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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 Sightings (2014-2017)

Many have been talking about the FAA’s drone sightings reports. We have constantly seen in the news the reports. Others in the industry cite the drone sightings as evidence of the greater need for the government(s) to do something by creating regulations. Some counter-drone companies have used it to show a need for their product.  Regardless of where you come from in the industry and your motives, we need to accurately understand the drone sightings data.

Update: UAS Weekly reported, “Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team (UAST) Drone Sightings Working Group released a new report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 3,714 drone sightings reports collected by flight crews, air traffic controllers and citizens from November 2015 to March 2017. The report found that only a small percentage of drone reports pose a safety risk, while the vast majority are simply sightings.” Report is located here. 

Table of Contents:

 

Quick Summary of the Drone Sightings:

  • The FAA has inaccurately reported the drone sightings data they have published.
  • There are more drone sightings in populated areas.
  • There are more drone sightings in warmer months than colder.
  • States with larger populations have more drone sightings.
  • The drone sightings over time are steadily growing.
  • Any discussions we have on this topic should be using numbers and not percentages or words.

Basically, population and weather/climate are the determining factors of when and where you’ll have drone sightings.

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Fact Checking the FAA’s Drone Sightings Data:

  • The Academy of Model Aeronautics, as well as others, have brought up the drone sightings data. The AMA has multiple reports analyzing the data which called into questions much of the data. Some of the drone sightings are law enforcement drones, balloons, or just harmless drone sightings.  Here is a striking quote from their 5/10/2017 report, “In AMA’s previous analysis, AMA found that 3.5% (August 2015) and 3.3% (March 2016) of sightings included the explicit notation of’ ‘NMAC’ (near mid-air collision) or ‘near miss.’ Our analysis of the newest 1,270 records released in February 2017 show about the same percentage of near misses in the new data. Just 3.4% of sightings in the February 2017 data contains a specific notation indicating a near miss.” Here are some of the AMA’s reports:
  • The FAA even commented on this in the small unmanned aircraft registration rule, “Some commenters specifically found fault with FAA’s reliance on increased number of UAS ‘incidents’ reported to the FAA by manned aircraft pilots. Several commenters noted that the AMA analyzed those reported ‘incidents’ and found that out of the 764 reported records, only 27 (or 3.5%) were identified as a near mid-air collision, with nearly all of those involving government-authorized military drones. The commenters noted that most of the ‘incidents’ have merely been sightings of UAS. One individual pointed out that the FAA has published no analysis of its own ‘sightings’ data; nor has it disputed the AMA’s analysis of that data. This individual also asserted that a doubling in the rate of UAS ‘sightings’ in 2015 is consistent with the rate of growth of consumer small UAS, and is not cause for overreaction.”
  • Drone Sightings Fact Check HuertaMichael Huerta, the head of the FAA, said at Interdrone in September 2107, “We’re receiving an average of about 200 drone-sighting reports from pilots each month this year.” This is not accurate. The average for the year through August was 190. Notice that Huerta mentioned the number at the tail end of the cycle. See the graph. If he would have made the statement the next month in October, the average would have been 188.6. The average would have continued to decrease for the next so many months. Why did they not use the 6 month average from October to March which was 133.5?
  • On 10/12/2017, the FAA requested information collection review from OIRA to collect information for their LAANC system. The FAA said, “Today there are an average of 250 safety reports a month, or approximately 1,500 over a six-month period, associated with a potential risk of an incident between manned aircraft and a UAS.”  The big problem with this was the average is NOT 250!  In the preceding 6 months, the total  (1,295) was LESS than 1,500 and will be LESS than 1,500 in the upcoming 6 months based on previous data trends. In other words, this information was completely wrong. The average and the 6 month total were both completely wrong.

Important Thoughts on the Drone Sightings Data:

  • The FAA has done a bad job at “cleaning” the data. What you end with is this large number that is thrown out all over the place on the news. Many think the total number is the actual number of drone near misses because they don’t really bother to look further into the data.  Many of the drone sightings are simply harmless sightings that could be lawfully flying drone individuals. The FAA’s Federal Register indicated that 14,334 COAs have already been issued for flights near airports.  The FAA gave us some big numbers without indicating how many of these “sightings” were lawful or not. They didn’t “clean” the data for lawful flights.
  • The FAA has done a very poor job on giving access to the data. One would think it was intentionally created in such a way as to not be easily searchable. Before you read my points below, compare it to the FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing portal. Just search around a little bit and you’ll see how just in-depth and detailed the data is. You’ll also notice that it is very searchable. Just compare these two screenshots to see what I mean.

FAA’s Excel Spreadsheet of Drone Sightings

drone-sightings-excel

FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing

FAA accident database.

  • I’ll give you some examples of why I  say the data is hard to work with (if not intentionally designed to be that way).
    • The quarters do not have consistent formats which means you have to rearrange things. You’re going to have to do copy and pasting and use the left, right, or mid extraction function a bunch. Even that doesn’t work so well because of the terms and format change.
    • A whole quarter has an apostrophe in front of EVERY date which prevents you from sorting and totaling by date unless you remove it.
    • The data in the preliminary reports are all in one chunk for each line so you have to use more advanced Excel extraction formulas to extract the text which prevents lay people from analyzing the data.
    • The dates have times included in the dates which create more problems for sorting. The time isn’t extracted to its own column. You have to use the text to column function to fix this.
  • Why in the world has the FAA NOT done something similar to this with FAA enforcement actions against drone flyers? The FAA is very secretive about the prosecutions against illegal and unsafe drone flyers. We only learned about 23 enforcement actions against drone operators after a reporter at Motherboard had to file a FOIA request and wait months to obtain the information. Since then, another reporter asked the FAA and received the total from 2014 – summer 2017.  A whopping 48 prosecutions. The FAA CAN create a drone enforcement database. They are already doing this with others under the FAA’s jurisdiction. See the FAA’s enforcement action reports. Compare those enforcement reports to the drone sightings data and you’ll see once again the drone sightings data is just poorly put together. enforcement-reports-drone-sightings
  • Why is it that the Academy of Model Aeronautics and I have published material on this and not the FAA? 

Graphs Created from the Drone Sightings Report:

These totals and graphs are based on data from 9/30/2017 to 11/13/14 which is almost 3 years.

drone-sightings-by-month

drone-sightings-by-state

drone-sightings-by-state

How You Can Use the Data:

Drone Operators: If you are operating near large populations, during the day, or during warmer months, you have a greater chance of having problems with local law enforcement misidentifying you as the other reckless crazy guy flying. Additionally, if you live near a large population that has a warm climate, you have a greater chance of having more state drone laws and/or local laws being created to counter the more numerous drone sightings.

Manned Pilots:  Drones typically fly around populated areas during warm weather. Take this into account when doing safety risk management.

Cities & States: If you don’t have that much of a population, you should think twice about creating a drone law as it will impact businesses greater than it will benefit the public which is small.  Conversely, if you are a large city or heavily populated state, you should seriously consider figuring out a legal game plan for dealing with the drones.  FAA is doing its pilot program to work with local governments to create state and local drone laws. There are issues with that. See that article for more details.

Practical Suggestions for the FAA:

  • Start publishing the enforcement actions against illegal and unsafe operators.
  • Start doing more enforcement actions against the illegal and unsafe operators which are all over the internet. Yes, I know it might be hard to find SOME of the bad actors but you literally have, not fruit, but fruit gift baskets laying on the ground of people you can go after right now.
  • Change your enforcement philosophy so you aren’t so relaxed with drone operators. The common feeling in the drone community is you get one free stupid stunt and THEN the FAA might come after it you. Meanwhile, all the LAWFUL operators are losing business or having to deal with state and local regulations being created because of the FAA’s inactivity. The FAA is not pro-business. Consistent inactivity hurts the drone industry and businesses.

 


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.

107.5 Falsification, reproduction or alteration.

Take me back to the Drone Regulations Directory.

§ 107.5 Falsification, reproduction or alteration.

(a) No person may make or cause to be made—

(1) Any fraudulent or intentionally false record or report that is required to be made, kept, or used to show compliance with any requirement under this part.

(2) Any reproduction or alteration, for fraudulent purpose, of any certificate, rating, authorization, record or report under this part.

(b) The commission by any person of an act prohibited under paragraph (a) of this section is a basis for any of the following:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate or a certificate of waiver,

(2) Suspension or revocation of any certificate or waiver issued by the Administrator under this part and held by that person; or

(3) A civil penalty

 

My Commentary on § 107.5 Falsification, reproduction or alteration:

Paragraph (a) applies to remote pilots as well as NON-remote pilots.

An act in (a) can be punished by (1)-(3).

(3) is especially useful in situations where the person does not have a remote pilot certificate and does not have any intentions of obtaining one.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on § 107.5 Falsification, reproduction or alteration

Falsification, Reproduction, or Alteration. The FAA relies on information provided by owners and remote pilots of sUAS when it authorizes operations or when it has to make a compliance determination. Accordingly, the FAA may take appropriate action against an sUAS owner, operator, remote PIC, or anyone else who fraudulently or knowingly provides false records or reports, or otherwise reproduces or alters any records, reports, or other information for fraudulent purposes. Such action could include civil sanctions and the suspension or revocation of a certificate or waiver

 

FAA’s Discussion on § 107.5 Falsification, reproduction or alteration from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule 

Currently, the U.S. criminal code prohibits fraud and falsification in matters within the jurisdiction of the executive branch. 18 U.S.C. Section 1001.The FAA too may impose civil sanctions in instances of fraud and falsification in matters within its jurisdiction. The FAA has exercised this power in 14 CFR 61.59, 67.403, 121.9, and 139.115, which currently impose civil prohibitions on fraud and false statements made in matters within the FAA’s jurisdiction.

The NPRM proposed to prohibit a person from making a fraudulent or intentionally false record or report that is required for compliance with the provisions of part 107. The NPRM also proposed to prohibit a person from making any reproduction or alteration, for a fraudulent purpose, of any certificate, rating, authorization, record, or report that is made pursuant to part 107. Finally, the NPRM proposed to specify that the commission of a fraudulent or intentionally false act in violation of § 107.5(a) could result in the denial, suspension, or revocation of a certificate or waiver issued by the FAA pursuant to this proposed rule. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will finalize these provisions as proposed with some minor revisions for clarification purposes.

Three organizations and one individual commented on the proposal to prohibit fraud and false statements, and all of those commenters generally supported the proposal. For example, the Small UAV Coalition stated that they support the FAA’s proposal to prohibit intentionally false or fraudulent documents used to show compliance with part 107, and added that such false or fraudulent records or reports warrant enforcement action. One individual supported “heavy fines or jail” for those providing false information.

Two commenters, the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and the Institute of Makers of Explosives, requested clarification as to the penalties that could be imposed for violating the prohibition on fraud and false statements. The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences asked whether FAA Order 2150.3B would be applicable in its existing form to operations under part 107 and if so, whether the sanctions guideline ranges described in that publication are appropriate for violations of part 107.

Subpart C of 14 CFR part 13 specifies the penalties that the FAA may impose in response to a regulatory violation. To provide further clarity, the FAA has amended § 107.5 with a list of potential sanctions that could be imposed in response to a violation of § 107.5. Those sanctions may, among other things, include a civil penalty or certificate action. The FAA has also issued generally applicable guidance on sanctions that may be imposed for regulatory violations, which can be found in FAA Order 2150.3B. The FAA is currently considering whether Order 2150.3B addresses UAS-specific considerations that may arise in enforcement actions under part 107, and the agency may revise this order, as appropriate, to reflect this consideration.

 

 


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.

Railroad Drones (Uses, Legal Issues, Solutions, etc.)

 

Interested in integrating drones into your railroad company or service provider company?

This video is designed specifically for you.

It will cover: (1) where we currently are with the law, (2) where we are going, (3) railroad specific use cases and their problems, (4) important questions that need answering regarding integrating drones into companies, (5) a helpful solution for your company to “get a grasp” on how your company should position itself regarding drone integration (since many companies are having a hard time trying to figure out “what they should do”), and (6) words of warning.

Helpful Articles:

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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.

Online Drone Training

Below is a Tentative List of Online Courses I’m Planning on Developing

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• Part 107 – Drone Regulations
• How to fly recreationally and not get in trouble with the FAA (Section 336)
• Visual observer training for 107 flying
• Airspace for Drones
• Weather for Drones
• Loading and Performance for Drones
• Radios for Drones (Understanding What Other Pilots are Saying for Better Situation Awareness)
• Understanding Airport Traffic Patterns for Drones
• Aeronautical Decision Making for Drones
• Human Physiology for Drones
• How to do Public aircraft operations, public COA, ACOA, etc.
• How to apply for a public COA.
• Which do I need? (Part 101 v. Part 107 v. Public COA v. Section 333 Exemption)
• How to File for an Airspace Authorization
• Safety Risk Management for Drones (Hazard Identification, mitigations, etc.).
• Creating a checklist
• Preflight Planning for Drones
• Starting a Drone Business

Videos specific to an industry (Basically, what I would tell a person who is planning on going into this area what the big problems are they need to watch out for)

o Mapping
o Fire fighting
o Police
o Construction
o Real Estate
o Precision Agriculture
o Cinematography
o Wedding Photography
o News Gathering
o Education (University, K-12, Independent Instructor, etc.)

 


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.

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.

Poms and Associates Interview

I did an interview with Poms and Associates. In the interview, I discussed the types of insurance and why a drone operator would need insurance.

Expert Interview Series: Jonathan Rupprecht of JRupprechtLaw.com About Drone Law


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.

Protected: The Dronion- (Safety Through Satire) Post 1: The FAA Releases Some Part 107 Test Questions

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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.

A Quick Comment on a Forbes Article on Drones

I wanted to add a few points on the “Disruptive Regulation, or ‘Mother May I?’” section of the recent Forbe’s article Drone Disruption: The Stakes, The Players, And The Opportunities.

Much of the focus of the VC money is on the technology with very little being put into regulatory R & D and interacting with the already existing regulatory structure. Great. People start thinking about lobbying to get around the regulatory problems by getting Congress to give the FAA a special type of legal authority, but once again, we are back at the regulatory R & D point because that new special authority is going to have to assimilate and interact with all the other provisions of the already existing regulatory structure.

On top of the lack of VC money going into the legal R & D area, many of the large companies are being represented by lawyers dabbling in the drone law who are not qualified. One great example is where one law firm wrote an exemption for their client for a pixhawk flight controller, not an aircraft. Let that sink in for a second. You get exemptions for aircraft, not exemptions for parts of an aircraft, which showed the inferior drone 101 knowledge of that firm. That firm later picked up a multi-billion dollar massive global company as their client for another 333 exemption. Another example is of legal malpractice where a different lawyer at a different law firm negligently didn’t complete certain paperwork for their client’s exemption and the exemption was denied, which put the client in a bind because the client could not legally operate their drone commercially for months and months until approval. That attorney is now trying to work with other large companies.

There is also a lot of flux in the law and the FAA guidance. The FAA is relying on their “guidance,” not law, and when they do use regulations, it is because they arbitrarily “activated” regulations that had not historically been applied to drones. Basically, everyone is violating a regulation when they fly their drone. Even flying according to their own guidance documents alone is not compatible with the regulations! The FAA uses this to make you comply with their guidance, because if you don’t, they come after you for violating the regulations, not guidance.

Currently there is a lawsuit going on in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (the court right below the U.S. Supreme Court) challenging the FAA’s drone registration regulations. My firm is assisting John Taylor, the Plaintiff. Basically, the FAA went too quickly and did not do all they were legally required to do to create the registration regulations. On top of that, they also “activated” some registration regulations that had not been historically applied to drones. There is a chance those regulations with be thrown out by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals because they were illegally created – which is going to cause things to slow down because the FAA will make sure all their ducks are in a row.  The court ruled in favor of John Taylor and the regulations were declared illegal; however, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 which basically overruled the Taylor ruling so the registration regulations are back in effect. A more detailed analysis of the legal problems with the drone registration regulations is here.

This is going to be interesting in how this all plays out since the FAA is trying to get out the microdrone rule soon.

I hope this helps.  :)


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.

Alleged Crash Between an Airplane and a Drone

It was reported that on Thursday morning a drone and a 1960’s Cessna 172 collided in the air over Costa Rica. It is alleged that the Cessna hit the drone with its right wing strut. This is NOT the wing but the strut supporting the wing. The result was chipped paint on the strut. Superficially, it looks like most of other struts I observed when I was regularly out on the flight line as a flight instructor. If you are wondering why it is normal to see paint chipping, this is because rocks sometimes get blown up during the run-up process of airplanes and hit the aircraft.

helicopter

In the United States, recreational drone flyers should stay below 400 feet above the ground. It is better to stay as low as you can because agriculture pilots and helicopter pilots sometimes fly very low sometimes, almost sneaking up on drone pilots who do not have enough time to react. I compiled a list of FAA guidance documents regarding recreational flyers, excluding 91-57A, in one of the chapters of my book Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them.

Now all you recreational flyers out there calm down. I know many anti-drone folks will use this as a perfect example to say that drones should be heavily regulated before “they take down an airliner,” but I think this is a perfect reminder of how much we need to educate new flyers on how to operate safely.

Unfortunately, as I explained in a previous blog post, the FAA is currently not allowing commercial drone flight instruction under a public COA or a section 333 exemption. We as recreational flyers should attempt to pick up the safety slack promote safety while we still have freedom to fly.

Before we jump to conclusions and fault the recreational drone flyers, let’s ask some questions.

  • How do you know that the pilot was paying attention? There are many accidents that have been caused by the pilots not paying attention. It is a two way street for both parties to see and avoid other aircraft.
  • How do we know this is a recreational drone and not a drone operated by the government? There seems to have been some incidents of the military or even police using drones unsafely. The Academy of Model Aeronautics published a study on the FAA’s drone data and said, “In perhaps the most surprising example, on August 18, 2015, the Los Angeles Police Department notified the Inglewood Police Department that a drone the latter agency was flying over a crime scene ‘needed to come down.’ The drone was flying two miles from the approach end of a runway at LAX.”
  • How do we know that it was the drone operator flying the drone higher than he should have and not a fly away? Could the drone been manufactured incorrectly? Was there some type of GPS interference?
  • How do we know it was a drone? The internet was freaking out that a drone collided with an aircraft but it later turned out to be a bird.
  • Do we have any evidence there was a collision with a drone other than some chipped paint and a pilot’s testimony?
  • Do we have a drone wreck or pieces of the drone?

We need to investigate further and only make determinations when there are hard facts, not just chipped paint and a story.


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.

Two Ways the FAA Can Immediately Help Promote Drone Safety in the National Airspace System

 

Since the House Subcommittee on Aviation is having a hearing on October 7th on “Ensuring Aviation Safety in the Era of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” I was inspired to write about two things that the FAA can do to immediately promote drone safety.

The FAA can (1) put all the recreational aircraft guidance down in one place and (2)  get FAA certificated pilots involved in the industry.

 

(1) Put Everything Down in One Place.

The FAA has issued advisory circulars and guidance on small unmanned recreational aircraft since 1981.  Over the years the message has not been consistent and at times even contradictory. To illustrate the inconsistency and contradiction, I have compiled this chart on recreational aircraft guidelines. The FAA published their (1) Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, published (2) Law Enforcement Guidance for Suspected Unauthorized UAS Operations, partnered with (3) the Know Before You Fly campaign, published (4) the “What Can I Do With My Model Aircraft?” webpage on the FAA’s website, published (5) Advisory Circular 91-57,  and published (6) an Updated Advisory Circular 91-57 (“91-57A”).

 

Compilation of Recreational Aircraft Guidelines

The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use. You can’t make money off the flying incidentally or directly. Sources:  (1),(2),(4),(6).
The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization. Sources: (1),(2),(3),(6).
The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds [Take Off Weight] unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization. Sources: (1),(2),(4),(6).
The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft. See also § 91.113. Sources: (1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(6).
When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)). AC 91-57 said 3 miles. Sources: (1),(2),(3),(4),(6).
Do not fly your model in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.” Sources: (2); Section 336(c) of the FMRA; 14 C.F.R. § 91.13, (6).
Do not fly the aircraft beyond visual line-of-sight. Sources: (1),(3),(4),(6) FRMA § 336(c)(2).
“The aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator[.]”Source: (1).
“[T]he operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft.” You cannot use “vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a ‘first-person view’ from the model.” Source: (1).
“[P]eople other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight.” No daisy chain. Source: (1).
The FAA mentioned in their Model Rule Interpretation § 91.119(c) which says do not operate the aircraft in a non-congested area “closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.” Model aircraft “may still pose a risk to persons and property on the ground warranting enforcement action when conducted unsafely.” However, in the Know Before You Fly campaign which the FAA partnered with, it says, “Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.” This distance requirement is unclear. Sources: (1) and/or? (3).
Fly no higher than 400 feet above ground level and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible. Sources: (3),(5),(6).
The “operating site that is of sufficient distance from populated areas. The selected site should be away from noise sensitive areas such as parks, schools, hospitals, churches, etc.” Source: (5).
“Do not operate model aircraft in the presence of spectators until the aircraft is successfully flight tested and proven airworthy.” Source: (5).
“Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.” Source: (3).
“Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” Source: (3).
“Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.” Source: (3).
“Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.” Source: (3).
“Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission.” Source: (3).
“[M]ust comply with any Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR).”(1),(6)
“Model aircraft must not operate in Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or, the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone, without specific authorization.” (1),(6).

 

As you can see, the FAA has a patchwork of guidance on this area. We need to have all the information in one place and be done with it. The FAA needs to take the pieces and sew them all together so recreational flyers know what is exactly required of them as opposed to them having to piece together the hodgepodge guidance.

Furthermore, it would be helpful to include all the regulations that the FAA believes recreational operators are required to comply with in one place; otherwise, a guy who bought a Phantom off Amazon is going to have no clue about the regulations or even where to start!

 

(2) We Need to Get FAA Certificated Pilots Involved in the Industry

We can do this two ways: (A) take the pilot license suspension/revocation possibility off the table, for the time being, for individuals who have pilot licenses and (B) allow commercial flight operations for flight instructing.

(A) Removing the Possibility of a FAA Pilot License Suspension/Revocation

Pilots stand to lose a lot if they get in trouble with the FAA. Not only can they be fined, they can also get their pilot license suspended or revoked. This creates not a safer environment but actually decreases safety, because the most highly experienced and knowledgeable group of people who can operate safely in the national airspace are on the sidelines in fear of losing their licenses or in the worst case, their livelihood. This creates a “vacuum” of knowledge and also a vacuum in the culture of drone operators. You can still keep the licensed pilots in check with large civil penalties.

(B) Allow Commercial Flight Instruction Under the Section 333 Exemptions

Update: Kansas State University received an exemption to conduct flight instruction with drones.

One of my clients received this statement in their exemption from the FAA, “The petitioner also requested authority to conduct UAS training. At this time, the FAA is unable to authorize UAS operations for training until a further assessment is completed. When the FAA completes its review, we will proceed accordingly and no further action will be required by the petitioner. However, the petitioner is permitted to train its own pilot in commands and visual observers in accordance with condition no. 14 and the other conditions and limitations in this exemption.”  The FAA is not exempting individuals or businesses to do commercial flight instruction.

Furthermore, the FAA clarified in an opinion that public universities are prohibited from obtaining public COA’s for education because education is not considered a “core function” of government.

Since FAA certificated pilots are currently prohibited from commercially doing flight instruction of drones,  how do individuals or businesses get practical flight instruction? Are they expected to just go out and fly at some uninhabited baseball field and learn by trial and error (crash)? There is only one FAA approved flight school for drones in the US and the rest are just all illegally operating.