions arise regarding updates or revisions to the operating documents.
  9. Any UAS that has undergone maintenance or alterations that affect the UAS operation or flight characteristics, e.g. replacement of a flight critical component, must undergo a functional test flight prior to conducting further operations under this exemption. Functional test flights may only be conducted by a PIC with a VO and essential flight personnel only and must remain at least 500 feet from all other people. The functional test flight must be conducted in such a manner so as to not pose an undue hazard to persons and property.
  10. The operator is responsible for maintaining and inspecting the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation.
  11. Prior to each flight, the PIC must conduct a pre-flight inspection and determine the UAS is in a condition for safe flight. The pre-flight inspection must account for all potential discrepancies, e.g. inoperable components, items, or equipment. If the inspection reveals a condition that affects the safe operation of the UAS, the aircraft is prohibited from operating until the necessary maintenance has been performed and the UAS is found to be in a condition for safe flight.
  12. The operator must follow the UAS manufacturer’s maintenance, overhaul, replacement, inspection, and life limit requirements for the aircraft and aircraft components. Each UAS operated under this exemption must comply with all manufacturer safety bulletins.
  13. PIC certification: Under this grant of exemption, a PIC must hold either an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate. The PIC must also hold a current FAA airman medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver’s license issued by a state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, a territory, a possession, or the Federal government. The PIC must also meet the flight review requirements specified in 14 CFR § 61.56 in an aircraft in which the PIC is rated on his or her pilot certificate.
  14. PIC qualifications: The PIC must demonstrate the ability to safely operate the UAS in a manner consistent with how it will be operated under this exemption, including evasive and emergency maneuvers and maintaining appropriate distances from persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures before conducting student training operations. Flights for the pilot’s own training, proficiency, or experience-building under this exemption may be conducted under this exemption. PIC qualification flight hours and currency may be logged in a manner consistent with 14 CFR § 61.51(b), however, UAS pilots must not log this time in the same columns or categories as time accrued during manned flight. UAS flight time must not be recorded as part of total time.
  15. Training: The operator may conduct training operations when the trainer/instructor is qualified as a PIC under this exemption and designated as PIC for the entire duration of the flight operation. Students/trainees are considered direct participants in the flight operation when manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS and are not required to hold any airman certificate. The student/trainees may be the manipulators of the controls; however, the PIC must directly supervise their conduct and the PIC must also have sufficient override capability to immediately take direct control of the small UAS and safely abort the operation if necessary, including taking any action necessary to ensure safety of other aircraft as well as persons and property on the ground in the event of unsafe maneuvers and/or emergencies for example landing in an empty area away from people and property.
  16. Under all situations, the PIC is responsible for the safety of the operation. The PIC is also responsible for meeting all applicable Conditions and Limitations as prescribed in this exemption and ATO-issued COA, and operating in accordance with the operating documents. All training operations must be conducted during dedicated training sessions and may or may not be for compensation or hire. The operation must be conducted with a dedicated VO who has no collateral duties and is not the PIC during the flight. The VO must maintain visual sight of the aircraft at all times during flight operations without distraction in accordance with the Conditions and Limitations below. Furthermore, the PIC must operate the UA not closer than 500 feet to any nonparticipating person without exception.
  17. UAS operations may not be conducted during night, as defined in 14 CFR § 1.1. All operations must be conducted under visual meteorological conditions (VMC). Flights under special visual flight rules (SVFR) are not authorized.
  18. The UA may not be operated less than 500 feet below or less than 2,000 feet horizontally from a cloud or when visibility is less than 3 statute miles from the PIC.
  19.  For tethered UAS operations, the tether line must have colored pennants or streamers attached at not more than 50 foot intervals beginning at 150 feet above the surface of the earth and visible from at least 1 mile. This requirement for pennants or streamers is not applicable when operating exclusively below the top of and within 250 feet of any structure, so long as the UA operation does not obscure the lighting of the structure.
  20. For UAS operations where GPS signal is necessary to safely operate the UA, the PIC must immediately recover/land the UA upon loss of GPS signal.
  21. If the PIC loses command or control link with the UA, the UA must follow a predetermined route to either reestablish link or immediately recover or land.
  22. The PIC must abort the flight operation if unpredicted circumstances or emergencies that could potentially degrade the safety of persons or property arise. The PIC must terminate flight operations without causing undue hazard to persons or property in the air or on the ground.
  23. The PIC is prohibited from beginning a flight unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough available power for the UA to conduct the intended operation and to operate after that for at least five minutes or with the reserve power recommended by the manufacturer if greater.
  24. All aircraft operated in accordance with this exemption must be registered in accordance with 14 CFR part 47 or 48, and have identification markings in accordance with 14 CFR part 45, Subpart C or part 48.
  25. Documents used by the operator to ensure the safe operation and flight of the UAS and any documents required under 14 CFR §§ 91.9 and 91.203 must be available to the PIC at the Ground Control Station of the UAS any time the aircraft is operating. These documents must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.
  26. The UA must remain clear of and give way to all manned aircraft at all times.
  27. The UAS may not be operated by the PIC from any moving device or vehicle.
  28. All flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures unless when operating:

a. Over or near people directly participating in the operation of the UAS. People directly participating in the operation of the UAS include the student manipulating the controls, PIC, VO, and other consenting personnel that are directly participating in the safe operation of the UA.

b. Near but not over people directly participating in the intended purpose of the UAS operation. People directly participating in the intended purpose of the UAS (including students in a class not manipulating the controls of the UAS), who must be briefed on the potential risks and acknowledge and consent to those risks. Operators must notify the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) with a plan of activities at least 72 hours prior to flight operations.

c. Near nonparticipating persons: Except as provided in subsections (a) and (b) 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 where 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.

d. 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 determined that it does not present an undue hazard.

29. All operations shall be conducted over private or controlled-access property with permission from a person with legal authority to grant access. Permission will be obtained for each flight to be conducted.

30. Any incident, accident, or flight operation that transgresses the lateral or vertical boundaries of the operational area as defined by the applicable COA must be reported to the FAA’s UAS Integration Office within 24 hours. Accidents must be reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in accordance with its UAS accident reporting requirements. For operations conducted closer than 500 feet to people directly participating in the intended purpose of the operation, not protected by barriers, the following additional conditions and limitations apply:

31. The operator must have an operations manual that contains at least the following items, although it is not restricted to these items.

a. Operator name, address, and telephone number

b. Distribution and Revision. Procedures for revising and distributing the operations manual to ensure that it is kept current. Revisions must comply with the applicable Conditions and Limitations in this exemption.

c. Persons Authorized. Specify criteria for designating individuals as directly participating in the safe operation of the UAS. The operations manual must include procedures to ensure that all operations are conducted at distances from persons in accordance with the Conditions and Limitations of the exemption.
d. Plan of Activities. The operations manual must include procedures for the submission of a written plan of activities.

e.Permission to Operate. The operations manual shall specify requirements and procedures that the operator will use to obtain permission to operate over property or near vessels, vehicles, and structures in accordance with this exemption.
f. Security. The manual must specify the method of security that will be used to ensure the safety of nonparticipating persons. This should also include procedures that will be used to stop activities when unauthorized persons, vehicles, or aircraft enter the operations area, or for any other reason, in the interest of safety.

g. Briefing of persons directly participating in the intended operation. Procedures must be included to brief personnel and participating persons on the risks involved, emergency procedures, and safeguards to be followed during the operation.

h.Personnel directly participating in the safe operation of the UAS Minimum Requirements. In accordance with this exemption, the operator must specify the minimum requirements for all flight personnel in the operating manual. The PIC at a minimum will be required to meet the certification standards specified in this exemption.
i. Communications. The operations manual must contain procedures to provide communications capability with participants during the operation. The operator can use oral, visual, or radio communications as along as the participants are apprised of the current status of the operation.

j. Accident Notification. The operations manual must contain procedures for notification and reporting of accidents in accordance with this exemption. In accordance with this exemption, the operating manual and all other operating documents must be accessible to the PIC during UAS operations.

32.At least 72 hours prior to operations, the operator must submit a written Plan of Activities to the local FSDO having jurisdiction over the proposed operating area. The Plan of Activities must include at least the following:

a. Dates and times for all flights. For seasonal or long-term operations, this can include the beginning and end dates of the timeframe, the approximate frequency (e.g. daily, every weekend, etc.), and what times of the day operations will occur. A new plan of activities must be submitted prior to each season or period of operations.

b. Name and phone number of the on-site person responsible for the operation.

c. Make, model, and serial or FAA registration number of each UAS to be used.

d.Name and certificate number of each UAS PIC involved in the operations.

e. A statement that the operator has obtained permission from property owners. Upon request, the operator will make available a list of those who gave permission.

f. Signature of exemption holder or representative stating the plan is accurate.

g. A description of the flight activity, including maps or diagrams of the area over which operations will be conducted and the altitudes essential to accomplish the operation.

Unless otherwise specified in this exemption, the UAS, the UAS PIC, and the UAS operations must comply with all applicable parts of 14 CFR including, but not limited to, parts 45, 47, 48, 61, and 91. This exemption terminates on the date provided in the petitioner’s original exemption or amendment most recently granted prior to the date of this amendment, unless sooner superseded or rescinded.

 

Example of a Blanket COA

A. General.

1. The approval of this COA is effective only with an approved Section 333 FAA Grant of Exemption.
2. A copy of the COA including the special limitations must be immediately available to all operational personnel at each operating location whenever UAS operations are being conducted.
3. This authorization may be canceled at any time by the Administrator, the person authorized to grant the authorization, or the representative designated to monitor a specific operation. As a general rule, this authorization may be canceled when it is no longer required, there is an abuse of its provisions, or when unforeseen safety factors develop. Failure to comply with the authorization is cause for cancellation. The operator will receive written notice of cancellation.

B. Safety of Flight.

1. The operator or pilot in command (PIC) is responsible for halting or canceling activity in the COA area if, at any time, the safety of persons or property on the ground or in the air is in jeopardy, or if there is a failure to comply with the terms or conditions of this authorization.

See-and-Avoid
Unmanned aircraft have no on-board pilot to perform see-and-avoid responsibilities; therefore, when operating outside of active restricted and warning areas approved for aviation activities, provisions must be made to ensure an equivalent level of safety exists for unmanned operations consistent with 14 CFR Part 91 §91.111, §91.113 and §91.115.
a. The pilot in command (PIC) is responsible:

-To remain clear and give way to all manned aviation operations and activities at all times,
-For the safety of persons or property on the surface with respect to the UAS, and
-For compliance with CFR Parts 91.111, 91.113 and 91.115

b. UAS pilots will ensure there is a safe operating distance between aviation activities and unmanned aircraft (UA) at all times.

c. Visual observers must be used at all times and maintain instantaneous communication with the PIC.

d. The PIC is responsible to ensure visual observer(s) are:

-Able to see the UA and the surrounding airspace throughout the entire flight, and
-Able to provide the PIC with the UA’s flight path, and proximity to all aviation activities and other hazards (e.g., terrain, weather, structures) sufficiently for the PIC to exercise effective control of the UA to prevent the UA from creating a collision hazard.

e. Visual observer(s) must be able to communicate clearly to the pilot any instructions required to remain clear of conflicting traffic.

2. Pilots are reminded to follow all federal regulations e.g. remain clear of all Temporary Flight Restrictions, as well as following the exemption granted for their operation.
3. The operator or delegated representative must not operate in Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or, the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone,
except operations in the Washington DC Special Flight Rule Area may be approved only with prior coordination with the Security Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 202-267- 8276. Such areas are depicted on charts available at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/. Additionally, aircraft operators should beware of and avoid other areas identified in Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) which restricts operations in proximity to Power Plants, Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes, National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, the Washington DC Metro Flight Restricted Zone, Military or other Federal Facilities.
4. The unmanned aircraft will be registered prior to operations in accordance with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

C. Reporting Requirements

1. Documentation of all operations associated with UAS activities is required regardless of the airspace in which the UAS operates. NOTE: Negative (zero flights) reports are required.
2. The operator must submit the following information through mailto:[email protected] on a monthly basis:

a. Name of Operator, Exemption number and Aircraft registration number
b. UAS type and model
c. All operating locations, to include location city/name and latitude/longitude
d. Number of flights (per location, per aircraft)
e. Total aircraft operational hours
f. Takeoff or Landing damage
g. Equipment malfunctions. Reportable malfunctions include, but are not limited to the following:

(1) On-board flight control system
(2) Navigation system
(3) Power plant failure in flight
(4) Fuel system failure
(5) Electrical system failure
(6) Control station failure

3. The number and duration of lost link events (control, performance and health monitoring, or communications) per UA per flight.
4. Incident/Accident/Mishap Reporting After an incident or accident that meets the criteria below, and within 24 hours of that incident, accident or event described below, the proponent must provide initial notification of the following to the FAA via email at [email protected] and via the UAS COA On-Line forms (Incident/Accident).

1. All accidents/mishaps involving UAS operations where any of the following occurs:

a. Fatal injury, where the operation of a UAS results in a death occurring within 30 days of the accident/mishap
b. Serious injury, where the operation of a UAS results in: (1) hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received; (2) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose); (3) causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; (4) involves any internal organ; or (5) involves second- or third-degree burns, orany burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.
c. Total unmanned aircraft loss
d. Substantial damage to the unmanned aircraft system where there is damage to the airframe, power plant, or onboard systems that must be repaired prior to further flight
e. Damage to property, other than the unmanned aircraft.

2. Any incident/mishap that results in an unsafe/abnormal operation including but not limited to

a. A malfunction or failure of the unmanned aircraft’s on-board flight control system (including navigation)
b. A malfunction or failure of ground control station flight control hardware or software (other than loss of control link)
c. A power plant failure or malfunction
d. An in-flight fire
e. An aircraft collision involving another aircraft.
f. Any in-flight failure of the unmanned aircraft’s electrical system requiring use of alternate or emergency power to complete the flight
g. A deviation from any provision contained in the COA
h. A deviation from an ATC clearance and/or Letter(s) of Agreement/Procedures
i. A lost control link event resulting in

(1) Fly-away, or
(2) Execution of a pre-planned/unplanned lost link procedure.

3. Initial reports must contain the information identified in the COA On-Line Accident/Incident Report.
4. Follow-on reports describing the accident/incident/mishap(s) must be submitted by providing copies of proponent aviation accident/incident reports upon completion of safety investigations.
5. Civil operators and Public-use agencies (other than those which are part of the Department of Defense) are advised that the above procedures are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board under 49 CFR Part 830 §830.5.
6. For other than Department of Defense operations, this COA is issued with the provision that the FAA be permitted involvement in the proponent’s incident/accident/mishap investigation as prescribed by FAA Order 8020.11, Aircraft Accident and Incident Notification, Investigation, and Reporting.

D. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). A distant (D) NOTAM must be issued when unmanned aircraft operations are being conducted. This requirement may be accomplished:

a. Through the operator’s local base operations or NOTAM issuing authority, or
b. By contacting the NOTAM Flight Service Station at 1-877-4-US-NTMS (1-877-487- 6867) not more than 72 hours in advance, but not less than 24 hours prior to the operation, unless otherwise authorized as a special provision. The issuing agency will require the:

(1) Name and address of the pilot filing the NOTAM request
(2) Location, altitude, or operating area
(3) Time and nature of the activity.
(4) Number of UAS flying in the operating area.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SPECIAL PROVISIONS
A. Coordination Requirements.

1. Operators and UAS equipment must meet the requirements (communication, equipment and clearance) of the class of airspace they will operate in.
2. Operator filing and the issuance of required distance (D) NOTAM, will serve as advance ATC facility notification of UAS operations in an area.
3. The area of operation defined in the NOTAM must only be for the actual area to be flown for each day defined by a point and the minimum radius required to conduct the operation.
4. Operator must cancel NOTAMs when UAS operations are completed or will not be conducted.
5. Coordination and de-confliction between Military Training Routes (MTRs) is the operator’s responsibility. When identifying an operational area the operator must evaluate whether an MTR will be affected. In the event the UAS operational area overlaps an MTR, the operator will contact the scheduling agency 24 hours in advance to coordinate and de-conflict. Approval from the scheduling agency is not required. Scheduling agencies are listed in the Area Planning AP/1B Military Planning Routes North and South America, if unable to gain access to AP/1B contact the FAA at email address [email protected] with the IR/VR routes affected and the FAA will provide the scheduling agency information. If prior coordination and de-confliction does not take place 24 hours in advance, the operator must remain clear of all MTRs.

B. Communication Requirements. When operating in the vicinity of an airport without an operating control tower, announce your operations in accordance with the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) 4-1- 9 Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports without Operating Control Towers.
C. Flight Planning Requirements.

Note: For all UAS requests not covered by the conditions listed below, the exemption holder may apply for a new Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Certificate of Waiver or
Authorization (COA) at https://oeaaa.faa.gov/oeaaa/external/uas/portal.jsp This COA will allow small UAS (55 pounds or less) operations during daytime VFR conditions under the following conditions and limitations:
(1) At or below 400 feet AGL; and
(2) Beyond the following distances from the airport reference point (ARP) of a public use airport, heliport, gliderport, or seaport listed in the Airport/Facility Directory, Alaska Supplement, or Pacific Chart Supplement of the U.S. Government Flight Information Publications.

a) 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
b) 3 NM from an airport having a published instrument flight procedure, but not
having an operational control tower; or
c) 2 NM from an airport not having a published instrument flight procedure or an
operational control tower; or
d) 2 NM from a heliport

 

D. Emergency/Contingency Procedures.

1. Lost Link/Lost Communications Procedures:

a. If the UAS loses communications or loses its GPS signal, the UA must return to a pre-determined location within the private or controlled-access property and land.
b. The PIC must abort the flight in the event of unpredicted obstacles or emergencies.

2. Any incident, accident, or flight operation that transgresses the lateral or vertical boundaries defined in this COA must be reported to the FAA via email at [email protected] within 24 hours. Accidents must be
reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) per instructions contained on the NTSB Web site: www.ntsb.gov

AUTHORIZATION
This Certificate of Waiver or Authorization does not, in itself, waive any Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, nor any state law or local ordinance. Should the proposed operation conflict with any state law or local ordinance, or require permission of local authorities or property owners, it is the responsibility of the operator to resolve the matter. This COA does not authorize flight within Special Use airspace without approval from the scheduling agency. The operator is hereby authorized to operate the small Unmanned Aircraft System in the National Airspace System.

Example of a Public “Blanket” COA  (Version 1.0 ~ Mid-Late 2016)

I. STANDARD PROVISIONS

A. General.

The review of this activity is based upon current understanding of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations and their impact on the National Airspace System (NAS).This Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) will not be considered a precedent for future operations. As changes in, or understanding of, UAS operations occur, the associated limitations and conditions may be adjusted.

All personnel engaged in the operation of the UAS in accordance with this authorization must read and comply with the conditions, limitations, and provisions of this COA.

A copy of the COA including the special limitations must be immediately available to all operational personnel at each operating location whenever UAS operations are being conducted.

This COA may be canceled at any time by the Administrator, a person authorized to grant the authorization, or a representative designated to monitor a specific operation. As a general rule, this authorization may be canceled when it is no longer required, when there is an abuse of its provisions, or when unforeseen safety factors develop. Failure to comply with the authorization is cause for cancellation. All cancellations will be provided in writing to the proponent.

During the time this COA is approved and active, a site safety evaluation/visit may be accomplished to ensure COA compliance, assess any adverse impact on ATC or airspace, and ensure this COA is not burdensome or ineffective. Deviations, accidents/incidents/mishaps, complaints, etc. will prompt a COA review or site visit to address the issue. Refusal to allow a site safety evaluation/visit may result in cancellation of the COA. Note: This section does not pertain to agencies that have other existing agreements in place with the FAA.

Public Aircraft Operations are defined by statutes Title 49 USC §40102(a)(41) and §40125. All public aircraft operations conducted under a COA must comply with the terms of the statutes.

 

B. Airworthiness Certification.

The unmanned aircraft must be shown to be airworthy to conduct flight operations in the NAS. The proponent has made its own determination that the unmanned aircraft is airworthy. The unmanned aircraft must be operated in strict compliance with all provisions and conditions contained in the Airworthiness Safety Release (AWR), including all documents and provisions referenced in the COA application.

1. A configuration control program must be in place for hardware and/or software changes made to the UAS to ensure continued airworthiness. If a new or revised Airworthiness Release is generated as a result of changes in the hardware or software affecting the operating characteristics of the UAS, notify the UAS Integration Office via email at 9- [email protected] of the changes as soon as practical.

a. Software and hardware changes should be documented as part of the normal maintenance procedures. Software changes to the aircraft and control station as well as hardware system changes are classified as major changes unless the agency has a formal process accepted by the FAA. These changes should be provided to the UAS Integration Office in summary form at the time of incorporation.

b. Major modifications or changes, performed under the COA, or other authorizations that could potentially affect the safe operation of the system, must be documented and provided to the FAA in the form of a new AWR, unless the agency has a formal process, accepted by the FAA.

c. All previously flight proven systems, to include payloads, may be installed or removed as required and that activity must be recorded in the unmanned aircraft and ground control stations logbooks by persons authorized to conduct UAS maintenance. Describe any payload equipment configurations in the UAS logbook that will result in a weight and balance change, electrical loads, and or flight dynamics, unless the agency has a formal process, accepted by the FAA.

d. For unmanned aircraft system discrepancies, a record entry should be made by an appropriately rated person to document the finding in the logbook. No flights may be conducted following major changes, modifications or new installations unless the party responsible for certifying airworthiness has determined the system is safe to operate in the NAS and a new AWR is generated, unless the agency has a formal process, accepted by the FAA. The successful completion of these major changes, modifications or new installations must be recorded in the appropriate logbook, unless the agency has a formal process, accepted by the FAA.

2. The unmanned aircraft must be operated in strict compliance with all provisions and conditions contained within the spectrum analysis assigned and authorized for use within the defined operations area.

3. All items contained in the application for equipment frequency allocation must be adhered to, including the assigned frequencies and antenna equipment characteristics. A ground operational check to verify that the control station can communicate with the aircraft (frequency integration check) must be conducted prior to the launch of the unmanned aircraft to ensure any electromagnetic interference does not adversely affect control of the aircraft.

 

C. Safety of Flight.

1. The Proponent or delegated representative is responsible for halting or canceling activity conducted under the provisions of this COA if, at any time, the safety of persons or property on the ground or in the air is in jeopardy, or if there is a failure to comply with the terms or conditions of this authorization.

2. Sterile Cockpit Procedures.

a. No crewmember may perform any duties during a critical phase of flight not required for the safe operation of the aircraft.

b. Critical phases of flight include all ground operations involving:

1) Taxi (movement of an aircraft under its own power on the surface of an airport),

2) Take-off and landing (launch or recovery), and

3) All other flight operations in which safety or mission accomplishment might be compromised by distractions.

c. No crewmember may engage in, nor may any pilot in command (PIC) permit, any activity during a critical phase of flight which could:

1) Distract any crewmember from the performance of his/her duties, or

2) Interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties.

d. The pilot and/or the PIC must not engage in any activity not directly related to the operation of the aircraft. Activities include, but are not limited to: operating UAS sensors or other payload systems.

e. The use of cell phones or other electronic devices is restricted to communications pertinent to the operational control of the unmanned aircraft and any required communications with Air Traffic Control.

3. See-and-Avoid.

a. Unmanned aircraft have no on-board pilot to perform see-and-avoid responsibilities; therefore, when operating outside of active restricted and warning areas approved for aviation activities, provisions must be made to ensure that an equivalent level of safety exists for unmanned operations. Adherence to 14 CFR Part 91 §91.111, §91.113 and §91.115, is required.

1) The PIC is responsible: To remain clear and give way to all manned aviation operations and activities at all times, For the safety of persons or property on the surface with respect to the UAS operation, For ensuring that there is a safe operating distance between aviation activities and unmanned aircraft (UA) at all times, and For operating in compliance with CFR Parts 91.111, 91.113 and 91.115

b. The PIC is responsible to ensure that any visual observer (VO):

1) Can perform their required duties,

2) Are able to see the UA and the surrounding airspace throughout the entire flight, and 3) Are able to provide the PIC with the UA’s flight path and proximity to all aviation activities and other hazards (e.g., terrain, weather, structures) sufficiently for the PIC to exercise effective control of the UA to prevent the UA from creating a collision hazard.

c. VO(s) must be used at all times and must maintain instantaneous communication with the PIC. Electronic messaging or texting is not permitted during flight operations. d. The use of multiple successive VO(s) (daisy chaining) is prohibited.

e. VO(s) must be able to communicate clearly to the PIC any instructions required to remain clear of conflicting traffic.

f. All VO(s) must complete sufficient training to communicate to the PIC any information required to remain clear of conflicting traffic, terrain, and obstructions, maintain proper cloud clearances, and provide navigational awareness. This training, at a minimum, must include knowledge of:

1) Their responsibility to assist PICs in complying with the requirements of:  Section 91.111, Operating Near Other Aircraft,  Section 91.113, Right-of-Way Rules: Except Water Operations,  Section 91.115, Right-of-Way Rules: Water Operations,  Section 91.119, Minimum Safe Altitudes: General, and  Section 91.155, Basic VFR Weather Minimums

2) Air traffic and radio communications, including the use of approved air traffic control/pilot phraseology

3) Appropriate sections of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)

g. The Proponent must not operate in Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or the Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone. Such areas are depicted on charts available at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/. Additionally, aircraft operators should beware of and avoid other areas identified in Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) that restrict operations in proximity to Power Plants, Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes, National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, Military or other Federal Facilities unless approval is received from the appropriate authority prior to the UAS Mission. h. The unmanned aircraft will be registered prior to operations in accordance with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

 

D. Reporting Requirements

1. Documentation of all operations associated with UAS activities is required regardless of the airspace in which the UAS operates. NOTE: Negative (zero flights) reports are required.

2. The Proponent must submit the following information on a monthly basis to [email protected] :

a. Name of Proponent, and aircraft registration number,

b. UAS type and model,

c. All operating locations, to include city name and latitude/longitude,

d. Number of flights (per location, per aircraft),

e. Total aircraft operation hours,

f. Takeoff or landing damage, and

g. Equipment malfunction. Required reports include, but are not limited to, failures or malfunctions to the:

(1) Control station (2) Electrical system (3) Fuel system (4) Navigation system (5) On-board flight control system (6) Powerplant

3. The number and duration of lost link events (control, performance and health monitoring, or communications) per UAS, per flight.

4. Incident/Accident/Mishap Reporting After an incident or accident that meets the criteria below, and within 24 hours of that incident, accident or event described below, the proponent must provide initial notification of the following to the FAA via email at mailto: 9-AJV-115- [email protected] and via the UAS COA On-Line forms (Incident/Accident).

a. All accidents/mishaps involving UAS operations where any of the following occurs:

1) Fatal injury, where the operation of a UAS results in a death occurring within 30 days of the accident/mishap

2) Serious injury, where the operation of a UAS results in:  Hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received;  A fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose);  Severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage;   Involving any internal organ; or  Involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.

3) Total unmanned aircraft loss

4) Substantial damage to the unmanned aircraft system where there is damage to the airframe, power plant, or onboard systems that must be repaired prior to further flight

5) Damage to property, other than the unmanned aircraft.

b. Any incident/mishap that results in an unsafe/abnormal operation including but not limited to

1) A malfunction or failure of the unmanned aircraft’s on-board flight control system (including navigation)

2) A malfunction or failure of ground control station flight control hardware or software (other than loss of control link)

3) A power plant failure or malfunction

4) An in-flight fire

5) An aircraft collision involving another aircraft.

6) Any in-flight failure of the unmanned aircraft’s electrical system requiring use of alternate or emergency power to complete the flight

7) A deviation from any provision contained in the COA

8) A deviation from an ATC clearance and/or Letter(s) of Agreement/Procedures

9) A lost control link event resulting in Fly-away, or Execution of a pre-planned/unplanned lost link procedure. c. Initial reports must contain the information identified in the COA On-Line Accident/Incident Report.

d. Follow-on reports describing the accident/incident/mishap(s) must be submitted by providing copies of proponent aviation accident/incident reports upon completion of safety investigations.

e. Civil operators and Public-use agencies (other than those which are part of the Department of Defense) are advised that the above procedures are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board under 49 CFR Part 830 §830.5.

f. For other than Department of Defense operations, this COA is issued with the provision that the FAA be permitted involvement in the proponent’s incident/accident/mishap investigation as prescribed by FAA Order 8020.11, Aircraft Accident and Incident Notification, Investigation, and Reporting.

E. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).

1. A distant (D) NOTAM must be issued prior to conducting UAS operations. This requirement may be accomplished:

a. Through the proponent’s local base operations or NOTAM issuing authority, or

b. By contacting the NOTAM Flight Service Station at 1-877-4-US-NTMS (1- 877-487- 6867) not more than 72 hours in advance, but not less than 24 hours for UAS operations prior to the operation. The issuing agency will require the:

1) Name and address of the pilot filing the NOTAM request

2) Location, altitude and operating area

3) Time and nature of the activity. Note: The NOTAM must identify actual coordinates and a Radial/DME fix of a prominent navigational aid, with a radius no larger than that where visual line of sight with the UA can be maintained. The NOTAM must be filed to indicate the defined operations area and periods of UA activity. NOTAMs for generalized, wide-area, or continuous periods are not acceptable.

II. FLIGHT STANDARDS SPECIAL PROVISIONS Failure to comply with any of the conditions and limitations of this COA will be grounds for the immediate suspension or cancellation of this COA.

1. Operations authorized by this COA are limited to UAS weighing less than 55 pounds, including payload. Proposed operations of any UAS weighing more than 55 pounds will require the Proponent to provide the FAA with a new airworthiness Certificate (if necessary), Registration N-Number, Aircraft Description, Control Station, Communication System Description, Picture of UAS and any Certified TSO components. Approval to operate the new UAS is contingent on acknowledgement from FAA of receipt of acceptable documentation.

2. External Load Operations, dropping or spraying aircraft stores, or carrying hazardous materials (including munitions) is prohibited.

3. The UA may not be operated at a speed exceeding 87 knots (100 miles per hour). The COA holder may use either groundspeed or calibrated airspeed to determine compliance with the 87 knot speed restriction. In no case will the UA be operated at airspeeds greater than the maximum operating airspeed recommended by the aircraft manufacturer.

4. The Proponent should conduct and document initial training at a specific training site that will allow for the conduct of scenario-based training exercises. This training should foster a high level of flight proficiency and promote efficient, standardized coordination among pilots, visual observers, and ground crew members. To ensure safety and compliance, the training site should be is well clear of housing areas, roads, nonparticipating persons, and watercraft. When the Proponent has determined that sufficient training scenarios have been completed to achieve an acceptable level of competency, the Proponent is authorized to conduct UAS public aircraft operations in accordance with Title 49 USC §§ Part 40125 at any location within the National Airspace System under the provisions of this COA.

5. The UA must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the Pilot in Command (PIC) and or the visual observer (VO) at all times. This requires the PIC and VO to be able to use human vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, as specified on their FAA-issued airman medical certificate or equivalent medical certification as determined by the government entity conducting the PAO. The VO may be used to satisfy the VLOS requirement as long as the PIC always maintains VLOS capability.

6. This COA and all documents needed to operate the UAS and conduct operations in accordance with the conditions and limitations stated in this COA are hereinafter referred to as the operating documents. The Proponent must follow the procedures as outlined in the operating documents. If a discrepancy exists within the operating documents, the procedures outlined in the approved COA take precedence and must be followed. The Proponent may update or revise the operating documents, excluding the approved COA, as needed. It is the Proponent’s responsibility to track such revisions and present updated and revised operating documents to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request. The Proponent must also present updated and revised documents if they petition for extension or amendment to this COA. If the Proponent determines that any update or revision would affect the basis upon which the FAA granted this COA, then the Proponent must petition for an amendment to this COA. The FAA’s UAS Integration Office (AFS−80) may be contacted if questions arise regarding updates or revisions to the operating documents.

7. The operating documents must be accessible during UAS operations and made available to the Administrator and/or law enforcement upon request.

8. Any UAS that has undergone maintenance or alterations that affect the UAS operation or flight characteristics, (e.g., replacement of a flight critical component), must undergo a functional test flight prior to conducting further operations under this COA. Functional test flights may only be conducted by a PIC with a VO and must remain at least 500 feet from other people. The functional test flight must be conducted in such a manner so as to not pose an undue hazard to persons and property.

9. The Proponent is responsible for maintaining and inspecting the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation.

10. Prior to each flight, the PIC must conduct a pre-flight inspection and determine the UAS is in a condition for safe flight. The pre-flight inspection must account for all potential discrepancies (e.g. inoperable components, items, or equipment). If the inspection reveals a condition that affects the safe operation of the UAS, the aircraft is prohibited from operating until the necessary maintenance has been performed and the UAS is found to be in a condition for safe flight.

11. The Proponent must follow the UAS manufacturer’s maintenance; overhaul, replacement, inspection, and life limit requirements for the aircraft and aircraft components.

12. Each UAS operated under this COA must comply with all manufacturer safety bulletins.

13. Government entities conducting public aircraft operations (PAO) involve operations for the purpose of fulfilling a government function that meet certain conditions specified under Title 49 United States Code, Section 40102(a)(41) & 40125(a)(2). PAO is limited by the statute to certain government operations within U.S. airspace. These operations must comply with general operating rules including those applicable to all aircraft in the National Airspace System. Government entities may exercise their own internal processes regarding aircraft certification, airworthiness, pilot, aircrew, and maintenance personnel certification and training. If the government entity does not have an internal process for PIC certification, an acceptable equivalent is that PIC shall hold

a. Either an airline transport, commercial or private pilot certificate if UAS operations are within 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower, an airport having a published instrument flight procedure, but not having an operational control tower, or 2 NM from an airport not having a published instrument flight procedure or an operational control tower, or 2 NM from a heliport. The PIC must also meet the flight review requirements specified in 14 CFR § Part 61.56 in an aircraft in which the PIC is rated on his or her pilot certificate.

b. For UAS operations outside of these locations the government entity may utilize a ground based training course and successful completion of a FAA written examination at the private pilot level or higher (or an FAA-recognized equivalent). The PIC must also hold a current 2nd Class FAA airman medical certificate or equivalent medical certification as determined by the government entity conducting the PAO.

14. The Proponent may not permit any PIC to operate unless the PIC demonstrates the ability to safely operate the UAS in a manner consistent with how the UAS will be operated under this COA, including evasive and emergency maneuvers and maintaining appropriate distances from persons, vessels, vehicles and structures. PIC qualification flight hours and currency must be logged in a manner consistent with 14 CFR § Part 61.51(b). Flights for the purposes of training the Proponent’s PICs and VOs (training, proficiency, and experience-building) and determining the PIC’s ability to safely operate the UAS in a manner consistent with how the UAS will be operated under this COA are permitted under the terms of this COA. However, training operations may only be conducted during dedicated training sessions. During training, proficiency, and experience-building flights, all persons not essential for flight operations are considered nonparticipants, and the PIC must operate the UA with appropriate distance from nonparticipants in accordance with 14 CFR § Part 91.119.

15. Pilots are reminded to follow all federal regulations (e.g. remain clear of all Temporary Flight Restrictions). Additionally, operations over areas administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or U.S. Forest Service must be conducted in accordance with Department of Interior/US Fish & Wildlife Service requirements. (See 50 CFR §§ Part 27.34 and FAA Aeronautical Information Manual Section 4, paragraph 7-4-6.)

16. The presence of observers during flight operations, other than initial or recurrent pilot in-command and visual observer training is authorized given compliance with the following provisions:

a. Observers will receive a safety briefing that addresses the mission intent, safety barriers, non-interference with UAS mission personnel, and emergency procedures in the event of an incident or accident.

b. Observers will be directed to, and contained within, a specific observation point that minimized the risk of injury and ensures that they do not interfere with the UAS mission.

c. Observers must have a valid Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate issued under 14 CFR part 67; an FAA-recognized equivalent is an acceptable means of demonstrating compliance with this requirement.

d. Proponent will ensure that observers do not engage in conversations, discussions, or interviews that distract any crewmember or mission personnel from the performance of his/her duties or interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties.

e. Proponent will limit the number of observers to that which can be adequately monitored and protected by personnel and resources onsite.

f. Operation will be conducted in compliance with ALL of the existing provisions, conditions and mitigations of this COA.

17. UAS operations may only be conducted during the daytime and may not be conducted during night, as defined in 14 CFR § Part 1.1. All operations must be conducted under visual meteorological conditions (VMC). Flights under special visual flight rules (SVFR) are not authorized.

18. The UA may not be operated less than 500 feet below or less than 2,000 feet horizontally from a cloud or when visibility is less than 3 statute miles from the PIC.

19. If the UAS loses communications or loses its GPS signal, the UA must return to a predetermined location within the defined operating area.

20. The PIC must abort the flight in the event of emergencies or flight conditions that could be a risk to persons and property within the operating area.

21. The PIC is prohibited from beginning a flight unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough available power for the UA to conduct the intended operation and to operate after that for at least five minutes or with the reserve power recommended by the manufacturer if greater than five minutes.

22. Documents used by the Proponent to ensure the safe operation of the UAS and any documents required under 14 CFR § Part 91.9 and Part 91.203 must be available to the PIC at the UAS Ground Control Station any time the aircraft is operating. These documents must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.

23. The UA must remain clear and give way to all manned aviation operations and activities at all times.

24. The UAS may not be operated by the PIC from any moving vehicle unless the government entity conducting PAO has determined that such operations can be conducted without causing undue hazard to persons or property and has presented such safety procedures to the FAA. Safety procedures include, but not limited to, emergency procedures, lost link procedures, and consideration of terrain and obstructions that may restrict the ability to maintain visual line of sight. Operations must also comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws pertaining to operations from a moving vehicle.

25. All flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all nonparticipating persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures.

III. AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SPECIAL PROVISIONS

A. Coordination Requirements.

1. Compliance with Standard Provisions, E. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) satisfies the coordination requirement. Operator must cancel NOTAMs when UAS operations are completed or will not be conducted.

2. Coordination and de-confliction between Military Training Routes (MTRs) is the Proponent’s responsibility. When identifying an operational area, the Proponent must evaluate whether an MTR will be affected. In the event the UAS operational area overlaps (5 miles either side of centerline) an MTR, the operator will contact the scheduling agency in advance to coordinate and de-conflict. Approval from the scheduling agency is not required.

B. Communication Requirements. When operating in the vicinity of an airport without an operating control tower the PIC will announce operations on appropriate Unicom/CTAF frequencies alerting manned pilots of UAS operations.

C. Flight Planning Requirements. This COA will allow small UAS (55 pounds or less) operations during daytime VMC conditions only within Class G airspace under the following limitations:

1. At or below 400 feet AGL, and

2. Beyond the following distances from the airport reference point (ARP) of a public use airport, heliport, gliderport, or water landing port listed in the Airport/Facility Directory, Alaska Supplement, or Pacific Chart Supplement of the U.S. Government Flight Information Publications:

a. 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower, or

b. 3 NM from an airport having a published instrument flight procedure, but not having an operational control tower, or

c. 2 NM from an airport not having a published instrument flight procedure or an operational control tower, or

d. 2 NM from a heliport.

3. The PIC is responsible for identifying the appropriate ATC jurisdiction nearest to the area of operations defined by the NOTAM.

D. Procedural Requirements. This COA authorizes the Proponent to conduct UAS flight operations strictly within a “defined operating area” as identified under the required provision of Section E. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) of this COA.

1. A “defined operating area” is described as a location identified by a Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) Radial/Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) fix. This location must have a defined perimeter that is no larger than that where visual line of sight with the UA can be maintained and a defined operational ceiling at or below 400’ Above the Ground (AGL).

2. UAS operations must remain within this “defined operating area”. The Proponent will discover and manage all risks and associated liabilities that exist within the defined operating area and all risks must be legitimately mitigated to assure the safety of people and property.

3. The UAS must remain within visual line of sight of the PIC and/or VO(s) at all times. The PIC and VO(s) must be positioned such that they can maintain sufficient visual contact with the UA in order to determine its attitude, altitude, and direction of flight. The PIC is responsible to ensure that the UA remains within the defined operating area. “Out of Sight”, or “Behind the Obstruction” flight operations are prohibited.

E. Emergency/Contingency Procedures.

1. Lost Link Procedures:

a. In the event of lost link, the UA must initiate a flight maneuver that ensures timely landing of the aircraft. Lost link airborne operations shall be predictable and the UA shall remain within the defined operating area filed in the NOTAM for that specific operation. In the event that the UA leaves the defined operating area, and the flight track of the UA could potentially enter controlled airspace, the PIC will immediately contact the appropriate ATC facility having jurisdiction over the controlled airspace to advise them of the UASs last known altitude, speed, direction of flight and estimated flight time remaining and the Proponent’s action to recover the UA.

b. Lost link orbit points will not coincide with the centerline of published Victor airways.

c. The UA lost link flight track will not transit or orbit over populated areas.

d. Lost link programmed procedures must de-conflict from all other unmanned operations within the operating area.

2. Lost Visual Line of Sight: If an observer loses sight of the UA, they must notify the PIC immediately. If the UA is visually reacquired promptly, the mission may continue. If not, the PIC will immediately execute the lost link procedures.

 3. Lost Communications: If communication is lost between the PIC and the observer(s), the PIC must immediately execute the lost link procedures.

IV. AUTHORIZATION This Certificate of Waiver or Authorization does not, in itself, waive any Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, nor any state law or local ordinance. Should the proposed operation conflict with any state law or local ordinance, or require permission of local authorities or property owners, it is the responsibility of the University of Kentucky to resolve the matter. This COA does not authorize flight within in Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or the Washington DC Federal Restricted Zone (FRZ) without pre-approval. The University of Kentucky is hereby authorized to operate the Unmanned Aircraft System in the National Airspace System.

 

Public “Blanket” COA (Version 1.2)

STANDARD PROVISIONS
A. General.
The review of this activity is based upon current understanding of Unmanned Aircraft
System (UAS) operations and their impact on the National Airspace System (NAS).This
Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) will not be considered a precedent for future
operations. As changes in, or understanding of, UAS operations occur, the associated
limitations and conditions may be adjusted.
All personnel engaged in the operation of the UAS in accordance with this authorization
must read and comply with the conditions, limitations, and provisions of this COA.
A copy of the COA including the special limitations must be immediately available to all
operational personnel at each operating location whenever UAS operations are being
conducted.
This COA may be canceled at any time by the Administrator, a person authorized to grant
the authorization, or a representative designated to monitor a specific operation. As a
general rule, this authorization may be canceled when it is no longer required, when there is
an abuse of its provisions, or when unforeseen safety factors develop. Failure to comply
with the authorization is cause for cancellation. All cancellations will be provided in writing
to the proponent.
During the time this COA is approved and active, a site safety evaluation/visit may be
accomplished to ensure COA compliance, assess any adverse impact on ATC or airspace,
and ensure this COA is not burdensome or ineffective. Deviations,
accidents/incidents/mishaps, complaints, etc. will prompt a COA review or site visit to
address the issue. Refusal to allow a site safety evaluation/visit may result in cancellation of
the COA. Note: This section does not pertain to agencies that have other existing
agreements in place with the FAA.
Public Aircraft Operations are defined by statutes 49 USC §40102(a)(41) and §40125.All
public aircraft operations conducted under a COA must comply with the terms of the
statutes.
B. Airworthiness Certification.
The unmanned aircraft must be shown to be airworthy to conduct flight operations in the
NAS. The proponent has made its own determination that the unmanned aircraft is
airworthy. The unmanned aircraft must be operated in strict compliance with all provisions
and conditions contained in the Airworthiness Safety Release (AWR), including all
documents and provisions referenced in the COA application.
1. A configuration control program must be in place for hardware and/or software changes
made to the UAS to ensure continued airworthiness. If a new or revised Airworthiness
Release is generated as a result of changes in the hardware or software affecting the
operating characteristics of the UAS, notify the UAS Integration Office via email at 9-
[email protected] of the changes as soon as practical.
a. Software and hardware changes should be documented as part of the normal
maintenance procedures. Software changes to the aircraft and control station as well
as hardware system changes are classified as major changes unless the agency has a
formal process accepted by the FAA. These changes should be provided to the UAS
Integration Office in summary form at the time of incorporation.
b. Major modifications or changes, performed under the COA, or other authorizations
that could potentially affect the safe operation of the system, must be documented
and provided to the FAA in the form of a new AWR, unless the agency has a formal
process, accepted by the FAA.
c. All previously flight proven systems, to include payloads, may be installed or
removed as required and that activity must be recorded in the unmanned aircraft and
ground control stations logbooks by persons authorized to conduct UAS
maintenance. Describe any payload equipment configurations in the UAS logbook
that will result in a weight and balance change, electrical loads, and or flight
dynamics, unless the agency has a formal process, accepted by the FAA.
d. For unmanned aircraft system discrepancies, a record entry should be made by an
appropriately rated person to document the finding in the logbook. No flights may
be conducted following major changes, modifications or new installations unless the
party responsible for certifying airworthiness has determined the system is safe to
operate in the NAS and a new AWR is generated, unless the agency has a formal
process, accepted by the FAA. The successful completion of these major changes,
modifications or new installations must be recorded in the appropriate logbook,
unless the agency has a formal process, accepted by the FAA.
2. The unmanned aircraft must be operated in strict compliance with all provisions and
conditions contained within the spectrum analysis assigned and authorized for use
within the defined operations area.
3. All items contained in the application for equipment frequency allocation must be
adhered to, including the assigned frequencies and antenna equipment characteristics. A
ground operational check to verify that the control station can communicate with the
aircraft (frequency integration check) must be conducted prior to the launch of the
unmanned aircraft to ensure any electromagnetic interference does not adversely affect
control of the aircraft
C. Safety of Flight.
1. The proponent or delegated representative is responsible for halting or canceling
activity conducted under the provisions of this COA if, at any time, the safety of
persons or property on the ground or in the air is in jeopardy, or if there is a failure to
comply with the terms or conditions of this authorization.
2. Sterile Cockpit Procedures.
a. No crewmember may perform any duties during a critical phase of flight not
required for the safe operation of the aircraft.
b. Critical phases of flight include all ground operations involving:
1) Taxi (movement of an aircraft under its own power on the surface of an airport),
2) Take-off and landing (launch or recovery), and
3) All other flight operations in which safety or mission accomplishment might be
compromised by distractions.
c. No crewmember may engage in, nor may any pilot in command (PIC) permit, any
activity during a critical phase of flight which could:
1) Distract any crewmember from the performance of his/her duties, or
2) Interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties.
d. The pilot and/or the PIC must not engage in any activity not directly related to the
operation of the aircraft. Activities include, but are not limited to: operating UAS
sensors or other payload systems.
e. The use of cell phones or other electronic devices is restricted to communications
pertinent to the operational control of the unmanned aircraft and any required
communications with Air Traffic Control.
3. See-and-Avoid.
a. Unmanned aircraft have no on-board pilot to perform see-and-avoid responsibilities;
therefore, when operating outside of active restricted and warning areas approved
for aviation activities, provisions must be made to ensure that an equivalent level of
safety exists for unmanned operations. Adherence to 14 CFR Part 91 §91.111,
§91.113 and §91.115, is required.
1) The PIC is responsible:
(a) To remain clear and give way to all manned aviation operations and
activities at all times,
(b) For the safety of persons or property on the surface with respect to the
UAS operation,
(c) For ensuring that there is a safe operating distance between aviation
activities and unmanned aircraft (UA) at all times, and
(d) For operating in compliance with CFR Parts 91.111, 91.113 and 91.115
2) The PIC is responsible to ensure that any visual observer (VO):
(a) Can perform their required duties,
(b) Are able to see the UA and the surrounding airspace throughout the entire
flight, and
(b) Are able to provide the PIC with the UA’s flight path and proximity to
all aviation activities and other hazards (e.g., terrain, weather,
structures) sufficiently for the PIC to exercise effective control of the
UA to prevent the UA from creating a collision hazard.
3) VO(s) must be used at all times and must maintain instantaneous communication
with the PIC. Electronic messaging or texting is not permitted during flight
operations.
4) The use of multiple successive VO(s) (daisy chaining) is prohibited.
5) VO(s) must be able to communicate clearly to the PIC any instructions required
to remain clear of conflicting traffic.
6) All VO(s) must complete sufficient training to communicate to the PIC any
information required to remain clear of conflicting traffic, terrain, and
obstructions, maintain proper cloud clearances, and provide navigational
awareness. This training, at a minimum, must include knowledge of:
(a) Their responsibility to assist PICs in complying with the requirements of:
· Section 91.111, Operating Near Other Aircraft,
· Section 91.113, Right-of-Way Rules: Except Water Operations,
· Section 91.115, Right-of-Way Rules: Water Operations,
· Section 91.119, Minimum Safe Altitudes: General, and
· Section 91.155, Basic VFR Weather Minimums
(b) Air traffic and radio communications, including the use of approved air
traffic control (ATC)/pilot phraseology
(c) Appropriate sections of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)
b. The proponent must not operate in Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, Special
Flight Rule Areas or the Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone. Such areas are
depicted on charts available at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/.
Additionally, aircraft operators should beware of and avoid other areas identified in

Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) that restrict operations in proximity to Power Plants,
Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes,
National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, Military or
other Federal Facilities unless approval is received from the appropriate authority
prior to the UAS Mission.
c. The unmanned aircraft will be registered prior to operations in accordance with Title
14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
D. Reporting Requirements
1. Documentation of all operations associated with UAS activities is required regardless
of the airspace in which the UAS operates. NOTE: Negative (zero flights) reports are
required.
2. The proponent must submit the following information on a monthly basis to
UAS COA On-Line:
a. Name of proponent, and aircraft registration number,
b. UAS type and model,
c. All operating locations, to include city name and latitude/longitude,
d. Number of flights (per location, per aircraft),
e. Total aircraft operation hours,
f. Takeoff or landing damage, and
g. Equipment malfunction. Required reports include, but are not limited to, failures or
malfunctions to the:
1) Control station
2) Electrical system
3) Fuel system
4) Navigation system
5) On-board flight control system
6) Powerplant
3. The number and duration of lost link events (control, performance and health
monitoring, or communications) per UAS, per flight.
4. Incident/Accident/Mishap Reporting
After an incident or accident that meets the criteria below, and within 24 hours of that
incident, accident or event described below, the proponent must provide initial
notification of the following to the FAA via email at mailto: 9-AJV-115-
[email protected] and via the UAS COA On-Line forms (Incident/Accident).
a. All accidents/mishaps involving UAS operations where any of the following occurs:
1) Fatal injury, where the operation of a UAS results in a death occurring within 30
days of the accident/mishap
2) Serious injury, where the operation of a UAS results in:
(a) Hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the
date of the injury was received;
(b) A fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose);
(c) Severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage;
(d) Involving any internal organ; or
(e) Involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5
percent of the body surface.
3) Total unmanned aircraft loss
4) Substantial damage to the unmanned aircraft system where there is damage to
the airframe, power plant, or onboard systems that must be repaired prior to
further flight
5) Damage to property, other than the unmanned aircraft.
b. Any incident/mishap that results in an unsafe/abnormal operation including but not
limited to
1) A malfunction or failure of the unmanned aircraft’s on-board flight control
system (including navigation)
2) A malfunction or failure of ground control station flight control hardware or
software (other than loss of control link)
3) A power plant failure or malfunction
4) An in-flight fire
5) An aircraft collision involving another aircraft.
6) Any in-flight failure of the unmanned aircraft’s electrical system requiring use
of alternate or emergency power to complete the flight
7) A deviation from any provision contained in the COA
8) A deviation from an ATC clearance and/or Letter(s) of Agreement/Procedures
9) A lost control link event resulting in
(a) Fly-away, or
(b) Execution of a pre-planned/unplanned lost link procedure.
c. Initial reports must contain the information identified in the COA On-Line
Accident/Incident Report.
d. Follow-on reports describing the accident/incident/mishap(s) must be submitted by
providing copies of proponent aviation accident/incident reports upon completion of
safety investigations.
e. Civil operators and Public-use agencies (other than those which are part of the
Department of Defense) are advised that the above procedures are not a substitute
for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation
Safety Board under 49 CFR Part 830 §830.5.
f. For other than Department of Defense operations, this COA is issued with the
provision that the FAA be permitted involvement in the proponent’s
incident/accident/mishap investigation as prescribed by FAA Order 8020.11,
Aircraft Accident and Incident Notification, Investigation, and Reporting.
E. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).
A distant (D) NOTAM must be issued when unmanned aircraft operations are being
conducted unless notification of UAS operations will compromise the safety of the public
agency. This requirement may be accomplished:
1. Through the proponent’s local base operations or NOTAM issuing authority, or
2. By contacting the NOTAM Flight Service Station at 1-877-4-US-NTMS (1-877-487-
6867) not more than 72 hours in advance, but not less than 24 hours for UAS operations
prior to the operation. The issuing agency will require the:
a. Name and address of the pilot filing the NOTAM request
b. Location, altitude and operating area
c. Time and nature of the activity.
Note: The NOTAM must identify actual coordinates and a Radial/DME fix of a prominent
navigational aid, with a radius no larger than that where visual line of sight with the UA
can be maintained. The NOTAM must be filed to indicate the defined operations area and
periods of UA activity. NOTAMs for generalized, wide-area, or continuous periods are not
acceptable.
3. Due to the immediacy of some tactical operations, it is understood by the Federal
Aviation Administration that this NOTAM notification may be reduced to no less than
30 minutes prior to these operations.
FLIGHT STANDARDS SPECIAL PROVISIONS
Failure to comply with any of the conditions and limitations of this COA will be grounds for
the immediate suspension or cancellation of this COA.
1. Operations authorized by this COA are limited to UAS weighing less than 55 pounds,
including payload. Proposed operations of any UAS weighing more than 55 pounds will
require the proponent to provide the FAA with a new airworthiness Certificate (if
necessary), Registration, Aircraft Description, Control Station, Communication System
Description, Picture of UAS and any Certified TSO components. Approval to operate the
new UAS is contingent on acknowledgement from FAA of receipt of acceptable
documentation.
2. External Load Operations, dropping or spraying aircraft stores, or carrying hazardous
materials (including munitions) is prohibited.
3. The UA may not be operated at a speed exceeding 87 knots (100 miles per hour). The COA
holder may use either groundspeed or calibrated airspeed to determine compliance with the
87 knot speed restriction. In no case will the UA be operated at airspeeds greater than the
maximum operating airspeed recommended by the aircraft manufacturer.
4. The proponent shall conduct and document initial training at a specific training site that will
allow for the conduct of scenario-based training exercises. This training should foster a high
level of flight proficiency and promote efficient, standardized coordination among pilots,
visual observers, and ground crew members. To ensure safety and compliance, the training
site should be well clear of housing areas, roads, non-participating persons, and watercraft.
When the proponent has determined that sufficient training scenarios have been completed
to achieve an acceptable level of competency, the proponent is authorized to conduct UAS
public aircraft operations in accordance with Title 49 USC §§ Part 40125 at any location
within the National Airspace System under the provisions of this COA.
5. The UA must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the Pilot in Command
(PIC) and or the visual observer (VO) at all times. This requires the PIC and VO to be able
to use human vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, as specified on
their FAA-issued airman medical certificate or equivalent medical certification as
determined by the government entity conducting the PAO. The VO may be used to satisfy
the VLOS requirement as long as the PIC always maintains VLOS capability.
6. This COA and all documents needed to operate the UAS and conduct operations in
accordance with the conditions and limitations stated in this COA are hereinafter referred to
as the operating documents. The Proponent must follow the procedures as outlined in the
operating documents. If a discrepancy exists within the operating documents, the
procedures outlined in the approved COA take precedence and must be followed. The
proponent may update or revise the operating documents, excluding the approved COA, as
needed. It is the proponent’s responsibility to track such revisions and present updated and
revised operating documents to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon
request. The proponent must also present updated and revised documents if they petition for
extension or amendment to this COA. If the proponent determines that any update or
revision would affect the basis upon which the FAA granted this COA, then the proponent
must petition for an amendment to this COA. The FAA’s UAS Integration Office (AFS−80)
may be contacted if questions arise regarding updates or revisions to the operating
documents.
7. The operating documents must be accessible during UAS operations and made available to
the Administrator and/or law enforcement upon request.
8. Any UAS that has undergone maintenance or alterations that affect the UAS operation or
flight characteristics, (e.g., replacement of a flight critical component), must undergo a
functional test flight prior to conducting further operations under this COA. Functional test
flights may only be conducted by a PIC with a VO and essential ground crew, and must
remain at least 500 feet from other people. The functional test flight must be conducted in
such a manner so as to not pose an undue hazard to persons and property.
9. The proponent is responsible for maintaining and inspecting the UAS to ensure that it is in a
condition for safe operation.
10. Prior to each flight, the PIC must conduct a pre-flight inspection and determine the UAS is
in a condition for safe flight. The pre-flight inspection must account for all potential
discrepancies (e.g. inoperable components, items, or equipment). If the inspection reveals a
condition that affects the safe operation of the UAS, the aircraft is prohibited from
operating until the necessary maintenance has been performed and the UAS is found to be
in a condition for safe flight.
11. The proponent must follow the UAS manufacturer’s maintenance; overhaul, replacement,
inspection, and life limit requirements for the aircraft and aircraft components.
12. Each UAS operated under this COA must comply with all manufacturer safety bulletins.
13. Government entities conducting public aircraft operations (PAO) involve operations for the
purpose of fulfilling a government function that meet certain conditions specified under
Title 49 United States Code, Section 40102(a)(41) & 40125(a)(2). PAO is limited by the
statute to certain government operations within U.S. airspace. These operations must
comply with general operating rules including those applicable to all aircraft in the National
Airspace System. Government entities may exercise their own internal processes regarding
aircraft certification, airworthiness, pilot, aircrew, and maintenance personnel certification
and training.
14. The Proponent may not permit any PIC to operate unless the PIC demonstrates the ability to
safely operate the UAS in a manner consistent with how the UAS will be operated under
this COA, including evasive and emergency maneuvers and maintaining appropriate
distances from persons, vessels, vehicles and structures. PIC qualification flight hours and
currency must be logged in a manner consistent with 14 CFR § Part 61.51(b). Flights for
the purposes of training the proponent’s PICs and VOs (training, proficiency, and
experience-building) and determining the PIC’s ability to safely operate the UAS in a
manner consistent with how the UAS will be operated under this COA are permitted under
the terms of this COA. However, training operations may only be conducted during
dedicated training sessions. During training, proficiency, and experience-building flights,
all persons not essential for flight operations are considered nonparticipants, and the PIC
must operate the UA with appropriate distance from nonparticipants in accordance with 14
CFR § Part 91.119.
15. Pilots are reminded to follow all federal regulations (e.g. remain clear of all Temporary
Flight Restrictions). Additionally, operations over areas administered by the National Park
Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or U.S. Forest Service must be conducted in
accordance with Department of Interior/US Fish & Wildlife Service requirements. (See 50
CFR §§ Part 27.34 and FAA Aeronautical Information Manual Section 4, paragraph 7-4-6.)
16. The presence of observers (i.e. spectators) during flight operations, other than initial or
recurrent pilot-in-command and visual observer training is authorized given compliance
with the following provisions:
a. Observers will receive a safety briefing that addresses the mission intent, safety barriers,
non-interference with UAS mission personnel, and emergency procedures in the event
of an incident or accident.
b. Observers will be directed to, and contained within, a specific observation point that
minimized the risk of injury and ensures that they do not interfere with the UAS
mission.
c. Proponent will ensure that observers do not engage in conversations, discussions, or
interviews that distract any crewmember or mission personnel from the performance of
his/her duties or interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties.
d. Proponent will limit the number of observers to that which can be adequately monitored
and protected by personnel and resources onsite.
e. Operation will be conducted in compliance with ALL of the existing provisions,
conditions and mitigations of this COA.
17. UAS operations may be conducted during the day or night (see Flight Standards Special
Provision 25 for night operations) as defined in 14 CFR § Part 1.1. All operations must be
conducted under visual meteorological conditions (VMC). Flights under special visual
flight rules (SVFR) are not authorized.
18. The UA may not be operated less than 500 feet below or less than 2,000 feet horizontally
from a cloud or when visibility is less than 3 statute miles from the PIC.
19. If the UAS loses communications or loses its GPS signal, the UA must return to a predetermined
location within the defined operating area.
20. The PIC must abort the flight in the event of emergencies or flight conditions that could be
a risk to persons and property within the operating area.
21. The PIC is prohibited from beginning a flight unless (considering wind and forecast
weather conditions) there is enough available power for the UA to conduct the intended
operation and to operate after that for at least five minutes or with the reserve power
recommended by the manufacturer if greater than five minutes.
22. Documents used by the proponent to ensure the safe operation of the UAS and any
documents required under 14 CFR § Part 91.9 and Part 91.203 must be available to the PIC
at the UAS Ground Control Station any time the aircraft is operating. These documents
must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.
23. The UA must remain clear and give way to all manned aviation operations and activities at
all times.
24. The UAS may not be operated by the PIC from any moving vehicle unless the government
entity conducting PAO has determined that such operations can be conducted without
causing undue hazard to persons or property and has presented such safety procedures to
the FAA. Safety procedures include, but not limited to, emergency procedures, lost link
procedures, and consideration of terrain and obstructions that may restrict the ability to
maintain visual line of sight. Operations must also comply with all applicable federal, state
and local laws pertaining to operations from a moving vehicle.
25. Small UAS operations may be conducted at night, as defined in 14 CFR § 1.1, provided:
a. All operations under the approved COA must use one or more visual observers (VO);
b. Prior to conducting operations that are the subject of the COA, the remote pilot in
command (PIC) and VO must be trained 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;
c. The sUA must be equipped with lighted anti-collision lighting visible from a distance
of no less than 3 statute miles. The intensity of the anti-collision lighting may be
reduced if, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do
so.
Note: Night, as defined in 14 CFR § 1.1 is equal to approximately 30 minutes after sunset
until 30 minutes before sunrise.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SPECIAL PROVISIONS
A. Coordination Requirements.
1. Compliance with Standard Provisions, E. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) satisfies the
coordination requirement. Operator must cancel NOTAMs when UAS operations
are completed or will not be conducted.
2. Coordination and de-confliction between Military Training Routes (MTR) and
Special Use Airspace (SUA) is the operator’s responsibility. When identifying an
operational area the operator must evaluate whether an MTR or SUA will be
affected. In the event the UAS operational area overlaps an MTR or SUA, the
operator will contact the scheduling agency in advance to coordinate and deconflict.
Approval from the scheduling agency for MTR and non-regulatory SUA
is not required. Scheduling agencies for MTRs are listed in the Area Planning
AP/1B Military Planning Routes North and South America. Scheduling agencies
for SUAs are listed in the FAA JO 7400.8.
B. Communication Requirements.
When operating in the vicinity of an airport without an operating control tower the PIC will
announce operations on appropriate Unicom/CTAF frequencies alerting manned pilots of
UAS operations.
C. Flight Planning Requirements.
This COA will allow small UAS (weighing less than 55 pounds) operations during daytime
VMC conditions only within Class G airspace under the following limitations:
a. At or below 400 feet AGL, and
b. Beyond the following distances from the airport reference point (ARP) of a public use
airport, heliport, gliderport, or water landing port listed in the Airport/Facility Directory,
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.
c. The PIC is responsible for identifying the appropriate ATC jurisdiction nearest to the
area of operations defined by the NOTAM.
D. Procedural Requirements.
1. This COA authorizes the proponent to conduct UAS flight operations strictly within a
“defined incident perimeter” as identified under the required provision of Section IE.
Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) of this COA.
2. All Flights operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all nonparticipating
persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures unless:
a. A “defined operating area” is described as a location identified by a Very High
Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) Radial/Distance Measuring Equipment
(DME) fix. This location must have a defined perimeter that is no larger than that
where visual line of sight with the UA can be maintained and a defined
operational ceiling at or below 400’ Above the Ground (AGL).
b. The “defined incident perimeter” is established by means of barriers, structures or
public safety officials authorized to sufficiently protect nonparticipating persons
from entering the perimeter of the operating area.
c. UAS operations must remain within this “defined incident perimeter” controlled
by law enforcement at or below 400 feet AGL. The proponent and supporting law
enforcement/first responder/safety agencies will discover and manage all risks
and associated liabilities that exist within the defined operating perimeter and all
risks must be legitimately mitigated to assure the safety of people and property.
d. The PIC has made a safety assessment of the risk of operating closer to those
objects and determined that it does not present an undue hazard and flight
operations will not be conducted directly over nonparticipating persons. The PIC,
VO, operator trainees or essential persons are not considered nonparticipating
persons under this provision.
E. Emergency/Contingency Procedures.
1. Lost Link Procedures:
a. In the event of lost link, the UA must initiate a flight maneuver that ensures timely
landing of the aircraft. Lost link airborne operations shall be predictable and the UA
shall remain within the defined operating area filed in the NOTAM for that specific
operation. In the event that the UA leaves the defined operating area, and the flight
track of the UA could potentially enter controlled airspace, the PIC will immediately
contact the appropriate ATC facility having jurisdiction over the controlled airspace
to advise them of the UASs last known altitude, speed, direction of flight and
estimated flight time remaining and the Proponent’s action to recover the UA.
b. Lost link orbit points will not coincide with the centerline of published Victor
airways.
c. The UA lost link flight track will not transit or orbit over populated areas.
d. Lost link programmed procedures must de-conflict from all other unmanned
operations within the operating area.
2. Lost Visual Line of Sight:
A VO loses sight of the UA, they must notify the PIC immediately. If the UA is visually
reacquired promptly, the mission may continue. If not, the PIC will immediately
execute the lost link procedures.
3. Lost Communications:
If communication is lost between the PIC and the VO(s), the PIC must immediately
execute the lost link procedures.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Ultimate Guide to Drone Laws (from a Lawyer & Pilot).

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

Where NOT to Look

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

For example, I was reading a drone book by someone very popular on the internet which was just completely – flat out – totally- 100% wrong. I think this person just hired a copywriter to write the book which resulted in utter garbage. If you were to rely on that bad advice, you could get in trouble and be on the receiving end of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution.

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

Where to look for info.

You should look at resources in this order:

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

I. United States Drone Laws

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

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

Whether or not the states, counties, and cities can regulation drones is another big issue way outside of the scope of this article. As time goes on, things will shake out as to how much the states, counties, cities, and towns can regulate.

A. Federal Drone Laws

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

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

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

All non-recreational drones are required to be registered under Part 47 or Part 48. All recreational drones weighing more than 250 grams are required to be registered also by either Part 47 or Part 48.

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

drone-laws-FAA-TSA-DOT-FCC-ITAR-EAR2. Other Federal Agencies

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

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

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

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

FCC. The Federal Communications Commission regulations radio transmitters, the frequencies they transmit on, and the power of the transmitter. Many people don’t even pay attention to that sticker that is on the back of your controller. Take a chance to read it over some time.

DOJ. The Department of Justice enforces the Federal Aviation Statutes in Title 49 of the United States Code.  The DOJ attorneys have been involved at least twice with drone operators: (1) the Skypan case which was originally started in the federal district court in Chicago and (2) in the federal district court in Connecticut with the Haughwout case (the kid who attached a gun and later a flamethrower to a drone).

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

B. State Drone Laws

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

Want All the State Drone Laws in a PDF?

Sign up for the drone newsletter and receive the PDF and great articles.

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II. International Drone Laws

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

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


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Ultimate Drone Logbook Guide (Drone Logbook Templates, Drone Flight Logbooks, Drone Logbook PDF, etc.)

Do one of the following drone logbook statements accurate describe you?

  • “What does the FAA want me to log? I don’t want to get in trouble.”
  • “Where do I log it?”
  • “Should I do paper or electronic?”
  • “I’m confused with all the different terms.”

If any of the above describe you, you are in the right place. We are are going to dive into all of the issues surrounding drone logbooks. This article will be applicable to recreational and commercial drone operators.

 

There are primarily two types of logbooks: (1) pilot drone logbooks where the pilot logs experience and training and (2) drone aircraft/maintenance logbooks. There are two modes of logbooks: (1) paper and (2) electronic.

 

 

Table of Contents:

 

 

I. Drone Logbook Law

A. Logbook Definitions

Before we dive in, let’s discuss some terms that some of you might have heard floating around:

  • Acting pilot in command
  • Logging pilot in command,
  • Remote pilot in command,
  • Flight training,
  • Ground training,
  • Authorized Instructor,
  • Pilot,
  • Operator, etc.

 

B. Brief History of Where the Logbook Definitions Came From

Section 61.51 is the most important section for Part 61 pilots on logbooks and specifically lays out some definitions and the requirements to log that time. These specific terms and requirements were created for pilots to accurately describe their training and experience to meet eligibility requirements to obtain an airmen certificate or added rating. This was how manned aircraft pilots were doing it. Then drones came on the scene.

 

We had to fit the square in the round hole in September 2014 with the first batch of 333 exemptions were released. There continues to be a provision in the 333 exemptions that mentions that the pilot may log time in accordance with 61.51(b) to show pilot in command (“PIC”) qualifications to operate under the 333.

 

Then on August 29th, 2016, Part 101 and Part 107 became law which gave us the term remote pilot in command.That is interesting to note since for a while it was a “must” log until November 2016 where the FAA unilaterally updated 5,000+ exemptions and now they say “may” log in a manner consistent with 61.51(b).

 

So how do we sort this all out when it comes to logging since we have different terms in different parts of the regulations?

 

C. How to Make Sense of What to Use in Your Drone Logbook

Part 61 is how you get manned aircraft certificates while Part 91 is how you lose that manned aircraft certificate (by violating those operating regulations). The Section 333 exemptions adopted the standards in 61.51(b) and then later were changed to say “may.”

 

Part 107 created this neatly contained part of regulations which spells out what you need to do to obtain your remote pilot certificate and how to operate under it. You only need to pass a computer-based knowledge exam to fly unmanned aircraft so definitions are not even needed to define knowledge, experience, or training in a logbook to obtain a certificate under Part 107. The definitions only really mattered in a Part 61 & Part 91 situation where training and experience needed to be logged accurately.

 

Furthermore, 14 CFR 61.8 says, “Any action conducted pursuant to part 107 of this chapter or Subpart E of part 101 of this chapter cannot be used to meet the requirements of this part.” You cannot even use the drone time towards obtaining a Part 61 airmen certificate or rating. What a bummer. :(

 

Moreover, most of the terms are not even accurately being used! If you look carefully at the definitions, you’ll notice that almost all of them 99% of the time cannot be applied to Part 107 remote pilots under a strict reading of the legal definitions. Sure. Everyone will know what you mean but they are not legally accurate usages. But then again, in 107 world, many of these definitions don’t matter.   You could call the time flying your Star Wars tie fighter drone “Lord Vader time” because you aren’t using that time to go for a certificate or rating.

 

Here is a helpful graph of the different definitions, their location, and how a person flying under Part 101 or Part 107 should treat the definition.

 

D. Graph of Different Drone Logbook Terms

 

Term

Location in the LawHow to treat it.Definition

Operating Under Part 61 & Part 91

(Acting) Pilot in command

14 CFR 1.1

This is a term regarding ACTING as PIC. PICs acting as PIC can log it. The reason why there are different terms is because sometimes you can log PIC without being acting PIC. See Logging Pilot-In-Command Time article for AOPA.  If you are operating under 107 or 101, this does NOT even apply to you.

“Pilot in command means the person who:

(1) Has final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight;

(2) Has been designated as pilot in command before or during the flight; and

(3) Holds the appropriate category, class, and type rating, if appropriate, for the conduct of the flight.”

(Logging) Pilot in Command

14 CFR 61.51(e)

Only applicable for sport, recreational, private, commercial, or ATP when rated for the category and class of aircraft. Very rarely will the pilot have the same category and class rating as the unmanned aircraft being flown that is also in compliance with 14 CFR 61.51(j). Even if you get the rare perfect scenario, 14 CFR 61.8 says you can’t even use the PIC time for anything under Part 61 so why bother?“(e) Logging pilot-in-command flight time. (1) A sport, recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot may log pilot in command flight time for flights”

Solo Flight Time

14 CFR 61.51(d)

No one can log this because you can’t get in an unmanned aircraft; otherwise, it wouldn’t be unmanned. I guess a woman could get inside one and it still be unmanned but I don’t know if the FAA will still consider that an unmanned aircraft. 😊“(d) Logging of solo flight time. Except for a student pilot performing the duties of pilot in command of an airship requiring more than one pilot flight crewmember, a pilot may log as solo flight time only that flight time when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft.”

Flight Training

14 CFR 1.1

You cannot log this because once again, you are not “in flight in an aircraft[.]”“Flight training means that training, other than ground training, received from an authorized instructor in flight in an aircraft”

Ground Training

14 CFR 1.1

Only authorized instructors (see below) can log this in the logbooks of their students. But there are no truly authorized flight instructors for drones.“Ground training means that training, other than flight training, received from an authorized instructor.”

Authorized instructor

14 CFR 1.1

Here is the problem, ground and flight instructors are “authorized within the limitations of that person’s flight instructor certificate and ratings to train and issue endorsements that are required for” a list of airmen certificates and ratings, but the remote pilot certificate is NOT EVEN ON THE LIST! See 61.215 and 61.193. In other words, ground and flight instructors are not “authorized” to train remote pilots. Sure, flight instructors can train people all day long. It isn’t like the instructor is prohibited from training people, it is just the FAA is not giving its official approval of the competency of the flight instructor to give training to people seeking their remote pilot certificates. But you don’t need the official approval from the FAA for the training because the computer based knowledge exam is what the FAA has officially approved to determine aeronautical knowledge of the remote pilot applicant.“Authorized instructor means—

(i) A person who holds a ground instructor certificate issued under part 61 of this chapter and is in compliance with §61.217, when conducting ground training in accordance with the privileges and limitations of his or her ground instructor certificate;

(ii) A person who holds a flight instructor certificate issued under part 61 of this chapter and is in compliance with §61.197, when conducting ground training or flight training in accordance with the privileges and limitations of his or her flight instructor certificate; or

(iii) A person authorized by the Administrator to provide ground training or flight training under part 61, 121, 135, or 142 of this chapter when conducting ground training or flight training in accordance with that authority.”

“Pilot” vs. “Operator”

The FAA said this very well in now Cancelled Notice 8900.259, “The terms “pilot” and “operator” have historical meanings in aviation, which may have led to some confusion within the UAS community. As defined by the FAA in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 1, § 1.1, the term “operate,” “…with respect to aircraft, means use, cause to use or authorize to use aircraft, for the purpose… of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control….” This means that an operator is the person or entity responsible for the overall aircraft and that may include a broad range of areas, such as maintenance, general operations, specific procedures, and selecting properly trained and certified flightcrew members to fly the aircraft. The pilot in command (PIC), also defined in § 1.1, is the final authority for an individual flight. Pilots are persons appropriately trained to fly aircraft.”   Additionally, the FAA said in the preamble to the small unmanned aircraft rule, “Several commenters noted that using the term “operator” in part 107 could result in confusion. NTSB, ALPA, and TTD pointed out that “operator” is currently used to refer to a business entity and that use of that term to refer to a small UAS pilot would be inconsistent with existing usage. Transport Canada and several other commenters stated that ICAO defines the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS as a “remote pilot” and asked the FAA to use this terminology in order to harmonize with ICAO. Transport Canada also noted that: (1) Canada uses the same terminology as ICAO; and (2) calling an airman certificate issued under part 107 an “operator certificate” may lead to confusion with FAA regulations in part 119, which allow a business entity to obtain an operating certificate to transport people and property. ALPA and TTD suggested that the person manipulating the controls of the small UAS should be referred to as a pilot, asserting that this would be consistent with how the word pilot has traditionally been used. As pointed out by the commenters, FAA regulations currently use the term “commercial operator” to refer to a person, other than an air carrier, who engages in the transportation of persons or property for compensation or hire. Commercial operators are issued an “operating certificate” under 14 CFR part 119.67 Because other FAA regulations already use the term “operator” to refer to someone other than a small UAS pilot under part 107, the FAA agrees with commenters that use of the term “operator” in this rule could be confusing.” (emphasis mine).

This is What a 107 Remote Pilot Can Log, But Is NOT Legally Required to & Really Does Not Matter

Remote Pilot in Command14 CFR 107.12 & 107.19.Applicable only to unmanned aircraft systems operations.

Advisory Circular 107-2 at 4.2.5 says it nicely, “A person who holds a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating and has the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of an sUAS operation conducted under part 107.

 

E. Recreational Drone Operations (Part 101)

A recreational drone operator cannot accurately rely on memory to determine when to change out batteries or propellers. Additionally, memory is a poor way to recall if preventive maintenance checks were done  14 CFR Part 101.41 says:

(b) The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

(c) The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization.

There really only three community-based organizations I can think of operating in the US at the moment: the Academy of Model Aeronautics, Drone Users Group, and Remote Control Aerial Platform Association. There might be others but these are the ones that have been around the longest that I know of. Each of them has safety guidelines.

 

One can argue that flying a drone over and over again without logging the time the propellers have been used to be “careless and reckless” which is contrary to the Academy of Model Aeronautics Safety Code and the Drone Users Group Network Safety Guidelines. RCAPA’s general safety guidelines require that the drone be “airworthy” prior to flight. A logbook is a reliable way to determine time on properly for a drone operator to make a decision on the airworthiness of the aircraft.

 

Whether the above argument holds any water in a court of law is another discussion but this is more food for thought than listing potential arguments the FAA might throw at a recreational operator.

 

F. Commercial Drone Operators (Section 333 & Part 107). 

1 . Section 333 Operators

The FAA requires that commercial operators who have 333 exemptions and “blanket” COA’s to file monthly reports. Additionally, those commercial operators operating under the 333 are required to log their flights according to 14 CFR 61.51(b) which says:

(b) Logbook entries. For the purposes of meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, each person must enter the following information for each flight or lesson logged:

(1) General—

(i) Date.

(ii) Total flight time or lesson time.

(iii) Location where the aircraft departed and arrived, or for lessons in a flight simulator or flight training device, the location where the lesson occurred.

(iv) Type and identification of aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, as appropriate.

(v) The name of a safety pilot, if required by §91.109 of this chapter.

(2) Type of pilot experience or training—

(i) Solo.

(ii) Pilot in command.

(iii) Second in command.

(iv) Flight and ground training received from an authorized instructor.

(v) Training received in a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device from an authorized instructor.

(3) Conditions of flight—

(i) Day or night.

(ii) Actual instrument.

(iii) Simulated instrument conditions in flight, a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.

(iv) Use of night vision goggles in an aircraft in flight, in a flight simulator, or in a flight training device.

2. Part 107

Section 107.49  says:

Prior to flight, the remote pilot in command must . . .

 

(c) Ensure that all control links between ground control station and the small unmanned aircraft are working properly;

(d) If the small unmanned aircraft is powered, ensure that there is enough available power for the small unmanned aircraft system to operate for the intended operational time; and

(e) Ensure that any object attached or carried by the small unmanned aircraft is secure and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.

How can a remote pilot comply with 107.49(c)-(e) if the remote pilot is not logging aircraft problems and maintenance? The FAA said it nicely in Advisory Circular 107-2, “Maintenance and inspection recordkeeping provides retrievable empirical evidence of vital safety assessment data defining the condition of safety-critical systems and components supporting the decision to launch.”

 

But here is the problem with drones, they are aircraft, but the drone manufacturers don’t treat them like aircraft. We don’t have any warnings being issued on certain parts like we have with the airworthiness directives in manned aviation. Yes, GoPro did a recall because of their batteries which is a good start. The technology changes so much that the mean time between failures is not known for many parts of the drones. People just buy the Phantom 4 before the Phantom 2 or 3 broke. No one is sharing the data of the aircraft failures. Why would you want to and be called an idiot on the internet? So really any preventative maintenance being done, while appearing safe, is really going to be just best guesses.

 

Section 107.7 says, “A remote pilot in command, owner, or person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system must, upon request, make available to the Administrator: . . .(2) Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”

 

If you study Part 107 carefully, you’ll notice no log books are required to be kept; however, if you obtain a Part 107 waiver, such as a night waiver, the waiver requires the responsible person to have documented night training the remote pilot in command and visual observer have received and that documentation must be available upon request from the FAA. This is what section 107.7 means by “Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”

 

II. Reasons Why You Should Have a Drone Logbook

Legal Compliance. You might need to document training received for some waivers. Additionally, you might want to log aircraft maintenance to prove that you attempted to maintain the aircraft in an airworthy manner.

 

Marketing. Showing a completed logbook to a potential customer is a great marketing point. Like the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” a good logbook is worth a thousand flights. You can quickly demonstrate your flight experience by flipping through the pages. Furthermore, a well-kept and orderly logbook gives the impression that you are a professional.

 

Insurance. When you apply for insurance, they will ask you to fill out a form that is going to ask for all sorts of information. A logbook will assist you in filling out the form so you can receive the most accurate quote.

 

Maintenance. You cannot accurately rely on your memory to recall if you did something or not. Has that problem you observed gone away? Is it getting worse? Logging helps you notice trends and also allows you to rule out certain things when hunting for the cause of a problem.

 

III. Paper vs. Electronic Drone Logbooks 

  • Paper Drone Logbooks
    • If you are operating under a Section 333, 14 C.F.R. § 61.51(i) says, “Persons must present their pilot certificate, medical certificate, logbook, or any other record required by this part for inspection upon a reasonable request by” the FAA, an authorized representative from the National Transportation Safety Board, or any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer. If your electronic logbook is on your device, do you really want to give law enforcement or the FAA your device? Furthermore, how are you to get the data off that device?Fixed costs (unless you go through paper like crazy). A paper log book can be easily inspected by law enforcement officials without them prying into your privacy.
    • Fixed costs (unless you go through paper like crazy)
    • No battery, no software, no firmware, no bad cell reception.
    • If you are investigated, whoever is investigating is going to have to obtain the logbook itself as opposed to just subpoenaing the electronic logbook company to turn over all your info.
    • No data theft.
    • Some countries require paper logbooks.
    • It is easier to allow a potential client flip through the pages than reading on your small cell phone with greasy smudge stains.
    • Harder to “cook the books” with paper.
    • Easier to transfer to another person who purchases a drone from you.
  • Electronic Drone Logbooks or Drone Logbook Apps
    • Totaling up the numbers is soooo much easier.
    • Accurate total numbers.
    • Less time spent on managing the logbooks.
    • You can customize these as you need.
    • Some plans have monthly fees.
    • The data is less likely to be lost compared to a paper copy which has to deal with fire, flood, hurricanes, bad memories, etc.
    • You can have data breaches.
    • Law enforcement or personal injury attorney can subpoena the records from the database.

IV. What Drone Logbooks Are on the Market?

A. Drone Logbooks Apps

Here are the more popular electronic drone logbooks. Some allow you to log pilot experience as well as aircraft time and maintenance. Most have a basic free version and the availability to add plans with extra features for a price.

B. Drone Flight Logbook Templates, Excel, or PDF

Basically, everything I saw on the internet looked bad so I decided to allow people to download the template of the Drone Operator Logbook. If you like this logbook, you can just buy the paperback version of it on Amazon (link below) and save on printing since Amazon sells mine for around $10.

 

To download the logbook template, simply sign up for the newsletter with your email and it should be sent to your email.

C. Paper Drone Logbooks

Here are the more popular paper drone logbooks.

V. Review of the 3 Most Popular Paper Drone Logbooks on the Market

Drone Operator's Logbook
$12.99
  • Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq. (Drone Attorney & Commercial Pilot)
  • 118 Pages
  • (L) 11x (W) 8.5 x (D) 0.3 Inches
  • Softcover
  • Available on Amazon
UAS Pilot Log Expanded Edition
$9.99
  • Drone Prep
  • 112 Pages
  • (L) 9.5 x (W) 7.5 x (D) 0.3 Inches
  • Softcover
  • Available on Amazon
The Standard UAS Operator Log
$9.91
  • (ASA) Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc.
  • 104 Pages
  • (L) 4.5 x (W) 8 x (D) 0.5 Inches
  • Hardcover
  • Available on Amazon

A.  ASA’s The Standard UAS Operator Logbook

ASA's The Standard UAS Operator Logbook

Pros:

  • Compact.
  • Hardcover so you can easily write in it.
  • You could use it with a Section 333 exemption because it is 61.51(b) compatible.

Cons:

  • Some of the columns don’t make sense. For example, there is a “to” category and a “from” category.  We are flying drones here guys. We don’t fly these anywhere else but right where we are standing. Another example is that there is a column for rotor,  fixed wing, and a blank column. What in the world would you put in that blank column? Powered lift or lighter than air?  Another column says instrument time.
  • Small so you can’t write a lot of information in it.

B.  UAS Pilot Log Expanded Edition

UAS Pilot Log Expanded EditionPros

  • It has this cool graph on the side.  This is great for sketching things out. But you could just get regular paper and sketch things out if you need.
  • There is an “eh ok” checklist built into every page.
  • The gutter in between the pages might allow for it to be hole punched.

Cons

  • It does not have rows or columns for the 61.51(b) elements. While 61.51 isn’t a standard for 107 or 101 flyers, if you choose to adopt it, you’ll have to remember to put things in.
  • There are not many columns to log different types of time.
  • It has a pre-flight checklist but no post-flight checklist.

C.  Drone Operator’s Logbook

Brief note on the differences between V 1.2 and V 1.3 of my logbook. The text in the instruction up front was updated to reflect the changes since Part 107 is now law. Also, I changed the top quick notes section of each page from “FAR Required” to “61.51(b)” and “333 Required” to Section 333 to reflect the FAA’s new “may” language in the exemptions. I added more places to log battery cycles in the bottom from 6 to now 12.
 drone-logbook-example
Pros:
  • 61.51(b) elements are included in case you want to adopt this standard.
  • You can log battery discharges right on each page.
  • There is a TON of room on each page. You can easily log all your notes. Since it is also large, you can get regular writing paper and sketch out the job sites and then staple them to the page where you logged the flight.
  • This logbook is large enough to also double as a maintenance logbook for your aircraft. When you make any repairs, staple in the receipts and make detailed so you can better diagnose problems or obtain a higher resell value for the aircraft because you can prove what was done to it. I would suggest if you want to use it as a maintenance logbook, that you buy a separate logbook just for the aircraft in case you fly multiple aircraft.
  • Each page has a “cheat sheet” of things to jog your memory on what you might want to log on each line.
Cons:
  • It is a softcover so writing might be difficult.
  • It is the largest of the logbooks (but you get a lot of room to write). It might be difficult to fit into a plastic sleeve that would fit in a 3 ring binder. However, I think the way around this is to just buy one of the plastic 3 ring expansion envelopes like this one.
  • Some have complained that the gutter is too small which makes it difficult to hole punch the logbook.

VI. How to Fill Out My Drone Logbook.

 

drone-logbook-example

Starting at the top, there are two rows with asterisks which are references for the Type of Flight and Notes sections. There is also a handy time conversion.

DATE: The date of the flight.

 

AIRCRAFT/MAKE & MODEL: Put the make and model of the aircraft.

 

IDENT/Exemption #: In this column, you can put the registration of the aircraft. You can also put in an exemption number if you want.

 

LOCATION. Blanket COA reporting must list the city/town, state, and coordinates in decimal, minute, second format, (DD, MM, SS.S) N (DD, MM, SS.S) W, in the COA reports. Tip: Open up the iPhone compass app and it will display the GPS coordinates in the proper format at the bottom of the compass. 107 remote pilots or 101 recreational flyers are not required to log this but may adopt to.

 

BLANK COLUMN. If you are operating under your 333 exemption still, track your plan of activities (POA) submissions and NOTAM filing. You can also track invoice number, the pre & post voltage of batteries, takeoff or landing damage, equipment malfunctions, or lost link events.

 

TYPE OF FLIGHT. 61.51(b) lists terms like solo/pilot in command/flight, ground training, training received, or simulator training received. Notice the * reminds you to look at the top of the page for suggestions.  333 exemptions allow logging of (training/ proficiency/ experience). Optional entries could be ($/testing/recreation).

 

NOTES.  Here are some suggestions: memory cards [1,2,3], batteries [A,B,C], the name of the visual observer (“VO”), NOTAM filed, the ID of the COA you are flying under, did you file the plan of activities?, Invoice #, pre/post voltage on the batteries, and SQWK (which means you documented in the SQWK section the problems and fixes).If you are a Section 333 operator and you experienced takeoff or landing damage, equipment malfunctions, or lost link events, you MUST report this to the FAA via COA reporting.

 

D/N. day or night?  # of TO/L. Number of take-offs and landings (hopefully they are the same number :)  COA reports want “Number of flights (per location, per aircraft)”

 

Total Flight. Use a new battery for each line and enter the time after each flight. A convenient list of numbers is located on each page to help determine the most accurate entry. .1=6s  .2=12s  .3=18s .4=24s .5=30s .6=36s .7=42s .8=48s .9=54s  For each battery, make sure you log cycles at the bottom with tick marks. This way you can keep track of when to fully discharge the drone battery based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 

SQWK. Squawk section where you list any issues you discovered during flight. Instead of putting all of this in the notes section, just write “sqwk” and you’ll know to look at the bottom. In that section, You look for the number corresponding to the line number because all of the squawks go into the bottom box.

 

You can keep track of firmware updates by listing them below the battery section.

 

When you are finished with a page, add all the numbers up, sign the page, and cut off the corner of the page. This makes it easy to find the most current tab using your thumb.

 

Conclusion

I would highly suggest you do not just go and do nothing after reading this. You should log your flights so as to track any maintenance that needs doing as well as collecting data to know when you need to change our certain parts or the entire drone.

Get a logbook, a piece of paper, a word document, one of the logbooks mentioned above, ANYTHING!  Just do it now. Don’t push it off. You won’t do. Start doing something. Today.

Stay safe. :)


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Crash-What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

crashed droneIf you crashed a drone, there are reporting requirements. Below we will discuss the reporting requirements you make to the FAA and the reporting requirements you make to the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) following a drone crash. Just to be clear, this whole page does NOT apply to Part 101 model aircraft. 

 

Quick Info:

  • “Contact the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. A phone call is sufficient initially, but a written follow-up may be required.”
  • FAA REGIONALOPERATIONS CENTERS. LOCATION WHERE ACCIDENT OCCURRED:
    • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
    • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
    • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
    • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006
  • The FAA also has a website where you can report a crash.
  • NASA AVIATION SAFETY REPORTING SYSTEM
  • Note that the NTSB’s definitions of accident and unmanned aircraft accident and the FAA’s definition of accident in 107.9 are ALL different. It would have been a good idea for the FAA to just match up the definitions of 107.9 to 830.2 to keep things simple.
  • Keep in mind that this article is primarily focusing on Part 107 operations, NOT  Section 333 exemption operations, but most 333 exemptions have a provisions that requires notification to the FAA UAS Integration Office and NTSB so this article is still very relevant although some the requirements might differ. The language of the exemption and Blanket COA supersedes these requirements.

Times:

  • Mandatory:
    • Report an “accident” or “serious incident” (Part 830’s definitions) immediately to the NTSB Response Operations Center.
    • Send NTSB Form 6120.1 in within 10 days for an accident or 7 days for an overdue aircraft that is still missing. For a serious incident and if requested, send in the form. No time is mentioned in 830.15.
    • Notify the FAA within 10 days of the occurrence of an accident (107.9 “accident”).
  • Voluntary:
    • “NASA Form” is within 10 days of the violation.

 

During this 10 day period, you have time to call an attorney to help in figuring out how best to handle the situation and what to say in your report.

Don’t want to read? Watch the video of this article!

 

 

crashed cinematography drone

Who is the NTSB? How Are They Different than the FAA?

crashed drone 2“The NTSB is an independent federal agency, charged by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, determine probable cause, and issue safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents. The agency’s scope extends beyond aviation crashes, as it also investigates selected rail, marine, highway, and pipeline accidents, as well as those involving transportation of hazardous materials.”[1] The NTSB is COMPLETELY separate from the FAA. “The primary role of NTSB is improving safety of our nation’s transportation system. The agency determines the probable cause of accidents and issues safety recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. It does not determine fault or liability. In fact, according to 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b), ‘No part of a report of the Board, related to an accident or an investigation of an accident, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report.’”[2]


In addition to doing investigations, the NTSB can judge appeals of FAA enforcement actions brought against manned aircraft pilots and drone pilots. There are two levels of appeal with the NTSB: (1) the administrative law judge level (ALJ) and (2) the full board of NTSB members. Some of you might remember the Pirker case. The Pirker case was initially won at the ALJ level, but on appeal to the full NTSB Board, was remanded back to the ALJ to determine if Pirker’s flight was careless and reckless.

 

The Reporting Requirements to Make to the NTSB.

Keep in mind the you must IMMEDIATELY notify the NTSB and one quick way you can do this is by contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. Contacting the ROC satisfies 49 CFR 830.5. The below text comes from the NTSB Advisory on Drones which you can download here.

 

NTSB Advisory to Operators of Civil Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the United States

INTRODUCTION

The use of small civil unmanned operating systems (sUAS) is growing rapidly, with changes happening on a nearly daily basis.  In particular, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary issued a new final rule on the operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems[3] and the FAA recently issued a new “blanket Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)” for commercial Section 333[4] and Public Aircraft operators.

 

The new Part 107 rule, the FAA Blanket COA,[5] and other FAA authorizations for UAS operation, direct UAS operators to provide expedited notification to the FAA in the event that any of a series of enumerated occurrences take place during the operation of a UAS.  Included in these instructions are reminders that the FAA procedures “are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) under 49 CFR §830.5.”  By means of this Advisory, the NTSB reminds operators of any civil UAS, other than those operated for hobby or recreational purposes, of the NTSB’s accident and incident reporting requirements in Part 830 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations.

 

BACKGROUND

In August of 2010, the NTSB revised its Part 830 regulations to clarify that its accident and incident notification requirements apply to unmanned aircraft as well as conventional manned aircraft.[6]  Section 830.5 instructs operators of civil aircraft and certain public aircraft to immediately, and by the most expeditious means available, notify the NTSB when an accident or listed incident occurs.

 

An accident will result in the NTSB’s initiating an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.  In order to minimize the burden on operators of a small UAS and the NTSB, we have exempted from the definitions of “aircraft accident” and “unmanned aircraft accident” in section 830.2 of the NTSB regulations those events in which there is only substantial damage to the aircraft (no injuries), and the aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 300 pounds. This is what happened with the Facebook drone. You can read the NTSB crash report.

 

Although any of the incidents enumerated in section 830.5 would require the operator to notify the NTSB, the agency at its discretion may decide to conduct a full investigation with probable cause.

 

REQUIREMENTS

A civil UAS operator must immediately and by the most expeditious means, notify the NTSB of an accident or incident.  An unmanned aircraft accident is defined in 49 C.F.R. § 830.2 as an occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which:

(1) Any person suffers death or serious injury; or

(2) The aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 300 pounds or greater and sustains substantial damage.

Section 830.2 also provides definitions of what constitutes “serious injury” and “substantial damage”.

 

Operators must consider that the rest of the reporting requirements for serious incidents listed in section 830.5 apply regardless of UAS weight.  Listed serious incidents that apply to small UAS include the following events:

  • Flight control system malfunction or failure: For an unmanned aircraft, a true “fly-away” would qualify. A lost link that behaves as expected does not qualify.
  • Inability of any required flight crewmember to perform normal flight duties as a result of injury or illness.  Examples of required flight crewmembers include the pilot, remote pilot; or visual observer if required by regulation.  This does not include an optional payload operator.
  • In-flight fire, which is expected to be generally associated with batteries.
  • Aircraft collision in flight.
  • More than $25,000 in damage to objects other than the aircraft.
  • Release of all or a portion of a propeller blade from an aircraft, excluding release caused solely by ground contact.
  • Damage to helicopter tail or main rotor blades, including ground damage, that requires major repair or replacement of the blade(s).
  • An aircraft is overdue and is believed to have been involved in an accident.

EXAMPLES

Below are examples of potential events.

  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and crashes into a tree, destroying the aircraft:  Not an accident, (though substantial damage, too small, and no injuries), but the operator is required to notify the NTSB of a flight control malfunction. NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and strikes a bystander causing serious injury:  Accident (resulted in serious injury). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB. The NTSB must investigate the accident and determine a probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS hits a tree due to pilot inattention on a windy day:  Not an accident (too small, even if substantial damage). However, the operator is required to notify the NTSB if other criteria of 830.5 are met.  NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A large, experimental UAS (400 lbs) has a structural failure and crashes in a remote area:  Accident (substantial damage and gross takeoff weight of 300 lbs. or greater). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB.  NTSB must investigate and determine a probable cause.

drone-crash-flowchart

 

We’d also like to remind unmanned aircraft operators that none of Part 830 is intended to apply to hobbyist or recreational operators as described in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012[7] and applicable FAA guidance.

 

We hope this advisory serves as a useful reminder to the UAS community that the NTSB remains committed to performing its long-standing mission to support air safety through accident and incident investigation, while placing a minimum burden on this growing industry.

 

This guidance applies to any unmanned aircraft operated under Part 107, 333, civil COA, experimental certificate, etc.  UAS operators should note that they may have additional reporting requirements to the FAA, military, or other government agencies depending on the applicable regulations under which they are operating.

 

For further information or questions, you may contact:

Bill English

National Transportation Safety Board

Major Investigations (AS-10)

[email protected]

 

What happens after I call the NTSB phone number?

After contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour ROC, your notification will be taken and forwarded to the appropriate NTSB division for processing. The reported event will be evaluated and a determination will be made whether or not the NTSB will investigate the event. All aircraft accidents as defined by 49 CFR 830.2 are investigated in some capacity, as are select incidents. If an investigation is opened into an event, an investigator will then contact the operator/reporting party to request additional information.

While I’m waiting, do I have to protect the aircraft wreckage?

49 CFR § 830.10 says,

(a) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident for which notification must be given is responsible for preserving to the extent possible any aircraft wreckage, cargo, and mail aboard the aircraft, and all records, including all recording mediums of flight, maintenance, and voice recorders, pertaining to the operation and maintenance of the aircraft and to the airmen until the Board takes custody thereof or a release is granted pursuant to §831.12(b) of this chapter.

(b) Prior to the time the Board or its authorized representative takes custody of aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo, such wreckage, mail, or cargo may not be disturbed or moved except to the extent necessary:

(1) To remove persons injured or trapped;

(2) To protect the wreckage from further damage; or

(3) To protect the public from injury.

(c) Where it is necessary to move aircraft wreckage, mail or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage and any significant impact marks.

(d) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident shall retain all records, reports, internal documents, and memoranda dealing with the accident or incident, until authorized by the Board to the contrary.

 

I called the NTSB phone number. I am currently waiting for an NTSB investigator to contact me. Is there anything I can do now to assist the investigation?

If the event meets the criteria of 49 CFR 830 and is determined to be an aircraft accident, the NTSB investigator assigned to the case will require the operator to complete NTSB Form 6120.1 – Pilot Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report. 49 CFR 830.15 requires you file the form “within 10 days after an accident, or after 7 days if an overdue aircraft is still missing.” Should you be directed to complete Form 6120.1 – “Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report”, please do as follows:

  • Obtain the form from the requesting NTSB office or download a form-fillable PDF version.
  • The form-fillable version can be edited and saved repeatedly, or simply printed and filled out manually using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent software).
  • DO NOT submit the form until you are contacted by an investigator and are provided with instructions regarding where to send the form. Forms can be submitted by email, FAX, or post mail.
  • Keep in mind that Form 6120.1 has many boxes and fields that are not very applicable to drone pilots. Just do the best you can in filling it all out. The investigator will contact you if there are any questions.

 

Filing of this report with the assigned investigator satisfies the requirements of 49 CFR 830.15 – Reports and statements to be filed. DO NOT submit a report form in-lieu of providing an initial notification of an aircraft accident to the NTSB ROC.

 

The Reporting Requirements to Make to the FAA

There are two types of reporting made to the FAA: (1) when there has been a deviation from the regulations and requested to report, and (2) when there has been an accident.

1. Upon Request Following a Deviation Due to an Emergency

107.21 In-flight emergency.

(a) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the remote pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent necessary to meet that emergency.

(b) Each remote pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (a) of this section must, upon request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

2. After an Accident (Within 10 Days)

The FAA gives you 10 days to respond. I would highly suggest you take this time to contact an attorney. Remember that the FAA can prosecute you if you did something stupid.

107.9 Accident reporting.

No later than 10 calendar days after an operation that meets the criteria of either paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, a remote pilot in command must report to the FAA, in a manner acceptable to the Administrator, any operation of the small unmanned aircraft involving at least:

(a) Serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness; or

(b) Damage to any property, other than the small unmanned aircraft, unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:

(1) The cost of repair (including materials and labor) does not exceed $500; or

(2) The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of total loss.

The FAA provided more guidance on this regulation on page 4-3 in their Advisory Circular 107-2:

“1. At least serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness. A serious injury is an injury that qualifies as Level 3 or higher on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM). The AIS is an anatomical scoring system that provides a means of ranking the severity of an injury and is widely used by emergency medical personnel. Within the AIS system, injuries are ranked on a scale of 1 to 6, with Level 1 being a minor injury, Level 2 is moderate, Level 3 is serious, Level 4 is severe, Level 5 is critical, and Level 6 is a nonsurvivable injury. The FAA currently uses serious injury (AIS Level 3) as an injury threshold in other FAA regulations.”

“Note: It would be considered a “serious injury” if a person requires hospitalization, but the injury is fully reversible (including, but not limited to, head trauma, broken bone(s), or laceration(s) to the skin that requires suturing).”  [“In addition to serious injuries, this rule will also require accident reporting for accidents that result in any loss of consciousness because a brief loss of consciousness may not rise to the level of a serious injury.”[8]]

“2. Damage to any property, other than the small UA, if the cost is greater than $500 to repair or replace the property (whichever is lower).”

“Note: For example, a small UA damages a property whose fair market value is $200, and it would cost $600 to repair the damage. Because the fair market value is below $500, this accident is not required to be reported. Similarly, if the aircraft causes $200 worth of damage to property whose fair market value is $600, that accident is also not required to be reported because the repair cost is below $500.”

Why is the $500 number important?

When you do your pre-flight walk around, you should be figuring out what is $500 and cheaper in in the area. The FAA said, “Property damage below $500 is minimal and may even be part of the remote pilot in command’s mitigations to ensure the safety of the operation. For example, a remote pilot in command may mitigate risk of loss of positive control by positioning the small UAS operation such that the small unmanned aircraft will hit uninhabited property in the event of a loss of positive control.”[9]

 

What Do I Report to the FAA?

Remember that the NTSB try to find causes to promote safety and does NOT do enforcement actions while the FAA DOES do enforcement actions.  The FAA gave us a clue as to how they will handle this going forward, “the confined-area-of-operation regulations discussed in section III.E.3 of this preamble, such as the general prohibition on flight over people, are designed with the express purpose of preventing accidents in which a small unmanned aircraft hits a person on the head and causes them to lose consciousness or worse. Thus, if there is a loss of consciousness resulting from a small UAS operation, there may be a higher probability of a regulatory violation.”[10]

 

You are really between a rock and hard place if there is a crash. Why? Because law enforcement or someone else will likely report the accident to the FAA. If you don’t report, you will get in trouble.  If you do report, you COULD get in trouble. You might want to contact an attorney during this 10 day period before you file the report.  Remember that everything you report can and will be used against you.

 

Submitting the Report. The accident report must be made within 10 calendar-days of the operation that created the injury or damage. The report may be submitted to the appropriate FAA Regional Operations Center (ROC) electronically or by telephone. Electronic reporting can be completed at www.faa.gov/uas/. Reports may also be made to the nearest jurisdictional FSDO (http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/). The report should include the following information:

  1. sUAS remote PIC’s name and contact information;
  2. sUAS remote PIC’s FAA airman certificate number;
  3. sUAS registration number issued to the aircraft, if required (FAA registration number);
  4. Location of the accident;
  5. Date of the accident;
  6. Time of the accident;
  7. Person(s) injured and extent of injury, if any or known;
  8. Property damaged and extent of damage, if any or known; and
  9. Description of what happened.

 

FAA REGIONALOPERATIONS CENTERS LOCATION WHERE ACCIDENT OCCURRED:

  • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
  • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
  • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
  • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006

Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) aka “The NASA Report.”

 

The ASRS system is run by NASA which is why this report is nicknamed the “NASA Form” or the “NASA Report.”  “The FAA also notes that the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is available for voluntary reporting of any aviation safety incident or situation in which aviation safety may have been compromised. The FAA offers ASRS reporters guarantees and incentives to encourage reporting by holding ASRS reports in strict confidence and not using ASRS information against reporters in enforcement actions. Further, the FAA agrees that data collection is a valuable tool for determining a baseline for performance, reliability, and risk assessment. The FAA plans to develop a tool where remote pilots of small UAS can voluntarily share data which may not meet the threshold for accident reporting. This would provide a means for evaluation of operational integrity for small UAS.”[11]

 

Unfortunately, the FAA said, “The FAA disagrees that SMS and ASRS systems should be covered on the [Part 107] knowledge test[]. . . . because ASRS is not currently required knowledge for part 61 pilot certificate holders.” This means you aren’t required to KNOW this but you SHOULD. On top of the FAA NOT requiring you to know this, they mention NOTHING about this report in AC 107-2. Remember, this report benefits you more than the FAA.

 

Keep in mind that the report goes to NASA, not the FAA. NASA is a completely separate agency from the FAA, just like NTSB. “There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 34 years of the ASRS under NASA management.”

 

Why Should I file a “NASA Report?”

Advisory Circular 00-46E says,

“The FAA considers the filing of a report with NASA concerning an incident or occurrence involving a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII or the 14 CFR to be indicative of a constructive attitude. Such an attitude will tend to prevent future violations. Accordingly, although a finding of violation may be made, neither a civil penalty nor certificate suspension will be imposed if:

(1) The violation was inadvertent and not deliberate;

(2) The violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or action under 49 U.S.C. § 44709, which discloses a lack of qualification or competency, which is wholly excluded from this policy;

(3) The person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII, or any regulation promulgated there for a period of 5 years prior to the date of occurrence; and

(4) The person proves that, within 10 days after the violation, or date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA.

There are no limitations on how many NASA Reports you can file. Immunity will not be granted if you received an enforcement action and have been found in violation of the FAR’s within the previous 5 years from the date of occurrence.

 

So I should always file a NASA Report? It looks like a “get out of jail free card.”

No! If you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, then that information will NOT be
deidentified before NASA sends the information to the Department of Justice for criminal actions or the FAA and NTSB for accidents.  This means the report you filed with your name, phone number, address, and a whole bunch of other goodies is going to be sent over to the guys who can prosecute you! How convenient. So if you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, ESPECIALLY if you are unsure if you fall into one of those categories or not, you should contact me. Flying intentionally into a 99.7 TFR is a criminal penalty.

 

Keep in mind that this is a waiver from disciplinary action. You will still have a violation show up on your pilot record.

 

Great. So there aren’t any other issues with reporting?

Potentially. Section 91.25 says, “The Administrator of the FAA will not use reports submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (or information derived therefrom) in any enforcement action except information concerning accidents or criminal offenses which are wholly excluded from the Program.” The problem is that is Part 91 and NOT part 107. The FAA didn’t include a Part 107 equivalent.

 

We know that NASA won’t give over the info. The FAA can find out a lot of info on their own and can initiate an enforcement action. The idea of the NASA Form was to prevent the imposition of a civil penalty or suspension when the FAA got the info on their own. The FAA indicated in the Part 107 preamble they would continue to honor the program. However, they could change their mind in the future, it isn’t a regulation, and go after people who have filed a NASA Form, but they would get insane amounts of pressure from the safety community to not do that. I’m just making you aware of this situation.

 

I hope this helps you guys understand what you need to do and when you need to contact me after a crash. Keep in mind that this was only about the FAA and NTSB, not about other potential liability issues that could come about as a result of the crash.

 

Continue to the Next Topic: Temporary Flight Restrictions (Civil and Criminal Punishments)

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[1] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/speeches/rsumwalt/Documents/Sumwalt_141020.pdf

[2] Id. citing 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b).

[3] See 81 Fed. Reg.  42063 (June 28, 2016).  This action fulfills Congress’s direction in section 332(b) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-95, for the Secretary of Transportation and the FAA to issue a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems that will allow for civil operations of UAS in the National Airspace System.

[4] Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 provides that “[i]f the Secretary of Transportation determines that … certain unmanned aircraft systems  may operate safely in the national airspace system,  the Secretary  shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.”

[5] The FAA Blanket COA for any Operator issued a Valid Section 333 Grant of Exemption (FAA Form 7711-1).

[6] 75 Fed. Reg. 51955 (August 24, 2010).

[7] Section 336(c) states that the term the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

[8] Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42, 178 (June 28, 2016).

[9] Id. at 42,178.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at 42,179.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Law for Drone Training Educators, K-12 Schools, & Universities. (Updated for 2017)

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. Why am I all pro-STEM education? My wife and I ran a LEGO robotics business for a while where we taught physics and robotics. 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.

Don’t want to read? Watch or listen to the article here while you are doing something.

 

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

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II. How Drone Training Educators Can Fly Legally

 

Unmanned aircraft can be flown as public aircraft under a public COA, as civil aircraft flown under a 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. Below is a graphical summary of the requirements of each of the different classifications. Purple is where the burden of determining the standards is placed upon the remote pilot in command. Grey is where the FAA determines the standards.

[tweet_dis_img]Wrong image[/tweet_dis_img]

We are now going to explore each of the 4 options as they relate to drone education.

A. Public Aircraft Operations Under a Public Certificate of Authorization (COA).

public-coaPublic aircraft are those that (1) fall into 1 of 5 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).

Unfortunately, educators and schools are unable to fly unmanned aircraft under a public COA for education. (Keep in mind many universities are flying under public COAs but 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 Section 333 Exemption for Drone Training and Education

section-333-exemptionstandardsSection 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 says:

(b) ASSESSMENT OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.—In making the determination under subsection (a), the Secretary shall determine, at a minimum—

(1) which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as a result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and populated areas, and operation within visual line of sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and

(2) whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 of title 49, United States Code, is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

This authority given to the FAA was created before Part 107 or Part 101 were created.  The FAA’s view at that time was that all the FARs applied to civil aircraft.  These regulations were 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 FAA was given authority under Section 333 but needed another legal tool to help the drone operators get airborne.

The FAA used the authority given to them in Section 333 to determine that the unmanned aircraft did not need an airworthiness certificate. The remaining regulations were taken care of by using the Part 11 exemption process. This is why the paperwork allowing you to fly was nicknamed the 333 exemption, even though Section 333 does NOT provide any exemption powers!

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.

The FAA wisely decided to create restrictions in the 333 exemption which required the pilot in command to determine the airworthiness of the aircraft and determine proper maintenance; however, all the pilots were still required to have a sport pilot license or higher, a driver’s license or a 3rd class medical, and they were still limited by Part 91 and its restrictions regarding their operation.

Exemptions are operation specific. The first group of exemptions were for the cinematography industry which was focused on creating movies, not on instructing or education. The restrictions slowly morphed over time to be “eh O.K.” enough to allow for other industries to use the 333 exemptions.

Over a year after the first exemptions were granted, on November 20, 2015, the FAA finally granted a Section 333 exemption to Kansas States University to allow for flight instructing.

The 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 Section 333 exemption. The idea behind the memo was to allow people to fly for purposes of education without having to obtain a Section 333 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. See FAA Updated Section 333 Exemptions.

3. The FAA’s Memo on the Educational Use of Drones and Part 101 (Recreational Operations)

far-part-101-recreational-model-aircraft-dronesa. Background to Part 101 Subpart E.

Up until Part 101 Subpart E went into effect, the FAA was pretty much echoing the definition of model aircraft as defined in Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Part 101 Subpart E is just a copy-paste of Section 336.

Keep in mind that the terms “model aircraft” and “recreational aircraft” are used interchangeably throughout the FAA’s website and material even though recreational aircraft might not be a miniature model versions of a full-sized manned aircraft (e.g. Phantom 4 as opposed to a model P-51 Mustang).

The FAA’s treatment of Section 336 is really weird because the FAA uses Section 336 to somehow define model aircraft but Section 336 was specifically directed at the FAA telling them what NOT to regulate.  The FAA ignored what Congress said in Section 336 twice. Once when the FAA created the new Part 48 registration regulations and secondly when they created Part 101 Subpart E.  For a much more in-depth discussion of how the FAA has violated Section 336 see my article on why the registration requirements and regulations are illegal.

The reasons I have question marks over these areas is that the newly created Part 48 regulations and the FAA’s interpretation that all aircraft are required to be registered are being challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. How the court rules will determine the effect of the FAA’s interpretations, Part 101, and Part 107 on model aircraft operations.

b. The Educational Memo

The reason why the educational memo was created was that many universities were wanting to offer classes where students would be required to fly the aircraft. This brought up questions such as “does the university need a Section 333 Exemption?” or “does the student need a pilot license?” There were also spin-off questions such as “can we teach the local 4-H, Boy Scouts, etc. about drones?”

The FAA summed the memo up in three points:

  • A person may operate an unmanned aircraft for hobby or recreation in accordance with Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) at educational institutions and community-sponsored events[1]provided that the person is (1) not compensated or (2) any compensation received is neither directly or incidentally related to that person’s operation of the aircraft at such events;
  • A student may conduct model aircraft operations in accordance with Section 336 of the FMRA in furtherance of his or her aviation-related education at an accredited educational institution;
  • Faculty teaching aviation-related courses at accredited education institutions may assist students who are operating a model aircraft under Section 336 and in common with a course that requires such operations, provided that the student maintains operational control of the model aircraft such that the faculty member’s manipulation of the model aircraft’s controls is incidental and secondary to the students (e.g. the faculty member steps in to regain control in the event the student begins to lose control, to terminate flight, etc.)

UAS Demonstrations

Hobbyists or enthusiasts can fly at an “accredited educational institution or other community-sponsored events to promote the safe use of UAS and encourage students’ interest in aviation as a hobby or for recreational purposes provided the hobbyist receives no compensation of any kind (honorarium or reimbursement of costs), or any such compensation neither directly or indirectly furthers the hobbyists’ business or operation of the UAS.[4]

Keep in mind that the last portion is very broad. If you think this might apply to you, the work around is to just do demos inside a completely enclosed building and avoid all these legal gymnastic problems.

Student Use

We were all wondering if the skills learned from education somehow prevented the flight from being recreational. The FAA’s interpretation of recreational was that the operator was not receiving any direct or indirect benefit. Skills would be an indirect benefit so this kept many on the sideslines.

The FAA went on to say that just because a student learns about the knowledge of flight does not make the flight not hobby and recreational when they will use that knowledge to get a degree.[5] The link between knowledge, to degree, to job is just “too attenuated” to be considered outside of hobby or recreational use.

The FAA concluded that UAS flying for “students at accredited educational institutions as a component of science, technology, and aviation-related educational curricula or other coursework such as television or film production or the arts more closely reflects and embodies the purposed of ‘hobby and recreation[.]’”[6]

If the student receives any reimbursement for costs or an honorarium then that is NOT hobby and recreational; however, a student may receive financial aid, participating in a work-study program, or being a paid research assistant to a faculty member teaching the course.[7]

Faculty Use

Faculty teaching a course or curricula that uses unmanned aircraft as a component of that course may provide limited assistance to students operating the unmanned aircraft” without changing the student’s hobby and recreational classification or the need for the faculty to obtain FAA authorization.[8]

This limited assistance exception is only where the UAS operation is secondary in the course; however, if UAS operations is the primary reason for the course, the faculty member would need authorization, but the student, as defined above, would not.

It is NOT considered hobby and recreational for a faculty member or assistant to operate a drone as part of their professional duties. Additionally, a professor cannot do a “work around” and get the students to fly the drone for purposes of the faculty member’s professional research objectives.

When Does a University’s Class/Operations NOT Fall Into This Exception?

  • Faculty operating the drone for research and development
  • Faculty supervising students doing research and development using a drone
  • UAS flight instruction where the faculty instructor is actively involved in the operation (not incidental and secondary); however, just teaching without touching the controls would be fine. (Think of it like the faculty is the air traffic controller teaching the student how to land the aircraft.)

Problems I See:

  • How much of this has been superseded or will be overruled?
    • Does the newly created Part 101 nullify the older 336 interpretations? Will the FAA treat the 336 interpretations like they were really Part 101 interpretations?
    • How will the Taylor cases in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals cause problems to the reach of the interpretations on the 336 protected model aircraft class?
    • Keep in mind the FAA mentioned in the Part 107 preamble that they are revising the 2014 model aircraft interpretation.
  • Must the Model Aircraft Be Registered?
    • Nothing is said in the memo about whether the aircraft must be registered or not. This is most likely an oversight on the FAA’s part since they have been campaigning hard about the need for all aircraft 250 grams or above to be registered.
    • The FAA’s interpretation of Section 336 is that it prohibits the specific regulation of model aircraft, not the regulation of all aircraft as a whole like it is some sort of civil rights for drones equal protection clause which does not in any way work with the meaning of “special” in the title to Section 336. In other words, how are model aircraft special (as indicated in the title of 336) if model aircraft are required to be treated like everyone else?
  • Are Model Aircraft Special or Not?
    • There is something seriously incongruous with the FAA’s view of Section 336 and Part 101 and how Section 336 actually reads. The FAA seems to view 336, and now Part 101, as a means of allowing model aircraft flights without “authorization”[9]when in reality it is specifically addressed at the FAA telling them to not create any rule or regulation governing model aircraft.
  • FPV Flying
    • The FAA in their 2014 interpretation on the model aircraft rules indicated that FPV racing would NOT fall within Section 336’s definition of model aircraft.[11]An interesting point here is the Federal Aviation Regulations required the pilot to “see and avoid” other aircraft[12] and Section 336 defines the model aircraft as being “flown within visual light of sight of the person flying the aircraft.”[13] This all logically follows that the FAA’s interpretation would be that FPV racing, while possibly permitted under this interpretation, would NOT be permitted under their model aircraft interpretation from 2014 since it would not be considered a “model aircraft” for purposes of Section 336 or Part 101.

So what does all this mean?

There are more problems here than a MacGyver episode.

There are two easy solutions for educators and schools: (1) have the students and teachers all fly indoors or (2) have the teacher/professor obtain a Part 107 remote pilot certificate and one student flies under the direct supervision of the teacher/professor. Part 107 is a far less restrictive than the newly amended Section 333 exemptions.


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

far-part-107-standards

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 What Drone Operators Need to Know About the New Part 107 Drone Regulations.

There are many resources out there to study for the exam. There are some paid courses out there, 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.

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.

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[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.