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Section 107.63 Issuance of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

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Section 107.63 Issuance of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

An applicant for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating under this subpart must make the application in a form and manner acceptable to the Administrator.

(a) The application must include either:

(1) Evidence showing that the applicant passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test. If applying using a paper application, this evidence must be an airman knowledge test report showing passage of the knowledge test; or

(2) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, a certificate of completion of a part 107 initial training course.

(b) If the application is being made pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section:

(1) The application must be submitted to a Flight Standards District Office, a designated pilot examiner, an airman certification representative for a pilot school, a certificated flight instructor, or other person authorized by the Administrator;

(2) The person accepting the application submission must verify the identity of the applicant in a manner acceptable to the Administrator; and

(3) The person making the application must, by logbook endorsement or other manner acceptable to the Administrator, show the applicant meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56 of this chapter.

My Commentary on Section 107.63 Issuance of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

If you want to obtain a temporary certificate immediately, the Part 61 certificated pilot with a flight review should go to an FAA aviation safety inspector, a designated pilot examiner, or an airmen certification representative who has the ability to receiving the 8710 form and ALSO issue a temporary certificate right there.

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.63 Issuance of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

Applicants with Part 61 Certificates. Instead of the process described above, a person
who holds a part 61 pilot certificate, except a student pilot certificate, and has completed
a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may elect to apply using the
following process:

1. Complete the online course (Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
(sUAS), ALC-451) located within the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam)
Web site (www.faasafety.gov) and receive a completion certificate.
2. Complete the Remote Pilot Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote
pilot certificate (FAA Form 8710-13).

• Option 1 (Online Application): In almost all cases, the application should be
completed online using the electronic FAA IACRA system
(https://iacra.faa.gov/iacra/). The applicant must include verification that he or she
completed the online course or passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test. The
applicable official document(s) must be uploaded into IACRA either by the
applicant or the certifying officer.
• Option 2 (Paper): The application may be completed on paper. Using this
method, the certificate of completion for the online course or original initial
aeronautical knowledge test report must be included with the application. Please
note that the processing time will be increased if a paper application is used.

3. Contact a FSDO, an FAA DPE, an ACR, or an FAA CFI to make an
appointment to validate the applicant’s identification. The applicant must
present the completed FAA Form 8710-13 along with the online course
completion certificate or knowledge test report (as applicable) and proof of a
current flight review. The FAA Form 8710-13 application will be signed by
the applicant after the FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI examines the applicant’s
photo identification and verifies the applicant’s identity. The FAA
representative will then sign the application. The identification presented must
include a photograph of the applicant, the applicant’s signature, and the
applicant’s actual residential address (if different from the mailing address).
This information may be presented in more than one form of identification.
Acceptable methods of identification include, but are not limited to
U.S. drivers’ licenses, government identification cards, passports, and military
identification cards (refer to AC 61-65). If using paper or IACRA method, an
appropriate FSDO representative, a DPE, or an ACR will issue the applicant a
temporary airman certificate.

Note: A CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate. They can
process applications for applicants who do not need a temporary certificate. If
using IACRA and the applicant is utilizing a CFI as the FAA representative,
the applicant can print their own temporary airman certificate after receiving an
email from the FAA notifying them that it is available. If using the paper
method and the applicant is utilizing a CFI as the FAA representative, the
applicant will not be issued a temporary airman certificate. Once the FSDO has
signed and approved the application, it will be mailed to the Registry for the
issuance of the permanent certificate.

4. Receive permanent remote pilot certificate once all other FAA internal
processing is complete.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.63 Issuance of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

The NPRM proposed establishing eligibility requirements for a part 107 airman
certificate and specifying when a certificate would be issued. The NPRM proposed that an
applicant must be: (1) at least 17 years of age; (2) able to read, speak, write and understand
the English language; and (3) vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
Additionally, the NPRM proposed that the applicant must pass an initial aeronautical
knowledge test and self-certify, at the time of application, that he or she does not have a
medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
As discussed in more detail below, the process for issuance of a remote pilot
certificate will be as follows. First, an applicant will have to take and pass an initial
aeronautical knowledge test. After taking the knowledge test, the applicant will be provided
with an airman knowledge test report showing his or her test results. If the applicant passed
the test, the applicant will then fill out an application for a remote pilot certificate using
either the FAA’s electronic application process (referred to as the Integrated Airman
Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system) or a paper application. The FAA
will then forward the applicant’s information to the TSA for security vetting to determine
whether the applicant poses a security risk. Once TSA notifies the FAA that the applicant
does not pose a security risk the FAA will issue an electronic temporary remote pilot
certificate to an applicant who applied through the IACRA system.128 This temporary
certificate (valid for 120 days after receipt) will be issued within 10 business days after
receipt of an electronic application, and it will allow the applicant to exercise all the
privileges of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. Once all other FAAinternal
processing is complete, the FAA will issue the applicant a permanent remote pilot
certificate.

Holders of a part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot who have completed a
flight review within the previous 24 months will have the option of a different certification
process. These pilot certificate holders will be allowed to substitute completion of an online
training course for the small UAS aeronautical knowledge test. Upon completion of the
training course, the part 61 pilot certificate holder will then go to one of the following
authorized portals: an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), a designated pilot
examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR) for a pilot school, or a
certificated flight instructor (CFI). The certificate holder will provide his or her remote
pilot certificate application and supporting documentation to that portal to verify the
applicant’s identity, fill out the pertinent portion of the application, and then forward the
completed application to the FAA Airman Certification Registry. Because a part 61 pilot
certificate holder has already been vetted by TSA, he or she will be issued a temporary
remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, valid for 120 days, immediately upon the
FAA’s receipt of the completed application via IACRA. Once all other processing is
complete, the FAA will issue a permanent remote pilot certificate.

The FAA emphasizes that part 61 pilot certificate holders are not required to use the
process discussed in the previous paragraph and can instead apply for a remote pilot
certificate by taking the small UAS initial aeronautical knowledge test. Part 61 pilot
certificate holders who pass the knowledge test will not be required to submit their
application to a FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI. Instead these certificate holders may submit
their applications via IACRA. Because these certificate holders have already been vetted
by TSA, they will be issued a temporary remote pilot certificate, valid for 120 days, upon
FAA’s receipt of their application via IACRA regardless of the method they use to qualify
for the certificate (i.e. knowledge test or online training course).

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Section 107.61 Eligibility (2018)

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Section 107.61 Eligibility.

Subject to the provisions of §§107.57 and 107.59, in order to be eligible for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating under this subpart, a person must:

(a) Be at least 16 years of age;

(b) Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. If the applicant is unable to meet one of these requirements due to medical reasons, the FAA may place such operating limitations on that applicant’s certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of the small unmanned aircraft;

(c) Not know or have reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small unmanned aircraft system; and

(d) Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by satisfying one of the following conditions:

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

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

My Commentary on Section 107.61 Eligibility.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.61 Eligibility.

Eligibility. A person applying for a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating must
meet and maintain the following eligibility requirements, as applicable:

• Be at least 16 years of age.
• Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. However, the
FAA may make an exception if the person is unable to meet one of these
requirements due to medical reasons, such as a hearing impairment.
• Be in a physical and mental condition that would not interfere with the safe operation
of an sUAS.
• Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing
center (KTC). However, a person who already holds a pilot certificate issued under
14 CFR part 61, except a student pilot certificate, and has successfully completed a
flight review in accordance with part 61 within the previous 24 calendar-months is
only required to successfully complete a part 107 online training course, found at
www.faasafety.gov. For more information concerning aeronautical knowledge tests
and training, see paragraph 6.6.

Application Process. This paragraph provides guidance on how a person can apply for a
remote pilot certificate.

6.4.1 Applicants Without Part 61 Certificates. A person who does not have a part 61 pilot
certificate or a part 61 certificate holder who has not completed a part 61 flight review in
the previous 24 calendar-months must use the following process. A part 61 pilot who has
completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may elect to use this
process.
1. Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test administered at a KTC (see
paragraph 6.6).
2. Complete the Remote Pilot Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote
pilot certificate (FAA Form 8710-13).

• Option 1 (Online Form): This is the fastest and simplest method. The
FAA Form 8710-13 application should be completed online using the electronic
FAA Integrated Airmen Certificate and/or Rating Application (IACRA) system
(https://iacra.faa.gov/iacra/). The applicant must have already passed an initial
aeronautical knowledge test. Once registered with IACRA, he or she will login
with their username and password. Click on “Start New Application” and,
1) Application Type “Pilot”, 2) Certifications “Remote Pilot,” 3) “Other Path
Information,” and 4) “Start Application.” Continue through the application
process and, when prompted, the applicant will enter the 17-digit Knowledge Test
Exam ID from the knowledge test in IACRA. It may take up to 48 hours from the
test date for the knowledge test to appear in IACRA. The KTC test proctor will be
the one that verified the identity of the applicant. Once the applicant completes
the online application in IACRA, he or she will sign the application electronically
and submit it to the Airman Registry for processing. No FAA representative will
be required to sign the application if the applicant was able to self-certify.
Note: When the applicant uses this online option, the application will be
transmitted electronically from the applicant to the Airman Registry. The
only electronic signature that will be reflected on the IACRA application
will be the applicant’s. The applicant will then receive a confirmation
email once his or her application has completed the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) vetting process. The email will provide
information that will allow the applicant to log into the IACRA system
and print a copy of the temporary certificate.

• Option 2 (Paper Application): An applicant could also submit a paper
application. If the applicant chooses the paper method, the original initial
aeronautical knowledge test report must be mailed with the application to the
following address:

DOT/FAA
Airmen Certification Branch (AFS-760)
P.O. Box 25082
Oklahoma City, OK 73125

Note: A temporary airman certificate will not be provided to the remote
pilot applicant if they do not hold a part 61 certificate. For this reason, it
would be of the applicant’s best interest to utilize Option 1 (IACRA
system) instead of the paper method, in order to receive a temporary
airman certificate once the application has completed the TSA vetting
process.

3. Receive permanent remote pilot certificate once all other FAA internal
processing is complete.

6.4.2 Applicants with Part 61 Certificates. Instead of the process described above, a person
who holds a part 61 pilot certificate, except a student pilot certificate, and has completed
a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may elect to apply using the
following process:

1. Complete the online course (Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
(sUAS), ALC-451) located within the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam)
Web site (www.faasafety.gov) and receive a completion certificate.
2. Complete the Remote Pilot Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote
pilot certificate (FAA Form 8710-13).
• Option 1 (Online Application): In almost all cases, the application should be
completed online using the electronic FAA IACRA system
(https://iacra.faa.gov/iacra/). The applicant must include verification that he or she
completed the online course or passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test. The
applicable official document(s) must be uploaded into IACRA either by the
applicant or the certifying officer.
• Option 2 (Paper): The application may be completed on paper. Using this
method, the certificate of completion for the online course or original initial
aeronautical knowledge test report must be included with the application. Please
note that the processing time will be increased if a paper application is used.

3. Contact a FSDO, an FAA DPE, an ACR, or an FAA CFI to make an
appointment to validate the applicant’s identification. The applicant must
present the completed FAA Form 8710-13 along with the online course
completion certificate or knowledge test report (as applicable) and proof of a
current flight review. The FAA Form 8710-13 application will be signed by
the applicant after the FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI examines the applicant’s
photo identification and verifies the applicant’s identity. The FAA
representative will then sign the application. The identification presented must
include a photograph of the applicant, the applicant’s signature, and the
applicant’s actual residential address (if different from the mailing address).
This information may be presented in more than one form of identification.
Acceptable methods of identification include, but are not limited to
U.S. drivers’ licenses, government identification cards, passports, and military
identification cards (refer to AC 61-65). If using paper or IACRA method, an
appropriate FSDO representative, a DPE, or an ACR will issue the applicant a
temporary airman certificate.

Note: A CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate. They can
process applications for applicants who do not need a temporary certificate. If
using IACRA and the applicant is utilizing a CFI as the FAA representative,
the applicant can print their own temporary airman certificate after receiving an
email from the FAA notifying them that it is available. If using the paper
method and the applicant is utilizing a CFI as the FAA representative, the
applicant will not be issued a temporary airman certificate. Once the FSDO has
signed and approved the application, it will be mailed to the Registry for the
issuance of the permanent certificate.
4. Receive permanent remote pilot certificate once all other FAA internal
processing is complete.

6.5 Security Disqualification. After the FAA receives the application, the TSA will
automatically conduct a background security screening of the applicant prior to issuance
of a remote pilot certificate. If the security screening is successful, the FAA will issue a
permanent remote pilot certificate. If the security screening is not successful, the
applicant will be disqualified and a temporary pilot certificate will not be issued.
Individuals who believe that they improperly failed a security threat assessment may
appeal the decision to the TSA.

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

Note: The below information regarding initial and recurrent knowledge tests
apply to persons who do not hold a current part 61 airman certificate.
6.6.1 Initial Test. As described in paragraph 6.4, a person applying for remote pilot certificate
with an sUAS rating must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test given by an
FAA-approved KTC. The initial knowledge test will cover the aeronautical knowledge
areas listed below:
1. Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and
flight operation;
2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions
affecting small UA operation;
3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small UA performance;
4. Small UA loading and performance;
5. Emergency procedures;
6. Crew Resource Management (CRM);
7. Radio communication procedures;
8. Determining the performance of small UA;
9. Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol;
10. Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) and judgment;
11. Airport operations; and
12. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.

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

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

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

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.61 Eligibility from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

The NPRM proposed establishing eligibility requirements for a part 107 airman
certificate and specifying when a certificate would be issued. The NPRM proposed that an
applicant must be: (1) at least 17 years of age; (2) able to read, speak, write and understand
the English language; and (3) vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
Additionally, the NPRM proposed that the applicant must pass an initial aeronautical
knowledge test and self-certify, at the time of application, that he or she does not have a
medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
As discussed in more detail below, the process for issuance of a remote pilot
certificate will be as follows. First, an applicant will have to take and pass an initial
aeronautical knowledge test. After taking the knowledge test, the applicant will be provided
with an airman knowledge test report showing his or her test results. If the applicant passed
the test, the applicant will then fill out an application for a remote pilot certificate using
either the FAA’s electronic application process (referred to as the Integrated Airman
Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system) or a paper application. The FAA
will then forward the applicant’s information to the TSA for security vetting to determine
whether the applicant poses a security risk. Once TSA notifies the FAA that the applicant
does not pose a security risk the FAA will issue an electronic temporary remote pilot
certificate to an applicant who applied through the IACRA system.128 This temporary
certificate (valid for 120 days after receipt) will be issued within 10 business days after
receipt of an electronic application, and it will allow the applicant to exercise all the
privileges of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. Once all other FAAinternal
processing is complete, the FAA will issue the applicant a permanent remote pilot
certificate.

Holders of a part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot who have completed a
flight review within the previous 24 months will have the option of a different certification
process. These pilot certificate holders will be allowed to substitute completion of an online
training course for the small UAS aeronautical knowledge test. Upon completion of the
training course, the part 61 pilot certificate holder will then go to one of the following
authorized portals: an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), a designated pilot
examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR) for a pilot school, or a
certificated flight instructor (CFI). The certificate holder will provide his or her remote
pilot certificate application and supporting documentation to that portal to verify the
applicant’s identity, fill out the pertinent portion of the application, and then forward the
completed application to the FAA Airman Certification Registry. Because a part 61 pilot
certificate holder has already been vetted by TSA, he or she will be issued a temporary
remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, valid for 120 days, immediately upon the
FAA’s receipt of the completed application via IACRA. Once all other processing is
complete, the FAA will issue a permanent remote pilot certificate.

The FAA emphasizes that part 61 pilot certificate holders are not required to use the
process discussed in the previous paragraph and can instead apply for a remote pilot
certificate by taking the small UAS initial aeronautical knowledge test. Part 61 pilot
certificate holders who pass the knowledge test will not be required to submit their
application to a FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI. Instead these certificate holders may submit
their applications via IACRA. Because these certificate holders have already been vetted
by TSA, they will be issued a temporary remote pilot certificate, valid for 120 days, upon
FAA’s receipt of their application via IACRA regardless of the method they use to qualify
for the certificate (i.e. knowledge test or online training course).

a. Minimum Age
The NPRM proposed that a person must be at least 17 years of age to be eligible for
a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating. This minimum age would be
consistent with existing FAA minimum age requirements for the sport pilot, recreational
pilot, and private pilot airman certificates with an airplane or rotorcraft rating. The FAA
also invited comment on whether to adopt a minimum age of 16 years, which would be
consistent with existing FAA minimum age requirements for the sport pilot and private
pilot airman certificates with a glider or balloon rating. After review of the comments, the
FAA adopts a minimum age of 16 for a person to be eligible for a remote pilot certificate
with a small UAS rating.

Fourteen commenters, including the Small UAV Coalition, AUVSI, and NAMIC,
all agreed that the proposed minimum age of 17 generally strikes an appropriate balance
between safety and operational viability for low risk small UAS operations, ensuring that
baseline safety is enhanced without unduly burdening low risk small UAS operators or
their operations. These commenters argued that the NPRM’s proposal is consistent with the
requirements for other pilot certificates and, at this time, there is a lack of data and
evidence to support lowering the age to 16. The commenters added that although persons
under the age of 17 are already allowed to operate model aircraft, it is unclear if there is a
strong need for allowing younger remote pilots to operate non-hobby and non-recreational
small UAS.

University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences added
that 16-year-old student pilots are accompanied or monitored by an instructor, whereas, a
small UAS operator would effectively be unmonitored. Federal Airways & Airspace also
agreed with limiting the certification age to 17 years old, and pointed out that the National
Institute of Mental Health has stated on their website that the rate of death by any injury of
those aged 15 to 19 years old is six times higher than that for individuals aged 10 to 14
years old. Federal Airways & Airspace also mentioned that studies have shown that the
human brain does not reach maturity until the early 20s, and the CDC states that those aged
16 to 19 are almost three times more likely than 20-year-olds to be in a fatal motor vehicle
accident.

Several commenters recommended raising the minimum age above 17.
Commenters including the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Textron
Systems, and Aerius Flight, recommended an 18-year-old eligibility requirement for small
UAS operators, because it aligns with existing airman certification standards for other
commercial flight operations. One commenter asserted that 18 is the appropriate age for an
operator certificate because it is the age at which an individual is an adult and able to enter
into legally binding contracts. The Air Line Pilots Association and Transportation Trades
Department, AFL-CIO said small UAS operators should hold a commercial pilot
certificate, and should therefore be a minimum of 18 years old. Several commenters
recommended the minimum age requirement be raised even higher, to 21 or 25 years old.
Conversely, 36 commenters, including NBAA, AIA, and the Kansas Farm Bureau,
argued that the minimum age should be lowered to 16. One commenter asserted that: (1)
flying a manned aircraft is considerably more complex than operating a small UAS; and (2)
a small UAS has no people on board who would be injured in the event of an accident.
Many other individuals argued that because of all the operating constraints contemplated
by the NPRM, a 16-year-old should be able to safely operate a small UAS without
exposing anyone to undue risk.

Nine commenters asserted that a minimum age of 16 would also align with current
requirements for glider and balloon pilots. One commenter argued that the NPRM does not
provide any justification to support why the operator of a small UAS must be older than a
sport pilot, recreational pilot, or private pilot airman with a glider rating,129 or a student
pilot of a glider.130 NBAA stated its belief that a lesser risk exists for small UAS operations
conducted within the confines of the rule when compared to glider and balloon operations
conducted within controlled airspace.

One of the commenters from the Center for Information & Research on Civic
Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) argued that the minimum age should be dropped to
16. The commenter conducted research that it claimed supports the proposition that 16-
year-olds have the same capacity for sophistication as 21-year-olds. Although the research
is geared towards younger individuals voting in local elections, not operating aircraft, the
commenter believed that it makes a general statement about the intellectual capacity of
minors at the age of 16.

Prioria Robotics argued that the FAA should allow an apprenticeship-like certificate
to be held by those younger than 18. Others argued that the minimum age for independent
operation of a small UAS should be 16. One individual suggested that if the operator is
under the age of 16, he or she should be required to be accompanied by a qualified operator
who is over the age of 18.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, Aviation Division suggested
that, with regard to minimum age, in many cases the maturity level difference of an
operator between ages 16 and 18 may be imperceptible. This commenter suggested
lowering the minimum age to 16 would rule out the likelihood of willful underage violation
and provide a legal path forward for younger operators. The commenter also pointed out
that in many states a driver’s permit can be obtained at age 15 and driver’s license at age
16.

The Kansas Farm Bureau also argued that the added year available for academic
use, education, and experience are positives for future UAS operators. DJI similarly noted
that a lower age limit could increase academic use of small UAS because more high school
age students could be operators. Also, commenters argued that a high age limit would
inhibit curiosity and innovation among younger people who are exploring the capabilities
of UAS.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association did not object to the proposed minimum age
requirement, but noted potential value in reducing the minimum age to 16 years old. The
commenter noted that, while this approach would be a slight deviation from the current age
requirement for non-commercial airman certificates, it would be consistent with the
recognized lower risk associated with small UAS operations. The commenter also noted it
would accommodate UAS operations for those beef producers who run family operations,
many of which include older teenagers.

The FAA agrees that a certain level of maturity is required to operate any aircraft
responsibly in the NAS. The FAA originally proposed a minimum age of 17 because it is
consistent with existing FAA minimum age requirements for the sport pilot, recreational
pilot, and private pilot airman certificates with an airplane or rotorcraft rating—the baselevel
certificates authorizing pilots to operate these two categories of aircraft while not
under the supervision of an instructor. However, the FAA does not use a minimum age of
17 for all part 61 pilot certificates. As noted in the NPRM and by the commenters, the
proposed minimum age of 17 is not consistent with existing FAA minimum age eligibility
requirements for sport and private pilot airman certificates with a glider or balloon rating.
After further consideration, the FAA has determined that the risk posed by a small
UAS operation is comparable to the risk posed by a glider or balloon operation. Balloon
and glider operations generally take place during daytime visual meteorological conditions
and are limited to a relatively confined geographical area. Balloon and glider aircraft also
tend to be lighter and slower-moving aircraft, limiting the harm to people and property on
the ground in the event of a mishap. Similarly, small UAS operations do not take place at
night or in instrument meteorological conditions, and are operated in a limited geographical
area as necessary for the remote pilot to maintain visual line of sight. Analysis of safety
data for balloon and glider operations suggests that there is no significant difference in
accident rates for 16-year-old pilots compared to 17- or 18-year-old pilots. Because the risk
of a part 107 small UAS operation is comparable to the risk of a balloon or glider operation
and because the minimum age for glider and balloon operations is 16,131 the FAA will
lower the minimum age in this rule to 16 years old.

The FAA also notes that a minimum age of 16 is consistent with its current practice
of allowing airmen conducting a small UAS operation under a section 333 exemption to
hold a sport or private pilot certificate with a glider or balloon rating. Although the FAA
does not track the age of persons operating small unmanned aircraft under section 333
exemption grants, the agency is not aware of any specific safety concerns associated with
16-year-old private pilots or sport pilots operating small UAS. The FAA notes that
lowering the minimum age to 16 will also enable additional small UAS agricultural
operations, such as those described by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

Several commenters, including AIA, the Virginia Commonwealth University
Honors Students, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology suggested that the minimum
age should be no greater than 16. As noted in AIA comments, AIA and others believe that
a driver’s license issued from within the U.S. should be considered as a prerequisite for a
remote pilot certificate. The commenters recommended mimicking the process to obtain a
driver’s license, in which a person first obtains a learner’s permit and then, following
months of training and test-taking, obtains a license. This would enable 16-year-olds
(depending on their State of residence) to obtain a certificate. According to the
commenters, maintaining currency of the driver’s license would also imply certain motor
skills, vision, and a minimal level of medical fitness to operate UAS.

Several individual commenters said the minimum age should be lowered even
further to 14 years old. The commenters pointed out that 14-year-olds are capable of
having certain after-school jobs, and are allowed to operate a glider or balloon as a student
pilot. Event 38 Unmanned Systems said that it sees no logical reason for a minimum age
requirement, and that anyone who can pass the operator test should be allowed to fly a
UAS. Two other commenters also said there should be no minimum age requirement.

The FAA disagrees with commenters who suggest that the minimum age be less
than 16 because age 16 is the youngest age at which a person can be certificated to operate
an aircraft independently in the NAS. Because a remote pilot certificate allows people to
operate their small UAS independently, it is critical that those people possess the maturity
necessary to operate in a safe manner. The FAA also disagrees with commenters who
provided the example of a driver’s license and a learner’s permit as a justification for
lowering the minimum age below 16. In most states, the driving privileges of people under
the age of 16 are significantly limited compared to the privileges granted at age 18.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, most states do not permit full
driving privileges until 17 or 18 years of age. These privileges include high-risk situations
such as the ability to drive unsupervised at night or with a certain number of passengers.
The FAA also notes that driving a car does not use the same skills as operating a
small UAS. For example, in order to successfully drive a car, drivers have to learn skills,
such as parallel parking and making three-point turns, which have no applicability to small
UAS operations. Requiring a U.S. driver’s license as a prerequisite to obtaining a remote
pilot certificate would impose the cost of acquiring those skills on people who do not
currently possess a driver’s license without a corresponding safety benefit. Accordingly,
this rule will not require remote pilot certificate applicants to hold a driver’s license.

In response to commenters who recommended a lower minimum age to enable
academic uses, or the suggestion for an apprenticeship-like certificate for those under 18
years of age, the FAA notes that this is unnecessary because this rule allows an
uncertificated person to manipulate the controls of a small UAS, provided that: (1) they are
under the direct supervision of a certificated remote pilot in command; and (2) the remote
pilot in command is capable of taking over controls at any time during the flight. The FAA
also notes that, depending on the purpose of the operation, small UAS operations
conducted by community groups and non-profit organizations may be considered
recreation or hobby operations, which are not regulated under part 107 if conducted in
accordance with Public Law 112-95, section 336.

The Agricultural Technology Alliance, Illinois Farm Bureau, and GROWMARK
suggested that the FAA treat age eligibility to operate a small UAS in the same manner as
the operation of farm equipment—i.e., allowing individual State labor laws to control.
Though it did not explicitly advocate for the use of State labor laws to determine eligibility,
Predesa pointed out that child labor laws would apply to minors participating in
commercial operations. The commenter recommended the FAA consider mandating an
adult visual observer to assist a minor with an operator certificate when operating a small
UAS for commercial purposes. The commenter also recommended that the FAA consider
mandating an adult visual observer to assist a minor with an operator certificate when
operating a small UAS for education in a private program for fee, in a university setting, or
in a public school system.

The FAA does not agree with the recommendation to adopt State labor laws to set
the minimum age requirement. State laws are not uniform, and this could result in a
patchwork of regulations that would apply uneven requirements depending on one’s State
of residence. The FAA also notes that not all operations conducted under part 107 will be
commercial. For example, as discussed in section III.C.4 of this preamble, recreational
133 Section III.C.4 of this preamble contains further discussion of model aircraft operations.
small UAS operations that do not meet all of the criteria specified in Public Law 112 95,
section 336 will be conducted under part 107.

The FAA disagrees with Predessa’s suggestion that an adult visual observer should
be mandated in order to assist a minor with a remote pilot certificate (i.e. someone between
16 and 18 years of age) when operating a small UAS. As discussed previously, the FAA
currently allows 16-year-old pilots to operate, without supervision, glider and balloon
manned aircraft and small UAS (under a section 333 exemption). The FAA has not
observed an adverse effect on safety as a result of the pilot in those operations being 16
rather than 18 years old. Thus, while the FAA agrees that a visual observer enhances safety
by providing additional situational awareness to the remote pilot, it is not necessary to
mandate a visual observer based on the age of the remote pilot certificate holder or the type
of operation being conducted.

Accordingly, the FAA has amended proposed § 107.61(a) to lower the minimum
age to be eligible for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to 16 years old. The
FAA notes, however, that an academic institution is permitted to establish its own (more
restrictive) policies and procedures for operational small UAS training, which may include
requiring the presence of adult visual observers for students who are younger than 18.

b. English Language Proficiency

In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to require that applicants for a part 107 airman
certificate be able to read, speak, and understand the English language. These proposed
English-language requirements would be consistent with all other airman certificates issued
by the FAA, as well as the international standard for aircraft operations accepted by ICAO.
However, the FAA also proposed an exception for people who are unable to meet one of
the English-language requirements due to medical reasons. Such a person would be eligible
for a certificate, but the FAA would be able to specify limitations on the certificate to
account for that person’s medical condition.

Five commenters expressed support for requiring airman-certificate applicants to be
able to read, speak, and understand the English language. There were no comments
opposing this aspect of the proposal. Accordingly, this rule will require that applicants for
an airman certificate be able to read, speak, and understand the English language.
Three commenters opposed the proposed exception to the English-language
requirements. One of these commenters stated that there should be no exceptions to the
English-language requirement, while another commenter stated that there should be no
exception for persons whose medical reasons would preclude them from effectively
communicating procedures or reading flight logs. A third commenter stated that a person
who cannot speak English should not be permitted to operate anywhere near people on the
ground because that person would be unable to communicate safety-relevant information to
people in the vicinity of the operation.

Limiting the exception for the English-language requirements of this rule would
impose a needless burden on airman-certificate applicants who have a medical condition.
Specifically, if an applicant cannot read, speak, or understand the English language, the
proposed exception would allow the FAA to impose restrictions on that applicant’s
certificate ensuring that the person’s English-language inability does not adversely affect
safety. For example, if an applicant is unable to communicate using speech, then the FAA
may restrict that applicant’s certificate to operations where speech is not necessary for the
safe operation of a small UAS.

Restrictions issued under this provision will be specific to each applicant, and as
such, the FAA cannot make the categorical statements suggested by the commenters as to
what will or will not be permitted for applicants with a specific English-language inability.
The FAA notes that its English-language regulations for other airman certificates have a
similar exception for applicants who have a medical issue, and the FAA has not
observed any adverse safety effects from having this exception in the regulations.
Accordingly, this final rule will retain the proposed exception for people who are
unable to meet one of the English language requirements due to a medical condition. 14
CFR 107.61(b). However, the FAA emphasizes that, as with other airmen, it may specify
limitations on a person’s airman certificate to ensure that the person’s medical condition
does not endanger the safety of the NAS.

c. No Airman Medical Certificate Required
For the reasons discussed below, this rule will not require an airman medical
certificate but will prohibit a person from manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS
or acting as a remote pilot in command or visual observer if he or she knows or has reason
to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe
operation of a small UAS.

The FAA received approximately 115 comments from organizations and
individuals on this subject. Several commenters stated than an airman medical certificate is
not necessary to operate a UAS. Other commenters suggested adding a requirement for an
airman medical certificate.

The FAA disagrees that a medical certificate should be required in this rule. With
certain exceptions, the FAA currently requires an airman medical certificate for exercising
the privileges of a student pilot certificate, a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot
certificate, a commercial pilot certificate, and an airline transport pilot certificate. The
primary reason for medical certification is to determine if the airman has a medical
condition that is likely to manifest as subtle or sudden incapacitation that could cause a
pilot to lose control of the aircraft, or impair the pilot’s ability to “see and avoid.”
Small UAS operations present a lower risk than manned operations to manned
aircraft and non-participating people on the ground, especially because the operations do
not involve any human beings onboard the aircraft who could be injured in the event of an
accident. Additionally, unlike manned-aircraft operations, remote pilots and visual
observers will be operating within a confined area of operation, subject to operational
limitations intended to minimize the exposure of the small unmanned aircraft to manned
aircraft in flight and people on the ground. Because of these operational limitations,
traditional FAA medical certification is not warranted for remote pilots or visual observers.
The FAA also notes that the risks associated with pilot incapacitation are similar to
the risks associated with loss of positive control. As discussed in that section, risks
associated with loss of positive control are mitigated in this rule through: (1) preflight
inspection of the control links, (2) a speed limit of 87 knots, and (3) a prohibition on
operations of small unmanned aircraft over people not directly participating in the
operation. Just as § 107.49(a)(3) will require remote pilots to ensure that all links between
ground station and the small unmanned aircraft are working properly, § 107.17 will require
the remote pilot in command to abstain from small UAS operations if he or she knows or
has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere
with the safe operation of the flight.

Federal Airways & Airspace, ALPA, and several individual commenters expressed
concern about the lack of a required vision exam. General Aviation Manufacturers
Association and Aerospace Industries Association suggested that remote pilots hold a valid
U.S. driver’s license to ensure a basic eye exam.

The FAA considers the visual-line-of-sight requirement for the remote pilot, the
person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote
pilot), and the visual observer (if one is used) to be able to see the aircraft’s direction,
altitude, and attitude of flight to be preferable to a prescriptive vision standard. Even with
normal vision, it is foreseeable that a small unmanned aircraft may be so small that the
operational space must be reduced to meet the visual-line-of-sight requirements of
§ 107.31. Therefore, any demonstration of completing a vision exam would be less
effective than this rule’s visual-line-of-sight requirements, and as such, the FAA will not
adopt a vision exam requirement in the final rule.

The FAA also disagrees with comments suggesting the FAA require a U.S. driver’s
license. According to the DOT Office of Highway Policy Information, 13 percent of the
population aged 16 or older does not hold a state-issued driver’s license. As such,
requiring a U.S. driver’s license would create an undue burden for many remote pilots
without an equivalent increase in safety because the skills necessary to obtain a driver’s
license are not the same as the skills needed to pilot a small UAS. Further, the FAA has
historically allowed pilots of gliders and balloons to exercise the privileges of their pilot
certificates without requiring a medical certificate or U.S. driver’s license, and this practice
has resulted in no adverse effects on the NAS.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District supported the
proposed requirement to disqualify persons with known physical or mental conditions that
could interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft. Conversely, DronSystems
commented that it would be impossible to enforce a prohibition on operations if an operator
knows he or she has a medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of the
small UAS.

The FAA notes that a similar regulatory provision already exists in part 61. Under
§ 61.53, a pilot certificate holder is obligated to abstain from acting as pilot in command
during a period of medical deficiency. The requirement of § 61.53 applies regardless of
whether or not a pilot certificate holder also holds a medical certificate.

One individual suggested that the FAA provide a list of disqualifying medical
conditions.

The FAA has not established a list of disqualifying medical conditions under
§ 107.17 because there are a wide range of small UAS operations that could be affected
differently by different medical conditions. For example, a person who is incapable of
moving his fingers would not be able to safely operate a small UAS whose control station
interface is manually manipulated with the fingers. However, that person may be able to
safely operate a small UAS whose control station is operated through voice controls.
A person participating in a small UAS operation is responsible for knowing his or
her physical and mental limitations and evaluating whether those limitations would allow
him or her to safely participate in the specific small UAS operation that he or she is
considering. If that person is unsure as to the limitations of his or her physical or mental
condition, he or she should consult with a physician. The FAA emphasizes that those with
a medical history or who are experiencing medical symptoms that would prevent them
from safely participating in a small UAS operation or that raise a reasonable concern
cannot claim to have no known medical conditions.

One commenter stated that residents of Alaska have a disproportionately high rate
of “seasonal bipolar disorder” or “polar night-induced solipsism syndrome,” and that
Alaskans might therefore be disproportionately affected by this provision. This commenter
suggests that the FAA remove “bipolar disorder—or at the least bipolar disorder and
related conditions ‘with seasonal pattern’—from the list of mental conditions which may
prevent someone from being able to operate” a small UAS.

The FAA notes that the commenter is referring to a list of medical conditions
enumerated in § 67.107(a)(3), § 67.207(a)(3), and § 67.307(a)(3), referring to a candidate
for a first, second, or third class medical certificate to have no established medical history
or clinical diagnosis of a bipolar disorder. However, as discussed previously, part 107 does
not include a list of disqualifying medical conditions. A person with bipolar disorder would
violate § 107.17 only if his or her bipolar disorder was such that it would interfere with the
safe operation of a small UAS.

The FAA also notes that in the NPRM it proposed to require that an applicant for an
airman certificate must submit a certified statement attesting to his or her physical and
mental condition at the time of the application. However, upon further review, the FAA has
decided to remove this provision from the rule because an applicant’s medical condition at
the time he or she submits his or her application for a remote pilot certificate may change
prior to operation of the small UAS.

d. Flight Proficiency and Aeronautical Experience
Because of the significantly reduced risk associated with small UAS operations
conducted under part 107, the NPRM proposed to not impose flight proficiency or
aeronautical experience requirements on applicants seeking a small UAS airman certificate.
However, the FAA invited comments on whether flight proficiency or aeronautical
experience should be required. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will not require
applicants for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to demonstrate flight
proficiency or aeronautical experience.

Several commenters, including NBAA, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and
NetMoby, agreed with the NPRM that the FAA should not require small UAS operators to
demonstrate their proficiency in operating a small UAS prior to obtaining an operator
certificate. These commenters reasoned that requiring a proficiency test is unnecessary
because small UAS are not very difficult to operate and the test could be cost prohibitive
for some operators. NetMoby added that there will be a market incentive for manufacturers
to ensure that future operators are capable of flying their UAS.

Other commenters, including the AFL-CIO, AIA, and NAAA, disagreed with the
proposal and suggested that the FAA require small UAS operators to demonstrate their
proficiency in operating a small UAS prior to obtaining a remote pilot certificate. Some of
the commenters asserted that this would be consistent with testing requirements used for
part 61 pilot certificates.

Aviation Management and Modovolate Aviation suggested requiring a practical test
or demonstration of aeronautical knowledge for certain aircraft or flying conditions (e.g.,
those weighing more than 4.4 pounds, operation beyond visual line-of-sight), but not for
others (e.g., micro UAS, operation in only Class G airspace). Virginia Commonwealth
University Honors Students suggested that separate tests should be required for each type
of small UAS.

As discussed in section III.E.3.a of this preamble, small UAS operations conducted
under this rule will operate in a confined area of operation. As a result of this confined area
and due to the very low weight of the small unmanned aircraft, small UAS operations
conducted under part 107 will generally pose a very low risk as compared to manned
aircraft. As such, flight proficiency and aeronautical experience requirements (which apply
to part 61 pilots) are unnecessary for remote pilots of a small UAS.

Flight proficiency testing is also not necessary for small UAS operations because,
unlike a manned aircraft pilot, the remote pilot of a small UAS can easily terminate flight
at any point. The light weight and lack of people onboard the small unmanned aircraft
provides the remote pilot of that aircraft with a multitude of safe landing options. The
remote pilot also has the option to sacrifice the small unmanned aircraft because there are
no people onboard who would be endangered by that action. Conversely, a manned aircraft
can only land at a location that can safely accommodate its large weight. The landing of a
manned aircraft must also be accomplished in a manner that does not endanger the people
onboard the aircraft. Because of the ease with which the flight of a small unmanned aircraft
can be terminated and because of the overall low risk posed by small UAS operations that
will be conducted under part 107, this rule will not include practical testing or flight
experience requirements for a remote pilot certificate.

The FAA notes, however, that certain operational restrictions of part 107, such as
operations within visual line of sight, are waivable if the applicant can demonstrate that his
or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver. In
processing a waiver, the FAA may request additional mitigations, such as a demonstration
of remote pilot proficiency, to ensure that the operation can be conducted safely.

The Nez Perce Tribe requested that the FAA provide additional flexibility to small
UAS operators by allowing them to qualify for an operator certificate either via a written
test, a practical test, or a demonstration of aeronautical experience. In response, the FAA
notes that practical testing, aeronautical experience, and knowledge testing measure
different things. Knowledge testing determines whether an applicant has acquired
proficiency in the areas of knowledge being tested. Practical testing and aeronautical
experience determines the applicant’s flight proficiency. Although practical testing and
aeronautical experience may be used to assess some level of a person’s knowledge, the
aeronautical knowledge test is the method used to directly assess an applicant’s knowledge.
In this case, the FAA has determined that a remote pilot needs to have acquired the
knowledge needed to safely operate a small UAS because small UAS operations will
generally pose a very low risk as compared to manned aircraft. Thus, an aeronautical
knowledge test is the appropriate vehicle to determine whether an applicant for a remote
pilot certificate has acquired the necessary knowledge.

e. Formal Training
The NPRM did not propose to require formal training, but it invited comment on
whether passage of an FAA-approved training course should be required either instead of
or in addition to the aeronautical knowledge test. After reviewing the comments, the FAA
has determined that it will not impose any specific training or flight instruction
requirements for small UAS remote pilot certificate applicants.

Many commenters, including NAFI, NAAA, and A4A, stated that the FAA should
require individuals to attend a training course before obtaining a small UAS operator
certificate. NAFI asserted that an applicant may be able to pass an initial knowledge test
through rote memorization and retain little useful information or application after passing
the knowledge test. According to NAFI, the present FAA test management systems do not
allow for the robust, multi-version testing that is truly able to test to the application level of
learning. Commenters argued that training should encompass various topics and forms such
as scenarios, multi-rotor aircraft, educational contact time from a flight instructor, and
simulations.

Conversely, National Roofing Contractors Association, NBAA, Southern
Company, Aerospace Industries Association, and Nez Perce Tribe argued that the FAA
should not require a training course. Aviation Management suggested that the FAA make
informational and training materials available online and also create online training
programs, but should not require training courses. National Roofing Contractors
Association, NRECA, and Team Rubicon suggested allowing industries to have tailored
certification processes or training specific to their needs, or to allow agencies and
organizations to conduct tailored in-house training.

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

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

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

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

f. General Requirement for Initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test
The NPRM proposed requiring applicants for a remote pilot airman certificate with
a small UAS rating to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test to demonstrate that they
have sufficient aeronautical knowledge to safely operate a small UAS. The FAA adopts the
provisions as proposed with three changes. First, as discussed in III.F.2.i below, the FAA
exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete an initial
knowledge test as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of their part 61 pilot
certificate and complete an online training course within the preceding 24 months. Second,
as discussed in III.F.2.h below, the FAA will require that pilots with military experience
operating unmanned aircraft pass an initial knowledge test in order to obtain a remote pilot
certificate with small UAS rating, and pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months
subsequent in order to continue to exercise the privileges of that certificate.
Many commenters, including National Association of State Aviation Officials,
NAAA, ALPA, and NAMIC, supported the FAA’s proposal to require an initial
aeronautical knowledge test in order to operate a small UAS. Conversely, several
commenters opposed the initial aeronautical knowledge test. Commenters argued that
initial testing is “overkill” and the FAA should treat small UAS pilots like part 103
ultralight vehicle pilots and not require airman certification or testing. The commenters
further argued that all testing is unnecessary and inappropriate.

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

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

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

The FAA disagrees with the recommendation that an applicant should be required
to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. While an
instructor endorsement is generally required for part 61 pilot certificates, the significantly
reduced risk associated with small UAS operations conducted under part 107 would make
this framework unduly burdensome in this case. Instead, a stand-alone knowledge test is
sufficient to verify the qualification of the remote pilot certificate applicant.

Because the aeronautical knowledge test will determine whether an applicant
possesses the knowledge needed to safely operate a small UAS, a separate flight instructor
endorsement should not be required to take the knowledge test. The FAA also notes that
the costs associated with failing and having to retake the knowledge test will provide an
incentive to applicants to pick a method of study that maximizes the chance of them
passing the aeronautical knowledge test on the first try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

h. Pilots with Military Experience
The NPRM proposed allowing pilots with military experience operating unmanned
aircraft to take the recurrent knowledge test in lieu of the initial knowledge test in order to
be eligible for an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating. For the
reasons discussed below, this rule will require pilots with military experience operating
unmanned aircraft to comply with the initial and recurrent knowledge testing requirements
discussed in the previous sections.

NBAA, Small UAV Coalition and Texas A&M University agreed with the
proposed rule requiring only a recurrent knowledge test in lieu of the initial knowledge test
to qualify for a UAS operator airman certificate. Prioria said that military UAS operators
and OEM-certified UAS operators should be grandfathered in without the need to take an
initial knowledge test because their prior operational experience should suffice. In addition,
Aviation Model Code of Conduct Initiative, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Small UAV
Coalition, and others supported accepting existing pilot credentials, especially military pilot
credentials, in lieu of requiring those pilots to take an initial knowledge test or obtain a
separate small UAS certificate. ArgenTech Solutions suggested that FAA should put a time
limit on when military experience is acceptable for taking the recurrent knowledge test.
In contrast, ALPA and others suggested that an initial knowledge test, rather than
just a recurrent test, is appropriate for applicants with military experience flying UAS.
ALPA noted that such pilots do not necessarily have experience operating in the NAS, and
therefore cannot be assumed to be familiar with all the subject areas included in the initial
test. ALPA also pointed to the wide variety of UAS used in the military and suggested that
a given pilot’s experience may not necessarily be relevant to the operation of a small UAS
in the NAS. ALPA also stated that the FAA should review a military pilot’s specific
training, skills, and experience before determining what “supplemental training, knowledge
testing, or skills demonstration” might be needed.

Similarly, one commenter asserted that experience operating military UAS is not
relevant to the operation of a civil small UAS, and that therefore those with military
experience should be subject to the same testing requirements as other applicants. Another
individual echoed ALPA’s concern that military operations are conducted almost
exclusively in military airspace, not in the NAS. One commenter, while supporting an
initial-test exemption for applicants with military experience, added that former military
UAS pilots do not necessarily understand civil operations in the NAS.

Planehook Aviation, NOAA, DOD, and an individual commenter said that the prior
military experience provision proposed in § 107.75 should apply to both military and nonmilitary
COA UAS operators. One commenter provided supporting reasoning stating that
“[t]here are several non-military Federal agencies that have well established sUAS
programs and, as is the case with NASA, they have decades of experience with sUAS and
operating sUAS in the NAS.” NOAA argued that there are no practical differences between
NOAA pilots and military pilots because they are both trained in the same facilities. DOD
raised a similar argument, asking that the rule recognize DOD civilian and contractor
personnel that have a level of training equivalent to military personnel. One individual
suggested that the FAA allow civilian operators with a minimum of 1,000 logged hours as
operators of UAS for government and military agencies to qualify for taking the recurrent
knowledge test instead of the initial test.

The FAA agrees with commenters who expressed concern about applicants
obtaining a remote pilot certificate to operate civil small UAS without passing an initial
knowledge test. The levels of training and certification for unmanned aircraft differ greatly
between branches of the armed services, and therefore there is no consistent training the
FAA can use as a comparison to its requirements in order to credit military UAS pilots.
Further, many of the required knowledge areas for the part 107 initial knowledge test, such
as airspace classification, airport operations, and radio communications, are not
consistently covered in training across all branches of the U.S. military. Accordingly, at
this time, this rule will not allow military UAS pilots to bypass the initial aeronautical
knowledge test. This applies to NOAA UAS pilots as well, because, as NOAA pointed out,
they are trained in the same military facilities.

The FAA notes, however, that in some cases, government and military UAS pilots
are trained as pilots of manned aircraft, in which case they may qualify for a part 61 pilot
certificate through military competency. Specifically, manned-aircraft military pilots are
frequently able to qualify for a part 61 pilot certificate under § 61.73 without taking a
practical test by providing specific documentation and passing a military competency
knowledge test. Provided those pilots obtain a part 61 pilot certificate and meet the flight
review and online training course requirements discussed in the next section, they may
qualify for a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating without having to take any
UAS knowledge test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

j. Areas of Knowledge on the Aeronautical Knowledge Tests and Training Courses for Part
61 Pilot Certificate Holders
The NPRM proposed that the initial aeronautical knowledge test would test the
following areas of knowledge: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2)
airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance requirements, and
flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation; (3) official sources of
weather and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance; (4) small UAS
loading and performance; (5) emergency procedures; (6) crew resource management; (7)
radio communication procedures; (8) determining the performance of small unmanned
aircraft; (9) physiological effects of drugs and alcohol; (10) aeronautical decision-making
and judgment; and (11) airport operations. The NPRM also proposed the following areas of
knowledge for the recurrent knowledge test: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS
operations; (2) airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance
requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation; (3)
official sources of weather; (4) emergency procedures; (5) crew resource management; (6)
aeronautical decision-making and judgment; and (7) airport operations.

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will remove obstacle clearance
requirements and add maintenance and inspection procedures as areas of knowledge that
will be tested on both the initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests. Further,
aviation weather sources will be removed from the recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests.
Except for these changes, this rule will finalize all other areas of knowledge as proposed in
the NPRM.

With regard to the initial and recurrent training courses for part 61 pilot certificate
holders, those courses will only cover UAS-specific areas of knowledge that are not
included in the training and testing required for a part 61 pilot certificate. Thus, the initial
training course will cover: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) small
UAS loading and performance; (3) emergency procedures; (4) crew resource management;
(5) determining the performance of the small unmanned aircraft; and (6) maintenance and
inspection procedures. The recurrent training course will cover: (1) regulations applicable
to small UAS operations; (2) emergency procedures; (3) crew resource management; and
(4) maintenance and inspection procedures.

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

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

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

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

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

My Commentary on Section 107.59 Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results.

Sections 107.59, 107.57, and 107.27 are intertwined. 107.27 is more monetary penalty focused while 107.57 and 107.59 are focused on a revoking/ suspending a certificate or denying a certificate application. They are just three tools in the toolbox for FAA prosecutions to get at the defendant.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.59 Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results.

Part 107 does not allow operation of an sUAS if the remote
PIC, person manipulating the controls, or VO is unable to safely carry out his or her
responsibilities. It is the remote PIC’s responsibility to ensure all crewmembers are not
participating in the operation while impaired. While drug and alcohol use are known to
impair judgment, certain over-the-counter medications and medical conditions could also
affect the ability to safely operate a small UA. For example, certain antihistamines and
decongestants may cause drowsiness. We also emphasize that part 107 prohibits a person
from serving as a remote PIC, person manipulating the controls, VO, or other
crewmember if he or she:

• Consumed any alcoholic beverage within the preceding 8 hours;
• Is under the influence of alcohol;
• Has a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or greater; and/or
• Is using a drug that affects the person’s mental or physical capabilities.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.59 Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

As proposed in the NPRM, this rule will require the remote pilot in command, the
person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS, and the visual observer to comply
with the drug and alcohol provisions of 14 CFR 91.17 and § 91.19. Section 91.19 prohibits
knowingly carrying narcotic drugs, marijuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or
substances in civil aircraft unless authorized to do so by a Federal or State statute or
government agency. Additionally, § 91.17 prohibits a person from acting as a crewmember
of a civil aircraft: (1) within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage; (2)
while under the influence of alcohol or any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any
way contrary to safety; or (3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a
blood or breath specimen. Under § 91.17, a remote pilot in command, the person
manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in
command), and the visual observer must submit to testing to determine alcohol
concentration in the blood if there is a suspected violation of law or § 91.17. These tests
must be submitted to the FAA if the FAA has a reasonable basis to believe that the person
violated § 91.17.

The Small UAV Coalition, the Aviation Division of Washington State Department
of Transportation, and three individuals generally supported the provisions related to drugs
and alcohol. One commenter asserted that the FAA proposed no requirement about the
condition of the operator, such as illness or impairment by drugs or alcohol, and that small
UAS remote pilots should be required to self-certify that they are in a condition that
enables them to safely operate a small UAS.

The FAA clarifies that this rule does not allow operation of a small UAS if the
remote pilot in command, visual observer, or the person manipulating the flight controls of
a small UAS is unable to safely operate the small UAS due to drug or alcohol impairment.
As discussed previously, this rule will, among other things, require these people to comply
with the provisions of § 91.17.

With regard to non-drug or alcohol impairment, such as an illness, the FAA notes
that, as discussed in section III.F.2.c of this preamble, a person may not act as a remote
pilot in command or visual observer or manipulate the flight controls of a small UAS if he
or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that
would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS. It is also not necessary to require a
self-certification statement prior to every small UAS flight because this requirement is not
imposed on manned-aircraft operations by the drug and alcohol provisions of §§ 91.17 and
91.19.

Cherokee Nation Technologies commented that over-the-counter medications could
impair the ability to safely operate a small UAS. The FAA agrees with this comment and
notes that over-the-counter medications are addressed by the provisions of this rule.
Specifically, § 91.17(a)(3) prohibits the use of any drug that affects the person’s faculties in
any way contrary to safety.

The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences
commented that the contents of §§ 91.17 and 91.19, which are cross-referenced in proposed
part 107, should be included in their entirety in proposed part 107 to enable ease of reading
and understanding the regulations. However, duplicating the entire regulatory text of
§§ 91.17 and 91.19 in part 107 is unnecessary in this case. FAA regulations, such as
§§ 91.17 and 91.19, may be changed by future rulemakings or statutory changes, and crossreferencing
regulatory sections in part 107 will minimize inconsistencies between part 107
and any subsequent amendments made to §§ 91.17 or 91.19. Additionally, crossreferencing
regulatory sections allows the FAA to avoid duplicative regulatory text in its
regulations.

Two commenters expressed concerns about the potential use of small UAS for
drug-smuggling and other illicit acts. The Institute of Makers of Explosives asked that the
FAA specify penalties for the use of small UAS in committing illicit acts, including those
involving drugs and alcohol. One commenter stated that any remote pilot should lose his or
her privileges under part 107 if found to be operating while in a condition that does not
permit safe operation of the small UAS. Another commenter suggested that remote pilot
certificates should be denied, suspended or revoked for committing an act prohibited by 14
CFR 91.17 or § 91.19.

The FAA emphasizes that, in addition to the requirements of § 91.17 discussed
above, this rule will also require compliance with § 91.19, which prohibits the knowing
transportation of illegal drugs unless authorized by a Federal or State statute or government
agency. If a person violates § 91.17 or § 91.19, the FAA can take enforcement action,
which can result in the imposition of civil penalties or suspension or revocation of that
person’s airman certificate. People who engage in illegal conduct involving drugs may also
be subject to criminal prosecution under Federal or State law.

………………………

As proposed in the NPRM, this rule will allow the FAA to deny, suspend, or revoke
a certificate for reasons including drug or alcohol offenses and refusal to submit to an
alcohol test or furnish the results.145 Additionally, as discussed in the Remote Pilot
Certificate Issuance and Eligibility section of this preamble, this rule will allow the FAA to
deny, suspend, or revoke a certificate if TSA makes a finding that the applicant or
certificate holder poses a security risk. This rule will also require certificate holders to
notify the FAA of any change in name or address. Finally, certificate holders will be able to
voluntarily surrender their certificates.

a. Drugs and Alcohol Violations
The FAA adopts the provisions related to drug and alcohol violations as proposed
in the NPRM. Accordingly, under § 107.57(a), the FAA may deny a remote pilot certificate
application or take other certificate action for violations of Federal or State drug laws.
Certificates could also be denied, suspended, or revoked under § 107.57(b) for committing
an act prohibited by § 91.17 or § 91.19, as discussed in section III.I of this preamble.
One commenter stated that any remote pilot should lose his or her privileges under
part 107 if found to be operating while in a condition that does not permit safe operation of
the small UAS. Another commenter suggested that remote pilot certificates should be
denied, suspended or revoked for committing an act prohibited by 14 CFR 91.17 or
§ 91.19.

The FAA agrees. Under this rule, if a person violates § 91.17 or § 91.19, the FAA
can take enforcement action, which may result in the imposition of civil penalties or
suspension or revocation of that person’s airman certificate. Section 107.59 of this rule
specifies that certificate action could be taken for: (1) failure to submit to a blood alcohol
test or to release test results to the FAA as required by § 91.17; or (2) carriage of illegal
drugs in violation of § 91.19.

………………………………….

The FAA’s oversight statutes, codified at 49 U.S.C. 44709 and 46104, provide the
FAA with broad investigatory and inspection authority for matters within the FAA’s
jurisdiction. Under section 46104, the FAA may subpoena witnesses and records,
administer oaths, examine witnesses, and receive evidence at a place in the United States
that the FAA designates. Under section 44709, the FAA may “reinspect at any time a civil
aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, appliance, design organization, production certificate
holder, air navigation facility, or agency, or reexamine an airman holding a certificate
issued [by the FAA].”

The NPRM proposed to codify the FAA’s oversight authority in proposed § 107.7.
First, § 107.7 would require the airman, visual observer, or owner of a small UAS to, upon
FAA request, allow the FAA to make any test or inspection of the small unmanned aircraft
system, the airman, and, if applicable, the visual observer to determine compliance with the
provisions of proposed part 107. Second, § 107.7 would require an airman or owner of a
small UAS to, upon FAA request, make available to the FAA any document, record, or
report required to be kept by the applicable FAA regulations. For the reasons discussed
below, this rule will finalize these provisions as proposed.151

The Department of Defense Policy Board on Federal Aviation suggested that
§ 107.7(a) be reworded to limit its applicability to “civil operators,” not operators in
general. The commenter asserted that this change would preserve public operators’
statutory authorities.

As discussed in section III.C.3 of this preamble, the applicability of part 107 is
limited to civil aircraft. Thus, part 107 will not apply to public aircraft operations. Because
public aircraft operations will not be subject to § 107.7 (or any other provision of part 107)
there is no need to amend the regulatory text of § 107.7 with regard to civil aircraft.
The Kansas State University UAS Program asked the FAA to clarify, with respect
to §107.7(b), what types of tests or inspections could be performed on the remote pilot or
visual observer. Specifically, the commenter suggested that the FAA define whether such
persons could be subjected to blood alcohol tests, drug tests, or knowledge tests. They also
recommend that the section be reworded to reference § 91.17(c).

Section 107.7(b) codifies the FAA’s authority under 49 U.S.C. 44709 and 46104,
which allow the FAA to inspect and investigate the remote pilot. This may involve a
review, reinspection, or requalification of the remote pilot. With regard to requalification,
49 U.S.C. 44709 and § 107.7(b) allow the FAA to reexamine a remote pilot if the FAA has
sufficient reason to believe that the remote pilot may not be qualified to exercise the
privileges of his or her certificate. Additional guidance concerning the reexamination
process can be found in FAA Order 8900.1, ch. 7, sec. 1.

Pertaining to the visual observer, as an active participant in small UAS operations,
this person may be questioned with regard to his or her involvement in the operation. For
example, if an FAA inspector has reason to believe that a visual observer was not provided
with the preflight information required by § 107.49, the inspector may ask the visual
observer questions to ascertain what happened. Because the visual observer is not an
airman, the visual observer will not be subject to reexamination.

With regard to § 91.17(c), the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.E.7.b of
this preamble, § 107.27 will, among other things, require the remote pilot in command, the
visual observer, and the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS to comply
with § 91.17. This includes compliance with the alcohol-testing requirements of § 91.17(c).
The City and County of Denver, Colorado suggested that airports be given the same
rights as those granted to the FAA under §107.7(b). The commenter argued that airport
operators have a duty to protect airport property, and that that duty can be fulfilled only
when the airport operator has the opportunity to determine the nature and airworthiness of a
small UAS.

AUVSI suggested that the FAA allow designated representatives pursuant to 14
CFR part 183 to act on behalf of the Administrator in order to determine compliance with
the new regulatory standards. The commenter asserted that the FAA will not have the
necessary manpower or financial resources required to allow the UAS industry and its
technology to continue to evolve at its own pace. An individual commenter suggested that
the FAA delegate compliance and enforcement authority to law enforcement officers and
NTSB representatives.

The FAA’s statute does not authorize the agency to delegate its formal enforcement
functions. Because it lacks the pertinent statutory authority, the FAA cannot delegate its
enforcement functions in the manner suggested by the commenters. The FAA notes,
however, that even though it cannot delegate its formal enforcement functions, it has
worked closely with outside stakeholders to incorporate their assistance in its oversight
processes. For example, the FAA has recently issued guidance to State and local law
enforcement agencies to support the partnership between the FAA and these agencies in
addressing unauthorized UAS activities.152 The FAA anticipates continuing its existing
partnerships to help detect and address unauthorized UAS activities, and the agency will
consider other stakeholders’ requests to be part of the process of ensuring the safe and
lawful use of small UAS.

One individual suggested that a remote pilot in command must enable and make
available to the FAA any flight log recording if the aircraft and/or control station is capable
of creating such a recording. In response, the FAA notes that this rule does not require that
a small UAS operation have the capability to create a flight log recording. However, if a
small UAS does create such a recording, § 107.7(b) will allow the FAA to inspect the small
UAS (including the recording made by the small UAS) to determine compliance with the
provisions of part 107.

One individual suggested that the wording of §107.7(b) be modified to permit the
FAA to conduct only “non-destructive testing” in the event of a reported violation of one or
more provisions of part 107. The commenter asserts that, as written, § 107.7(b) would
permit the FAA to “destructively test” every small UAS “on whim.”

The FAA declines this suggestion because there could be circumstances where
destructive testing of a small UAS may be necessary to determine compliance with part
107. The FAA emphasizes, however, that this type of decision would not be made lightly
and would not be part of a typical FAA inspection. For example, the FAA’s guidance to
FAA inspectors about how to conduct a typical ramp inspection specifically focuses on
non-destructive methods that the inspector can use to determine whether an aircraft is in
compliance with FAA regulations.153 The FAA anticipates that, just as with manned
aircraft, destructive testing of a small UAS will, if ever conducted, occur highly
infrequently.

One individual recommended that §107.7 be modified to require a remote pilot to
make a photo ID available to the FAA on demand. The FAA did not propose this
requirement in the NPRM, and as such, it is beyond the scope of this rule.

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Section 107.57 Offenses involving alcohol or drugs. (2018)

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Section 107.57 Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Commentary on Section 107.57 Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

Section 107.57 and Section 107.27 are intertwined. You get get a 107.27 violation AND also have a 107.57 violation for the same offense. This means for one stupid mistake, you could have a fine and/or an application denial or certificate revocation/suspension.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.57 Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

Part 107 does not allow operation of an sUAS if the remote
PIC, person manipulating the controls, or VO is unable to safely carry out his or her
responsibilities. It is the remote PIC’s responsibility to ensure all crewmembers are not
participating in the operation while impaired. While drug and alcohol use are known to
impair judgment, certain over-the-counter medications and medical conditions could also
affect the ability to safely operate a small UA. For example, certain antihistamines and
decongestants may cause drowsiness. We also emphasize that part 107 prohibits a person
from serving as a remote PIC, person manipulating the controls, VO, or other
crewmember if he or she:

• Consumed any alcoholic beverage within the preceding 8 hours;
• Is under the influence of alcohol;
• Has a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or greater; and/or
• Is using a drug that affects the person’s mental or physical capabilities.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.57 Offenses involving alcohol or drugs from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

As proposed in the NPRM, this rule will require the remote pilot in command, the
person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS, and the visual observer to comply
with the drug and alcohol provisions of 14 CFR 91.17 and § 91.19. Section 91.19 prohibits
knowingly carrying narcotic drugs, marijuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or
substances in civil aircraft unless authorized to do so by a Federal or State statute or
government agency. Additionally, § 91.17 prohibits a person from acting as a crewmember
of a civil aircraft: (1) within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage; (2)
while under the influence of alcohol or any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any
way contrary to safety; or (3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a
blood or breath specimen. Under § 91.17, a remote pilot in command, the person
manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in
command), and the visual observer must submit to testing to determine alcohol
concentration in the blood if there is a suspected violation of law or § 91.17. These tests
must be submitted to the FAA if the FAA has a reasonable basis to believe that the person
violated § 91.17.

The Small UAV Coalition, the Aviation Division of Washington State Department
of Transportation, and three individuals generally supported the provisions related to drugs
and alcohol. One commenter asserted that the FAA proposed no requirement about the
condition of the operator, such as illness or impairment by drugs or alcohol, and that small
UAS remote pilots should be required to self-certify that they are in a condition that
enables them to safely operate a small UAS.

The FAA clarifies that this rule does not allow operation of a small UAS if the
remote pilot in command, visual observer, or the person manipulating the flight controls of
a small UAS is unable to safely operate the small UAS due to drug or alcohol impairment.
As discussed previously, this rule will, among other things, require these people to comply
with the provisions of § 91.17.

With regard to non-drug or alcohol impairment, such as an illness, the FAA notes
that, as discussed in section III.F.2.c of this preamble, a person may not act as a remote
pilot in command or visual observer or manipulate the flight controls of a small UAS if he
or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that
would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS. It is also not necessary to require a
self-certification statement prior to every small UAS flight because this requirement is not
imposed on manned-aircraft operations by the drug and alcohol provisions of §§ 91.17 and
91.19.

Cherokee Nation Technologies commented that over-the-counter medications could
impair the ability to safely operate a small UAS. The FAA agrees with this comment and
notes that over-the-counter medications are addressed by the provisions of this rule.
Specifically, § 91.17(a)(3) prohibits the use of any drug that affects the person’s faculties in
any way contrary to safety.

The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences
commented that the contents of §§ 91.17 and 91.19, which are cross-referenced in proposed
part 107, should be included in their entirety in proposed part 107 to enable ease of reading
and understanding the regulations. However, duplicating the entire regulatory text of
§§ 91.17 and 91.19 in part 107 is unnecessary in this case. FAA regulations, such as
§§ 91.17 and 91.19, may be changed by future rulemakings or statutory changes, and crossreferencing
regulatory sections in part 107 will minimize inconsistencies between part 107
and any subsequent amendments made to §§ 91.17 or 91.19. Additionally, crossreferencing
regulatory sections allows the FAA to avoid duplicative regulatory text in its
regulations.

Two commenters expressed concerns about the potential use of small UAS for
drug-smuggling and other illicit acts. The Institute of Makers of Explosives asked that the
FAA specify penalties for the use of small UAS in committing illicit acts, including those
involving drugs and alcohol. One commenter stated that any remote pilot should lose his or
her privileges under part 107 if found to be operating while in a condition that does not
permit safe operation of the small UAS. Another commenter suggested that remote pilot
certificates should be denied, suspended or revoked for committing an act prohibited by 14
CFR 91.17 or § 91.19.

The FAA emphasizes that, in addition to the requirements of § 91.17 discussed
above, this rule will also require compliance with § 91.19, which prohibits the knowing
transportation of illegal drugs unless authorized by a Federal or State statute or government
agency. If a person violates § 91.17 or § 91.19, the FAA can take enforcement action,
which can result in the imposition of civil penalties or suspension or revocation of that
person’s airman certificate. People who engage in illegal conduct involving drugs may also
be subject to criminal prosecution under Federal or State law.

………………………

As proposed in the NPRM, this rule will allow the FAA to deny, suspend, or revoke
a certificate for reasons including drug or alcohol offenses and refusal to submit to an
alcohol test or furnish the results.145 Additionally, as discussed in the Remote Pilot
Certificate Issuance and Eligibility section of this preamble, this rule will allow the FAA to
deny, suspend, or revoke a certificate if TSA makes a finding that the applicant or
certificate holder poses a security risk. This rule will also require certificate holders to
notify the FAA of any change in name or address. Finally, certificate holders will be able to
voluntarily surrender their certificates.

a. Drugs and Alcohol Violations
The FAA adopts the provisions related to drug and alcohol violations as proposed
in the NPRM. Accordingly, under § 107.57(a), the FAA may deny a remote pilot certificate
application or take other certificate action for violations of Federal or State drug laws.
Certificates could also be denied, suspended, or revoked under § 107.57(b) for committing
an act prohibited by § 91.17 or § 91.19, as discussed in section III.I of this preamble.
One commenter stated that any remote pilot should lose his or her privileges under
part 107 if found to be operating while in a condition that does not permit safe operation of
the small UAS. Another commenter suggested that remote pilot certificates should be
denied, suspended or revoked for committing an act prohibited by 14 CFR 91.17 or
§ 91.19.

The FAA agrees. Under this rule, if a person violates § 91.17 or § 91.19, the FAA
can take enforcement action, which may result in the imposition of civil penalties or
suspension or revocation of that person’s airman certificate. Section 107.59 of this rule
specifies that certificate action could be taken for: (1) failure to submit to a blood alcohol
test or to release test results to the FAA as required by § 91.17; or (2) carriage of illegal
drugs in violation of § 91.19.

………………………………….

The FAA’s oversight statutes, codified at 49 U.S.C. 44709 and 46104, provide the
FAA with broad investigatory and inspection authority for matters within the FAA’s
jurisdiction. Under section 46104, the FAA may subpoena witnesses and records,
administer oaths, examine witnesses, and receive evidence at a place in the United States
that the FAA designates. Under section 44709, the FAA may “reinspect at any time a civil
aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, appliance, design organization, production certificate
holder, air navigation facility, or agency, or reexamine an airman holding a certificate
issued [by the FAA].”

The NPRM proposed to codify the FAA’s oversight authority in proposed § 107.7.
First, § 107.7 would require the airman, visual observer, or owner of a small UAS to, upon
FAA request, allow the FAA to make any test or inspection of the small unmanned aircraft
system, the airman, and, if applicable, the visual observer to determine compliance with the
provisions of proposed part 107. Second, § 107.7 would require an airman or owner of a
small UAS to, upon FAA request, make available to the FAA any document, record, or
report required to be kept by the applicable FAA regulations. For the reasons discussed
below, this rule will finalize these provisions as proposed.

The Department of Defense Policy Board on Federal Aviation suggested that
§ 107.7(a) be reworded to limit its applicability to “civil operators,” not operators in
general. The commenter asserted that this change would preserve public operators’
statutory authorities.

As discussed in section III.C.3 of this preamble, the applicability of part 107 is
limited to civil aircraft. Thus, part 107 will not apply to public aircraft operations. Because
public aircraft operations will not be subject to § 107.7 (or any other provision of part 107)
there is no need to amend the regulatory text of § 107.7 with regard to civil aircraft.
The Kansas State University UAS Program asked the FAA to clarify, with respect
to §107.7(b), what types of tests or inspections could be performed on the remote pilot or
visual observer. Specifically, the commenter suggested that the FAA define whether such
persons could be subjected to blood alcohol tests, drug tests, or knowledge tests. They also
recommend that the section be reworded to reference § 91.17(c).

Section 107.7(b) codifies the FAA’s authority under 49 U.S.C. 44709 and 46104,
which allow the FAA to inspect and investigate the remote pilot. This may involve a
review, reinspection, or requalification of the remote pilot. With regard to requalification,
49 U.S.C. 44709 and § 107.7(b) allow the FAA to reexamine a remote pilot if the FAA has
sufficient reason to believe that the remote pilot may not be qualified to exercise the
privileges of his or her certificate. Additional guidance concerning the reexamination
process can be found in FAA Order 8900.1, ch. 7, sec. 1.

Pertaining to the visual observer, as an active participant in small UAS operations,
this person may be questioned with regard to his or her involvement in the operation. For
example, if an FAA inspector has reason to believe that a visual observer was not provided
with the preflight information required by § 107.49, the inspector may ask the visual
observer questions to ascertain what happened. Because the visual observer is not an
airman, the visual observer will not be subject to reexamination.

With regard to § 91.17(c), the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.E.7.b of
this preamble, § 107.27 will, among other things, require the remote pilot in command, the
visual observer, and the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS to comply
with § 91.17. This includes compliance with the alcohol-testing requirements of § 91.17(c).
The City and County of Denver, Colorado suggested that airports be given the same
rights as those granted to the FAA under §107.7(b). The commenter argued that airport
operators have a duty to protect airport property, and that that duty can be fulfilled only
when the airport operator has the opportunity to determine the nature and airworthiness of a
small UAS.

AUVSI suggested that the FAA allow designated representatives pursuant to 14
CFR part 183 to act on behalf of the Administrator in order to determine compliance with
the new regulatory standards. The commenter asserted that the FAA will not have the
necessary manpower or financial resources required to allow the UAS industry and its
technology to continue to evolve at its own pace. An individual commenter suggested that
the FAA delegate compliance and enforcement authority to law enforcement officers and
NTSB representatives.

The FAA’s statute does not authorize the agency to delegate its formal enforcement
functions. Because it lacks the pertinent statutory authority, the FAA cannot delegate its
enforcement functions in the manner suggested by the commenters. The FAA notes,
however, that even though it cannot delegate its formal enforcement functions, it has
worked closely with outside stakeholders to incorporate their assistance in its oversight
processes. For example, the FAA has recently issued guidance to State and local law
enforcement agencies to support the partnership between the FAA and these agencies in
addressing unauthorized UAS activities.152 The FAA anticipates continuing its existing
partnerships to help detect and address unauthorized UAS activities, and the agency will
consider other stakeholders’ requests to be part of the process of ensuring the safe and
lawful use of small UAS.

One individual suggested that a remote pilot in command must enable and make
available to the FAA any flight log recording if the aircraft and/or control station is capable
of creating such a recording. In response, the FAA notes that this rule does not require that
a small UAS operation have the capability to create a flight log recording. However, if a
small UAS does create such a recording, § 107.7(b) will allow the FAA to inspect the small
UAS (including the recording made by the small UAS) to determine compliance with the
provisions of part 107.

One individual suggested that the wording of §107.7(b) be modified to permit the
FAA to conduct only “non-destructive testing” in the event of a reported violation of one or
more provisions of part 107. The commenter asserts that, as written, § 107.7(b) would
permit the FAA to “destructively test” every small UAS “on whim.”
The FAA declines this suggestion because there could be circumstances where
destructive testing of a small UAS may be necessary to determine compliance with part
107. The FAA emphasizes, however, that this type of decision would not be made lightly
and would not be part of a typical FAA inspection. For example, the FAA’s guidance to
FAA inspectors about how to conduct a typical ramp inspection specifically focuses on
non-destructive methods that the inspector can use to determine whether an aircraft is in
compliance with FAA regulations.

One individual recommended that §107.7 be modified to require a remote pilot to
make a photo ID available to the FAA on demand. The FAA did not propose this
requirement in the NPRM, and as such, it is beyond the scope of this rule.

Previous RegulationBack to Drone Regulations DirectoryNext Regulation


Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft. (2018)

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Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) 500 feet below the cloud; and

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

My Commentary on Section 107.51 Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.

These can all be waived.

 

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

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

• Cannot be flown faster than a groundspeed of 87 knots (100 miles per hour);
• Cannot be flown higher than 400 feet above ground level (AGL), unless flown within
a 400-foot radius of a structure and does not fly higher than 400 feet above the
structure’s immediate uppermost limit;
• Minimum visibility, as observed from the location of the CS, may not be less than
3 statute miles (sm); and
• Minimum distance from clouds being no less than 500 feet below a cloud and no less
than 2000 feet horizontally from the cloud.
Note: These operating limitations are intended, among other things, to support
the remote pilot’s ability to identify hazardous conditions relating to
encroaching aircraft or persons on the ground, and to take the appropriate
actions to maintain safety.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NPRM also proposed additional visibility and cloud-clearance requirements to
ensure that the person maintaining visual line of sight has sufficient visibility to see and
avoid other aircraft. Specifically, the NPRM proposed a minimum flight visibility of at
least 3 statute miles from the location of the ground control station. The NPRM also
proposed that the small unmanned aircraft must maintain a minimum distance from clouds
of no less than: (1) 500 feet below the cloud; and (2) 2,000 feet horizontally away from the
cloud. This rule will finalize these minimum-flight-visibility and cloud-clearance
requirements as proposed in the NPRM but will make those requirements waivable.
Commenters including NAAA, ALPA, and Commonwealth Edison Company
supported the proposed minimum flight visibility and distance-from-clouds requirements.
Commonwealth Edison asserted that the proposed visibility requirements, in combination
with the other proposed operational requirements, would “safeguard safety while
recognizing reasonable commercial interests in such a rapidly evolving technological
environment.” NAAA stated that the proposed requirements are consistent with the VFR
visibility requirements under 14 CFR 91.155 and 91.115. The Professional Helicopter
Pilots Association strongly agreed that “weather minimums be at least basic VFR.” ALPA
also agreed that all operations must take place in visual meteorological conditions (VMC)
with the identified cloud clearances. ALPA further recommended that it be made clear that
the 3-mile visibility requirement for VMC does not mean that the visual-line-of-sight
required elsewhere in the proposed regulation can necessarily be maintained at 3 miles.
Modovolate Aviation, NAMIC, the Property Drone Consortium, and a few
individuals generally opposed the imposition of minimum flight visibility and distancefrom-cloud
requirements. The commenters asserted that such requirements are
unnecessary, given the visual-line-of sight requirement of § 107.31. Modovolate stated that
it is unlikely that an operator can keep a small UAS in sight at a distance of 3 miles, so a
separate weather-visibility requirement is redundant. Modovolate also stated that a small
UAS operator cannot maintain visual contact with his small UAS if it is flown in a cloud,
but he would be able to fly his small UAS closer than 500 or 1,000 feet to a well-defined
cloud without risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 3-mile flight visibility requirement is based on a slant angle from the control
station. In other words, a person standing at the control station of the small UAS must be
able to see at a diagonal distance of 3 miles into the sky in order to detect other aircraft that
may be approaching the area of operation. This requirement ensures that the remote pilot in
command can effectively observe the airspace for presence of other aircraft, and reduces
the possibility of the remote pilot or visual observer losing sight of the unmanned aircraft.
To further clarify this concept, the FAA has amended § 107.51(c) to explain that flight
visibility refers to the average slant distance from the control station at which prominent
unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be
seen and identified by night.

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

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

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

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

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

The FAA declines to prohibit small UAS operations when cloud ceilings are lower
than 1,000 feet AGL.87 Specifically, the FAA disagrees that the remote pilot in command
will not be in a position to determine whether the unmanned aircraft is positioned
sufficiently far enough from a cloud to meet the requirements of § 107.51(d). While this
rule does not require specific technological equipage to determine altitude of the unmanned
aircraft, nothing in this rule precludes the remote pilot in command from doing so as a
means to mitigate the risk of cloud clearance requirements. A remote pilot in command
may also opt to operate the unmanned aircraft at a sufficiently low altitude that he or she
can easily determine the aircraft’s altitude. Further, cloud ceilings can be determined
through nearby AWOS/ASOS/ATIS reports, visual cloud observations, or observation of
obscuration of nearby prominent landmarks of a known elevation. If a remote pilot in
command cannot ensure that the unmanned aircraft will maintain sufficient cloud clearance
in accordance with § 107.51(d), that person may not conduct operations until weather
conditions improve. As such, no minimum ceiling requirement is necessary in this rule.
Noting that the NPRM would not require a qualified weather observer, one
commenter questioned who is responsible for determining visibility at the time of the
operation. The commenter further questioned if the regulation has a requirement for the
airman trained and certificated for small UAS to receive training and demonstrate
competence in making accurate visibility determinations. Another commenter also
questioned who determines visibility, and recommended that FAA require as a minimum
that VMC exist and that the closest Official Weather Reporting Station be used.
Under this rule, the remote pilot in command is ultimately responsible for
determining whether a flight can be conducted safely. As part of the preflight assessment
required by § 107.49, the remote pilot in command must evaluate local weather conditions,
which includes an evaluation of whether those conditions are sufficient to meet the
requirements of § 107.51(c) and (d). With regard to competence, as discussed in section
III.F.2.j of this preamble, knowledge of aviation weather sources that can be used to inform
the small UAS operation will be tested on both the initial and recurrent aeronautical
knowledge test. The initial aeronautical knowledge test will also test the airman certificate
applicant’s knowledge of effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance. For
the reasons discussed in section III.F.2.e of this preamble, formal training and practical
testing requirements are not a necessary component of this rule.

………………………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further, the revised limit addresses other concerns regarding potential confusion
between model aircraft and small unmanned aircraft. Specifically, limiting operations to
400 feet is consistent with FAA guidance on model aircraft best practices identified in AC
91-57A, thus standardizing operating altitudes for the majority of small unmanned aircraft
flying in the NAS. A 400-foot altitude ceiling is also consistent with the approach adopted
in other countries. Specifically, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom all set a 400-
foot or lower altitude limit on UAS operations conducted in those countries.94
While the FAA considered the lower altitudes proposed by commenters, it
ultimately determined that these lower limits would unnecessarily restrict small UAS
operations without a commensurate increase in safety because the concentration of manned
aircraft below 400 feet AGL is much lower than the concentration of manned aircraft at or
above 500 feet AGL. The FAA also considered the comment recommending positive air
traffic control above 200 feet. The FAA ultimately rejected this recommendation because it
is overly burdensome to both remote pilots and the air traffic control system. Air traffic
94 United States Government Accountability Office, Unmanned Aerial Systems: FAA Continues Progress
toward Integration into the National Airspace, at 32 (July 5, 2015).

controllers could not reliably provide positive separation for operations at this altitude
throughout the NAS, and the benefits to users from such separation efforts would not
justify the significant additional workload placed on air traffic controllers or the equipment
and training costs to remote pilots. In addition, without additional equipment mandates, the
provision of positive air traffic control would be unachievable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

……………………….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Section 107.49 Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operation.

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Section 107.49 Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operation.

Prior to flight, the remote pilot in command must:

(a) Assess the operating environment, considering risks to persons and property in the immediate vicinity both on the surface and in the air. This assessment must include:

(1) Local weather conditions;

(2) Local airspace and any flight restrictions;

(3) The location of persons and property on the surface; and

(4) Other ground hazards.

(b) Ensure that all persons directly participating in the small unmanned aircraft operation are informed about the operating conditions, emergency procedures, contingency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and potential hazards;

(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.

My Commentary on Section 107.49 Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operation.

I would create a checklist using this regulation. Integrate it with the PAVE and IMSAFE checklists.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.49 Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operation.

Preflight Familiarization, Inspection, and Actions for Aircraft Operation. The
remote PIC must complete a preflight familiarization, inspection, and other actions, such
as crewmember briefings, prior to beginning flight operations. The FAA has produced
many publications providing in-depth information on topics such as aviation weather,
aircraft loading and performance, emergency procedures, ADM, and airspace, which
should all be considered prior to operations (see paragraph 5.20). Additionally, all remote
pilots are encouraged to review FAA publications (see paragraph 2.3).

Prior to Flight. The remote PIC must:

1. Conduct an assessment of the operating environment. The assessment must
include at least the following:
• Local weather conditions,
• Local airspace and any flight restrictions,
• The location of persons and property on the surface, and
• Other ground hazards.

2. Ensure that all persons directly participating in the small UA operation are
informed about the following:
• Operating conditions,
• Emergency procedures,
• Contingency procedures,
• Roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the operation, and
• Potential hazards.

3. Ensure that all control links between the CS and the small UA are working
properly. For example, before each flight, the remote PIC must determine that
the small UA flight control surfaces necessary for the safety of flight are
moving correctly through the manipulation of the small UA CS. If the remote
PIC observes that one or more of the control surfaces are not responding
correctly to CS inputs, then the remote PIC may not conduct flight operations
until correct movement of all flight control surface(s) is established.

4. Ensure there is sufficient power to continue controlled flight operations to a
normal landing. One of the ways that this could be done is by following the
sUAS manufacturer’s operating manual power consumption tables. Another
method would be to include a system on the sUAS that detects power levels
and alerts the remote pilot when remaining aircraft power is diminishing to a
level that is inadequate for continued flight operation.

5. Ensure that any object attached or carried by the small UA is secure and does
not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.

6. Ensure that all necessary documentation is available for inspection, including
the remote PIC’s remote pilot certificate, aircraft registration (if required), and
Certificate of Waiver (CoW) (if applicable).

Safety Risk Assessment. These preflight familiarizations, inspections, and actions can be
accomplished as part of an overall safety risk assessment. The FAA encourages the
remote PIC to conduct the overall safety risk assessment as a method of compliance with
the prohibition on operations over certain persons and the requirement to remain clear of
other aircraft, which are discussed in paragraphs 5.11 and 5.12. Appendix A provides
additional guidance on how to conduct an overall safety risk assessment.

……………………….

Unscheduled Maintenance. During the course of a preflight inspection, the remote PIC
may discover that an sUAS component is in need of servicing (such as lubrication),
repair, modification, overhaul, or replacement outside of the scheduled maintenance
period as a result of normal flight operations or resulting from a mishap. In addition, the
sUAS manufacturer or component manufacture may require an unscheduled system
software update to correct a problem. In the event such a condition is found, the remote
PIC should not conduct flight operations until the discrepancy is corrected.

………………………..

Preflight Inspection. Before each flight, the remote PIC must inspect the sUAS to
ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation, such as inspecting for equipment
damage or malfunction(s). The preflight inspection should be conducted in accordance
with the sUAS manufacturer’s inspection procedures when available (usually found in
the manufacturer’s owner or maintenance manual) and/or an inspection procedure
developed by the sUAS owner or operator.

7.3.1 Creating an Inspection Program. As an option, the sUAS owner or operator may wish to
create an inspection program for their UAS. The person creating an inspection program
for a specific sUAS may find sufficient details to assist in the development of a suitable
inspection program tailored to a specific sUAS in a variety of industry programs.

7.3.2 Scalable Preflight Inspection. The preflight check as part of the inspection program
should include an appropriate UAS preflight inspection that is scalable to the UAS,
program, and operation to be performed prior to each flight. An appropriate preflight
inspection should encompass the entire system in order to determine a continued
condition for safe operation prior to flight.

7.3.3 Title 14 CFR Part 43 Appendix D Guidelines. Another option and best practice may
include the applicable portions of part 43 appendix D as an inspection guideline
correlating to the UA only. System-related equipment, such as, but not limited to, the CS,
data link, payload, or support equipment, are not included in the list in appendix D.
Therefore, these items should be included in a comprehensive inspection program for the
UAS.

7.3.4 Preflight Inspection Items. Even if the sUAS manufacturer has a written preflight
inspection procedure, it is recommended that the remote PIC ensure that the following
inspection items are incorporated into the preflight inspection procedure required by
part 107 to help the remote PIC determine that the sUAS is in a condition for safe
operation. The preflight inspection should include a visual or functional check of the
following items:

1. Visual condition inspection of the UAS components;
2. Airframe structure (including undercarriage), all flight control surfaces, and
linkages;
3. Registration markings, for proper display and legibility;
4. Moveable control surface(s), including airframe attachment point(s);
5. Servo motor(s), including attachment point(s);
6. Propulsion system, including powerplant(s), propeller(s), rotor(s), ducted
fan(s), etc.;
7. Verify all systems (e.g., aircraft and control unit) have an adequate energy
supply for the intended operation and are functioning properly;
8. Avionics, including control link transceiver, communication/navigation
equipment, and antenna(s);
9. Calibrate UAS compass prior to any flight;
10. Control link transceiver, communication/navigation data link transceiver, and
antenna(s);
11. Display panel, if used, is functioning properly;
12. Check ground support equipment, including takeoff and landing systems, for
proper operation;
13. Check that control link correct functionality is established between the aircraft
and the CS;
14. Check for correct movement of control surfaces using the CS;
15. Check onboard navigation and communication data links;
16. Check flight termination system, if installed;
17. Check fuel for correct type and quantity;
18. Check battery levels for the aircraft and CS;
19. Check that any equipment, such as a camera, is securely attached;
20. Verify communication with UAS and that the UAS has acquired GPS location
from at least four satellites;
21. Start the UAS propellers to inspect for any imbalance or irregular operation;
22. Verify all controller operation for heading and altitude;
23. If required by flight path walk through, verify any noted obstructions that may
interfere with the UAS; and
24. At a controlled low altitude, fly within range of any interference and recheck
all controls and stability.

7.3.5 Benefits of Recordkeeping. sUAS owners and operators may find recordkeeping to be
beneficial. This could be done by documenting any repair, modification, overhaul, or
replacement of a system component resulting from normal flight operations, and
recording the time-in-service for that component at the time of the maintenance
procedure. Over time, the operator should then be able to establish a reliable maintenance
schedule for the sUAS and its components. Recordkeeping that includes a record of all
periodic inspections, maintenance, preventative maintenance, repairs, and alterations
performed on the sUAS could be retrievable from either hardcopy and/or electronic
logbook format for future reference. This includes all components of the sUAS,
including: small UA, CS, launch and recovery equipment, C2 link equipment, payload,
and any other components required to safely operate the sUAS. Recordkeeping of
documented maintenance and inspection events reinforces owner/operator responsibilities
for airworthiness through systematic condition for safe flight determinations.
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. Recordkeeping of an sUAS may provide
essential safety support for commercial operators that may experience rapidly
accumulated flight operational hours/cycles. Methodical maintenance and inspection data
collection can prove to be very helpful in the tracking of sUAS component service life, as
well as systemic component, equipage, and structural failure events.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.49 Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operation from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

The NPRM proposed to require that, prior to flight, the remote pilot in command
must ensure that all persons directly involved in the small UAS operation receive a briefing
that includes operating conditions, emergency procedures, contingency procedures, roles
and responsibilities, and potential hazards. The FAA proposed this requirement because, as
discussed in the previous section, this rule will allow a small unmanned aircraft to fly over
people who are directly participating in the small UAS operation. A preflight
familiarization briefing would help ensure that these people have greater situational
awareness and are better able to avoid the flight path of the small unmanned aircraft if the
remote pilot in command were to lose positive control of the aircraft or if the aircraft were
to experience a mechanical failure.

The Travelers Companies said the FAA should modify proposed § 107.49 to
eliminate the “briefing” requirement for operations conducted without a visual observer or
other crew members.

If the remote pilot in command is conducting a small UAS operation entirely by
him or herself, there is no one else that he or she can brief. Additional regulatory text is not
necessary to explain this concept. However, upon reviewing the regulatory text of
§ 107.49(a)(2), the FAA noted that the proposed briefing requirement would apply to
people who are “involved” in the small UAS operation, while the exception to the flightover-people
restriction discussed earlier will apply to people who are “directly
participating” in the small UAS operation. Because the briefing requirement is supposed to
apply to people who may have a small unmanned aircraft fly over them, the FAA has
amended § 107.49(a)(2) to reference people who are directly participating in the small
UAS operation.

The FAA also noted that the proposed requirement to convey important information
in the form of a briefing was needlessly prescriptive. Thus, the FAA has amended
§ 107.49(a)(2) in the final rule to simply require that the remote pilot in command ensure
that persons directly participating in the small UAS operation are informed about the
operating conditions, emergency procedures, contingency procedures, roles and
responsibilities, and potential hazards. This information could be conveyed through a
briefing or through some other means that would reasonably be expected to inform the
recipient.

vi. Preflight Assessment of the Operating Area and Ensuring that the Aircraft Poses No Undue Hazard

Within the above constraints, the NPRM proposed a two-part performance-based
standard for mitigating loss-of-positive control risk. The first part consisted of a preflight
assessment of the operating environment. The second part consisted of a requirement to
ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people,
or property in the event of a loss of positive control of the aircraft for any reason.

1. Preflight Assessment of the Operating Environment
The NPRM proposed to require that, prior to flight, the operator must become
familiar with the confined area of operation by assessing the operating environment and
assessing risks to persons and property in the immediate vicinity both on the surface and in
the air. As part of this operating environment assessment, the operator would need to
consider conditions that could pose a hazard to the operation of the small UAS as well as
conditions in which the operation of the small UAS could pose a hazard to other aircraft or
persons or property on the ground. Accordingly, the operating environment assessment
proposed in the NPRM would include the consideration of: (1) local weather conditions;
(2) local airspace and any flight restrictions; (3) the location of persons and property on the
ground; and (4) any other ground hazards.

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will finalize the operating environment
assessment as part of the preflight familiarization provision as proposed in the NPRM, but
will change the reference from “operator” to “remote pilot in command” to reflect the
change in the crewmember framework discussed in section III.E.1 of this preamble.

Boeing asserted that the proposed rule imposes a requirement to assess risk, but
provides no criteria against which to measure that risk. The commenter therefore
recommended the FAA revise the proposed provision to include criteria to measure risk
(e.g., reference the Structural Repair Manual (SRM) or similar criteria). The commenter
also noted that there is no requirement to determine if the risk is acceptable, and
recommended the FAA clarify this issue to ensure appropriate compliance with, and
consistent interpretation of, the regulation.

As discussed in the next section of this preamble, this rule will require the remote
pilot in command to ensure that the small UAS will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft,
people, or property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason. Section
107.49 is intended to help the remote pilot in command satisfy this requirement by having
the remote pilot in command assess the operating environment so that he or she can design
the operation, as well as any mitigation, to ensure that the small unmanned aircraft does not
create an undue hazard if positive control is lost.

As a performance-based requirement, it is not the intent of this section to be
prescriptive with regard to how remote pilots conduct an assessment of their operating
environment. Because there is a diverse range of aircraft and operating environments that
could exist for part 107 operations, a prescriptive preflight-assessment standard may be
more burdensome than necessary in some instances. For example, a remote pilot in
command operating a small UAS in an empty rural area would not need to look at the same
things to assure the safety of the operation as a remote pilot in command operating a small
UAS in a crowded urban environment. The guidance material which the FAA has issued
concurrently with this rule provides examples and best practices for how to conduct the
preflight assessment of the operating area and assess risks that may affect the small UAS
operation. The FAA will also consider publishing industry best practices in future small
UAS guidance that will assist remote pilots in assessing risk.

The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association said that, prior to flight, the remote
pilot should be required to obtain a briefing, similar to a manned-aircraft pilot’s briefing,
which would include weather, NOTAMs, and any other pertinent information for the area
in which they intend to operate.

As discussed in sections III.E.2 and III.E.5 of this preamble, this rule includes
requirements for assessing the operating environment with regard to weather and
NOTAMs. The remote pilot in command is responsible for satisfying those requirements.
The remote pilot may choose to use the means suggested by the commenter to help satisfy
his or her regulatory obligations, or he or she may choose some other method of obtaining
the pertinent information. As long as the pertinent regulatory requirements are fulfilled, the
means by which the remote pilot in command accomplishes this goal is within his or her
discretion.

API encouraged the FAA to consider all provisions of the Helicopter Safety
Advisory Conference’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Guidelines, including provisions related
to pre-flight briefings, as the rule is finalized. The FAA concurs with the API’s
recommendation to consider the provisions of the Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference
Recommended Practices 15-1 Unmanned Aerial Systems Guidelines document (HSAC RP
UASRP 15-1) published in February 2015. After reviewing the HSAC RP UASRP 15-1
guidelines, the FAA finds that the recommended practices address all of the requirements
found in § 107.49.

The Kansas State University UAS Program also recommended that the assessment
consider potential issues with link integrity to the aircraft from obstacles between the
ground antennas and the aircraft (e.g., trees) or electromagnetic interference from nearby
RF sources such as radio towers and radars. In response, the FAA notes that this concern is
addressed in § 107.49(a)(3). Section 107.49(a)(3) requires that the remote pilot ensure that
all control links between ground station and the small unmanned aircraft are working
properly. The remote pilot in command may not commence a small UAS operation if a
control link is working improperly (whether as a result of radio interference or for some
other reason). The FAA also expects that the remote pilot in command will develop a
contingency plan for ensuring that the small unmanned aircraft does not pose an undue
hazard to other aircraft, people, or property if positive control of the small unmanned
aircraft is lost through a disruption in the data control link.

2. Undue Hazard if There is a Loss of Control
The NPRM proposed that, after becoming familiar with the confined area of
operation and conducting an operating environment assessment, the operator must ensure
that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or
property in the event of a loss of positive control of the aircraft for any reason. The FAA
proposed this performance-based requirement instead of a more prescriptive standard
because it would provide the operator with significant flexibility to choose how to mitigate
the hazards associated with loss of aircraft control.

In a joint submission, PlaneSense and Cobalt Air stated that the language in
proposed § 107.19(b) sets a different standard from that in § 107.23 (hazardous operation).
They noted that while § 107.19(b) requires that small UAS operations “pose no undue
hazard to other aircraft, people or property[,]” § 107.23(b) prohibits persons from operating
a small UAS in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of
another[.]” The commenters argued that these two standards are not consistent, because
§ 107.23 does not include other aircraft within the scope of the third parties who must be
protected. The commenters went on to say that these discrepancies create inconsistencies
which result in incomplete guidance for the operators of small UAS, and may result in an
increase in danger to the public. The commenters suggested that the appropriate standard is
to be found in § 107.19(b), and that § 107.23 should be changed to match it. Finally, the
commenters asked the FAA to clarify whether “other aircraft” includes other unmanned
aircraft.

Part 107 prohibits a small UAS operation from endangering life or property, and
prohibits a remote pilot from operating a small UAS in a careless or reckless manner.
Property includes other aircraft, including other unmanned aircraft. These two requirements
complement, rather than contradict, one another, and provide the remote pilot with the
flexibility to adjust his or her operation according to the environment in which he or she is
operating. For example, if the operation takes place in a residential area, the remote pilot in
command could ask everyone in the area of operation to remain inside their homes while
the operation is conducted. If the operation takes place in an area where other air traffic
could pose a hazard, the remote pilot could advise local air traffic control as to the location
of his or her area of operation and add extra visual observers to the operation so that they
can notify the remote pilot if other aircraft are approaching the area of operation. These
precautions would be one way to ensure that the operation will not pose an undue hazard to
other aircraft, people or property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft.

Additionally, during the operation of the small unmanned aircraft, the remote pilot in
command is prohibited from operating the aircraft in a careless and reckless manner,
further ensuring that the operation does not pose an undue hazard to other aircraft, people,
or property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft.

The NextGen Air Transportation Program, NC State University commented that
§ 107.19(b) is “not realistic.” The commenter stated that the remote pilot can do everything
possible to minimize the risk and harm possible in the event of loss of positive control, but
asserted that requiring that no damage be caused without requiring fly-away prevention or
other risk management mechanisms does not align with the general NPRM objectives.
Similarly, ALPA stated that many small unmanned aircraft, particularly those with
multiple propulsion units, may become highly unstable when they enter a state of “lost
link” or “loss of positive control.” This commenter also asserted its strong belief that if lost
link occurs, mitigations to safely perform auto-hover, auto-land, and return-to-home
maneuvers, and geo-fencing protection, must be incorporated into the navigation and
control systems for a small UAS to safely land without harm to persons or property.
The undue hazard standard in this rule is a performance-based standard, which the
remote pilot in command may satisfy through operational or equipage/technological
mitigations. In section III.E.3.b.vi of this preamble, the FAA describes equipment that
remote pilots may incorporate into their small unmanned aircraft systems as one means of
complying with this requirement. Due to the diversity and rapidly evolving nature of small
UAS operations, this rule allows individual remote pilots to determine what equipage
methods, if any, mitigate risk sufficiently to meet the performance-based requirements of
this rule, such as the prohibition on creating an undue hazard if there is a loss of aircraft
control. This provides the greatest amount of regulatory flexibility while maintaining the
appropriate level of safety commensurate with part 107 operations.

The methods suggested by the commenters are some, but not all of the possible
mitigations available for remote pilots of UAS. The FAA recognizes that it is impossible to
prevent every hazard in the event of a loss of control of the small unmanned aircraft;
however, as several commenters stated, this rule requires remote pilots to do everything
possible to minimize risk and harm in the event of loss of positive control.

NOAA commented that § 107.19(b) should be revised to include “protected
wildlife” in the class of entities to be protected from undue hazard in the case of loss of
positive control. NOAA states that this change would acknowledge the importance of other
Federal statutes already in place to protect, conserve, and recover vulnerable wildlife
populations and ensure the FAA-regulated community is aware of them and that the final
rule does not contradict them.

The FAA notes that other Federal statutes already in place establish laws on the
protection of wildlife. Independent of this rule, the remote pilot in command is responsible
for complying with any other Federal, State, or local laws that apply to his or her small
UAS operation.

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Section 107.47 Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen.

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Section 107.47 Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen.

A person acting as a remote pilot in command must comply with the provisions of §§ 91.137 through 91.145 and 99.7 of this chapter.

 

My Commentary on Section 107.47 Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen.

You should read my articles on the temporary flight restrictions. You definately don’t want to fly into one as some of them have criminal penalties.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.47 Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen.

Temporary Flight Restrictions. Certain temporary flight restrictions
(http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html) may be imposed by way of a NOTAM
(https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/). Therefore, it is necessary for the sUAS remote
PIC to check for NOTAMs before each flight to determine if there are any applicable
airspace restrictions.

 

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.47 Flight restrictions in the proximity of certain areas designated by notice to airmen from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

Requiring the installation of a geo-fencing system capable of keeping small
unmanned aircraft out of restricted and prohibited airspace would present a number of
technical hurdles. Specifically, there are currently no design or performance standards for
geo-fencing equipment to ensure safe and reliable integration into the NAS. Without
appropriate geo-fencing design and performance standards, the industry and the FAA lack
the data necessary to assess the accuracy and reliability of geo-fencing equipment and
therefore, the FAA cannot promulgate geo-fencing equipment design requirements (i.e.,
airworthiness certification).

Also, geo-fencing equipment integrated on small UAS would require an evolving
database of terrain and obstacle updates, restricted and special use airspace, Notices to
Airmen (NOTAMs), and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). The FAA is unaware of a
database that provides this full capability and therefore cannot accurately determine the
effort to develop and maintain it for remote pilots. The FAA also does not have information
on how frequently updates to the onboard small UAS geo-fence database would be
required to maintain safe and reliable operation in the NAS.

………………………

Under the NPRM, this area of knowledge would also be included in the recurrent
knowledge test because: (1) airspace that the airman is familiar with could become
reclassified over time; (2) the location of existing flight restrictions could change over
time; and (3) some airmen may not regularly encounter these issues in their operations. For
the reasons discussed below, this rule will include knowledge of airspace classification and
operating requirements and knowledge of flight restrictions affecting small unmanned
aircraft operation as an area of knowledge tested on both the initial and recurrent
knowledge tests.

……………………….

In response to Aerius, the FAA notes that special-use airspace will be covered
under knowledge of flight restrictions, which will determine the test taker’s knowledge of
regulatory restrictions on small UAS flight imposed through means such as prohibited
airspace or a TFR. Right-of-way rules, visual scanning, and accident reporting will be
covered by the knowledge area of regulations applicable to small UAS operations because
all of these concepts are codified in the operational regulations of part 107. Aeromedical
factors will not specifically be included on the knowledge test, but the FAA may publish
further guidance to remote pilots on topics such as aeromedical factors and visual scanning
techniques.

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Section 107.45 Operation in prohibited or restricted areas. (2018)

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Section 107.45 Operation in prohibited or restricted areas.

No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in prohibited or restricted areas unless that person has permission from the using or controlling agency, as appropriate.

My Commentary on Section 107.45 Operation in prohibited or restricted areas.

Pay attention because not all restricted areas are on the sectional charts. There are temporary restricted areas which pop up from time to time.

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.45 Operation in prohibited or restricted areas.

None.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.45 Operation in prohibited or restricted areas from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

Requiring the installation of a geo-fencing system capable of keeping small
unmanned aircraft out of restricted and prohibited airspace would present a number of
technical hurdles. Specifically, there are currently no design or performance standards for
geo-fencing equipment to ensure safe and reliable integration into the NAS. Without
appropriate geo-fencing design and performance standards, the industry and the FAA lack
the data necessary to assess the accuracy and reliability of geo-fencing equipment and
therefore, the FAA cannot promulgate geo-fencing equipment design requirements (i.e.,
airworthiness certification).

………………………….

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

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

………………………….

The NPRM proposed prohibiting small UAS operations in prohibited and restricted
areas without permission from the using or controlling agency, as applicable. Prohibited
and restricted areas are designated in 14 CFR part 73. The proposed provision concerning
prohibited and restricted areas was similar to the part 91 restriction on operations in these
areas, and did not include any new UAS-specific prohibited or restricted areas.112 After
careful consideration of the comments, the FAA will adopt the provisions as proposed.
The FAA establishes prohibited and restricted areas when necessary to prohibit
flight over an area on the surface in the interest of national security or welfare. As
discussed in section III.J.2 of this preamble, several commenters requested that the FAA
establish prohibited or restricted airspace over energy infrastructure facilities, citing
national security concerns as the basis for their comments. However, four commenters also
cited safety concerns when suggesting that the FAA establish such restrictions.

Southern Company and Edison Electric Institute, individually and jointly with
NRECA and APPA, explicitly cited safety reasons for restricting operations near energy
infrastructure facilities. Edison Electric Institute raised concerns regarding UAS operations
over critical energy infrastructure, including electric transmission and distribution facilities,
power generation facilities, transmission lines, and substations. The commenter noted that
the FAA currently has a TFR for manned aircraft over generation facilities, which the
commenter said should be extended to cover UAS. The commenter argued that the FAA
should extend the TFR to small UAS because of “the obvious safety factor involved with
any activity near high voltage equipment and the attendant economic loss that comes from
the possible loss of electric distribution.” EEI also submitted a separate, joint comment
with NRECA and the APPA, which reiterated the same concerns.

Southern Company proposed that the FAA prohibit small UAS operations over
power generation and transmission facilities, except by the utility or third parties acting on
behalf of the utility. The commenter stated that the current NOTAM advising pilots to
avoid overflight of power-generation facilities, including nuclear power plants, does not
adequately address the potential risk small UAS pose. The commenter argued that,
“[b]ecause of the small size, low-cost, great availability, and unmanned nature of small
UAS, little deters small-UAS operators, as opposed to their manned aircraft counterparts,
from operating over power generation and transmission facilities.” The commenter further
argued that, although small UAS are capable of safe operation in close proximity to most
structures, operation next to power generation and transmission facilities may be subject to
invisible hazards, such as fire hazards caused by light and heat produced from an electric
arc, that may be unfamiliar to non-utility operators.

Consumers Energy Company and the American Fuel & Petrochemical
Manufacturers also addressed the safety of energy infrastructure. Consumers Energy
Company said the FAA should consider expressly identifying a zone of no small UAS
operation within a specified distance from electrical facilities (substations, power lines, and
utility poles), except for small UAS operations by the facilities’ owners. The commenter
said that such a rule would reduce the likelihood of small UAS operations negatively
affecting electrical facilities and continue to ensure the safety of the United States electric
grid.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers complained that the NPRM
does not identify—much less address—issues of safety and security arising from certain
scenarios that are a serious issue for its members, including an accidental crash into a
facility, such as a refinery. The commenter expressed concern that the airspace and
geographic limitations in the proposed rule are not sufficient to ensure the safety and
security of critical infrastructure facilities, and therefore requested that the final rule
prohibit the unauthorized use, or unauthorized operation, of a small UAS over all oil and
gas production, handling, transport, and processing facilities.

EEI expressed concern that FDC NOTAM 4/0811 advising pilots to avoid the
airspace over, or in proximity to, power plants would prevent electric utility companies
from conducting small UAS flights around their own facilities.

Restricted airspace is designated when the FAA determines it is necessary to
confine or segregate activities hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft. The FAA does not
create special use airspace applicable to only one particular airframe or aircraft type. The
public’s right of free transit through the airspace includes the users of unmanned aircraft.
Accordingly, the FAA declines commenters’ suggestions to create UAS-specific restricted
airspace around certain facilities. However, the FAA acknowledges commenters’ concerns.
In response to these concerns, the FAA emphasizes FDC NOTAM 4/0811, which states
that “…to the extent practicable, pilots are strongly advised to avoid the airspace above, or
in proximity to such sites as power plants (nuclear, hydro-electric, or coal), dams,
refineries, industrial complexes, military facilities and other similar facilities. Pilots should
not circle as to loiter in the vicinity over these types of facilities.”113 This NOTAM applies
with equal force to pilots of manned and unmanned aircraft. In response to EEI’s concern,
the FAA notes that FDC NOTAM 4/0811 is advisory and thus, does not constitute a
regulatory prohibition.

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Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace. (2018)

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Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace.


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

My Commentary on Section 107.41 Operation in certain airspace.

Notice it does not require authorization for class E airspace everywhere but only Class E at the surface in connection with an airport airspace. Also, you should read my how to fly at night article because some of these B, C,D, and E at the surface airspace change into G at night. You can fly under a night waiver near them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of these commenters requested that the FAA provide guidance to ATC
facilities regarding the handling of requests to operate small UAS in controlled airspace.
Modovolate Aviation agreed with the proposed framework, but suggested that the FAA
should provide guidance on how ATC permission would be obtained. The Small UAV
Coalition asked the FAA to provide contact information for each ATC facility, and to agree
to provide timely decisions on whether to authorize operations in controlled airspace.
NBAA suggested prohibiting use of ATC frequencies to obtain the required permission.
In response to comments, the FAA will establish two methods by which a remote
pilot in command may request FAA authorization for a small unmanned aircraft to operate
in Class B, C, D, and the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace
designated for an airport. The first method is the same as what was proposed in the NPRM:
a remote pilot in command may seek approval from the ATC facility with jurisdiction over
the airspace in which the remote pilot would like to conduct operations. The second
method allows a remote pilot to request a waiver from this provision in order to operate in
Class B through E airspace. As stated in the NPRM, the appropriate ATC facility has the
best understanding of local airspace, its usage, and traffic patterns and is in the best
position to ascertain whether the proposed small UAS operation would pose a hazard to
other users or the efficiency of the airspace, and procedures to implement to mitigate such
hazards. The ATC facility has the authority to approve or deny aircraft operations based on
traffic density, controller workload, communications issues, or any other type of
operational issues that could potentially impact the safe and efficient flow of air traffic in
that airspace. If necessary to approve a small UAS operation, ATC may require mitigations
such as altitude constraints and direct communication. ATC may deny requests that pose an
unacceptable risk to the NAS and cannot be mitigated.

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

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

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

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

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

The FAA does not believe that prescriptive design provisions are necessary in this
rule. The FAA acknowledges the concerns raised by the commenters but notes that, as of
this writing, safety-relevant equipage such as transponders has not been certificated for use
on a small UAS. Additionally, there could be small UAS operations with operational
parameters that would make those UAS not a danger to manned aircraft even if positive
control is lost. For example, a small unmanned aircraft flying at low altitude and
surrounded by natural barriers that would stop the aircraft from flying away would not pose
a danger to other aircraft, even in the absence of equipage mitigations. Thus, this rule will
retain the framework allowing the FAA to evaluate operations seeking to be conducted in
controlled airspace on a case-by-case basis, and will not impose generally applicable
design or equipage provisions on all small UAS operations. The FAA will continue to
monitor the development of small UAS technology and may revisit this issue once the
pertinent technology becomes more mature and additional safety data is available.
This framework is similar to the regulatory construct underlying controlled-airspace
access under part 91. Specifically, while part 91 imposes minimum equipage requirements
on aircraft seeking to operate in controlled airspace, part 91 also gives ATC the power to
authorize aircraft that do not have the required equipage to access the airspace.108 Part 107
provides ATC with a similar power to evaluate whether an individual small UAS operation
may safely be conducted in controlled airspace even though the unmanned aircraft lacks
equipage typically used to mitigate safety concerns in that airspace.

Additionally, the FAA does not agree that the current COA process would be a
better mechanism for operating in controlled airspace. Currently, when a small UAS
operator applies for a COA, the Flight Standards Service in the FAA first addresses the
108 See, e.g., 14 CFR 91.215(b) (allowing ATC to authorize access to Class A, B, or C airspace for aircraft
that do not have a transponder) and § 91.225(b) (allowing ATC to authorize access to Class B or C airspace
for aircraft that do not have ADS-B).

equipage exemptions, and then if a favorable outcome is reached, the operator is allowed to
operate in Class G airspace up to 200 feet AGL. If an operator wishes to operate in
controlled airspace, under the previous COA framework, the request is sent to the air traffic
service center. The service center then works with the appropriate ATC facility to respond
to the request. This rule will streamline the process, such that equipage no longer needs to
be reviewed by the FAA if the part 107 requirements are met. Therefore, the only
outstanding step in the COA process would be resolving requests to operate in controlled
airspace. This rule incorporates that step within the ATC-permission framework, making
the COA process unnecessary for part 107 operations.

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

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

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

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

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

This rule does not mandate a specific method of communication with ATC. In its
evaluation of a request to fly in controlled airspace, an ATC facility may request two-way
radio communications as a condition of approval for that request. ATC’s evaluation may
include assessing the experience and ability of the remote pilot in using proper
phraseology. Imposing a general sport pilot certificate requirement would not ensure the
appropriate knowledge and skills because sport pilots are not permitted to operate in class
B, C, or D airspace without an additional endorsement, and would not necessarily have the
radio training or experience by virtue of holding a sport pilot certificate. Additionally, there
are several means outside of an airman certificate that may provide proper ATC
communication experience, such as airport ground personnel or air traffic controller
training.

The FAA has not mandated specific coordination with ATC for manned or
unmanned aircraft during a loss-of-control event. As described in the introduction to the
FAA Safety Team (FAAST) course ALC-40, navigate, communicate. In other words, during an emergency, a pilot should maintain
control of the aircraft, know where he or she is and where he or she intends to go, and let
someone know his or her plans. To require a communication task during an emergency
may distract a pilot from these priorities and possibly create additional risk. Proper flight
planning by a remote pilot in command includes an assessment of the risk of violating
regulatory airspace, and incorporation of mitigations and contingencies commensurate with
that risk.

Prioria Robotics said the FAA should consider blanket access to airspace below 500
feet for small and micro class unmanned vehicles of less than 15 pounds, with exceptions
for within one mile of airports. Prioria Robotics also recommended that only vehicles
larger than 15 pounds be subject to airspace restriction. One individual stated that
operations below 100 feet and farther than 3 miles from an airport in class B and C airspace
should be allowed without ATC involvement. Similarly, the National Association of
Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Radio
Television Digital News Association, commenting jointly, suggested a sliding scale for
operations that would require lower altitudes when closer to an airport for operations
without ATC approval. DJI suggested that in lieu of restrictions in certain classes of
airspace, the FAA should consider adopting an approach akin to the one that the agency has
adopted in 14 CFR part 77, in which maximum altitude increases as distance to an airport
increases.

The FAA disagrees with the assumption that the weight of an unmanned aircraft is
the sole safety concern when operating in controlled airspace. The FAA designates the
various classes of controlled airspace to allow ATC to provide separation services to
instrument flight rules (IFR) and, in the case of class B and C airspace, VFR traffic.
Controlled airspace surface areas have a high number of arriving and departing aircraft at
altitudes below 500 feet and rely on ATC to assess and mitigate the associated risk.
Trying to create a sliding scale that would require lower altitudes closer to an
airport for operations without ATC approval would be complex because the slope would
not be uniform. Instead, the slope would be shallower in the path of approach or departures,
and steeper away from traffic flows. Each airspace has unique characteristics, and
individual small UAS operations are different, making it impossible to establish a uniform
standard. Allowing the local ATC facility to determine the feasibility of a small UAS
operation is an efficient means to mitigate the risks involved in operating in controlled
airspace.

The Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association, the City of Phoenix Aviation
Department, and PlaneSense and Cobalt Air, commenting jointly, suggested that a
NOTAM be issued when small UAS are flying in class B, C, D, and E airspace.
The FAA disagrees with this suggestion because, in many instances, a NOTAM
would not provide any additional level of safety. For example, neither a very low altitude
operation (e.g., below 50 feet), nor a flight that is shielded by a taller structure that would
preclude manned aircraft from operating in that area, would benefit from a NOTAM. In
both instances there is a low probability that manned aircraft will be present in those areas.
The FAA has a responsibility to keep NOTAMs relevant to pilots, and NOTAMs that do
not provide an additional level of safety may create information “clutter” during a preflight
briefing. A facility may issue a NOTAM for the impacted timeframe after giving
permission to a remote pilot to operate in controlled airspace, if appropriate.
NOAA requested more details about requirements for civil UAS operated in the
Mode C veil. In response, the FAA notes that operations conducted under part 107 do not
need to comply with part 91 unless explicitly directed by part 107. The transponder
requirement in the mode C veil (14 CFR part 91.215(b)(2)) is not required of part 107
operations.

NAFI asked what radio station license a small UAS operator would use on the
aviation radio spectrum. In response, the FAA notes that licensing of radio stations is
outside of its jurisdiction. The pertinent FCC guidance can be found in form 605 Schedule
C (https://transition.fcc.gov/Forms/Form605/605c.pdf).

Several commenters, including the American Association of Airport Executives, the
Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission,
suggested that the FAA require remote pilots wishing to operate in class B, C, D, or E
airspace to also notify the appropriate airport operator. The City and County of Denver,
Colorado, and the City of Phoenix Aviation Department added that UAS operators should
be required to seek authorization from both ATC and the airport operator at least two full
business days prior to small UAS operations in controlled airspace.

An airport operator does not have responsibility for air traffic or activities outside
airport property. The FAA has been tasked with integrating UAS operations into the NAS,
and notes that manned aircraft do not have a corresponding requirement to notify airport
management. The ATC facility is the proper focal point for approval and notification for
small UAS operations in controlled airspace under this rule.

The FAA does not agree that remote pilots must seek permission from an ATC
facility at least two full business days prior to the small UAS operations. As discussed
previously, the timeframe for ATC to process permission requests will vary based on the
ATC facility, the airspace, and the small UAS operation. In some instances it may take less
than two full business days to process a permission request and, as such, a requirement to
submit the permission request two days in advance would be unnecessarily burdensome.
The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association said operations in class B airspace
should not be allowed without a transponder for operation above at least 200 feet AGL.
Because part 107 operations are constrained to visual line of sight, they are
confined to a limited area known to ATC. Requiring a transponder in class B airspace for
all operations over a certain altitude would place a burden on the small UAS operation that
might not provide any additional safety because all manned traffic (except under certain
SFRA procedures)

110 is required to be in radio communication and under the direct control
of ATC. ATC would deny a small UAS flight operating under part 107 if lack of a
transponder created an unacceptable risk for that operation.

As it pertains to this discussion, Special Flight Rules Areas are areas of tightly constrained altitude and
path where VFR aircraft can traverse Class B airspace without receiving a clearance or talking to ATC.

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society expressed concern that UAS might
inadvertently enter class B airspace. ALPA was concerned about the ability of a small UAS
pilot/operator to correctly identify specific airspace areas and make the correct
determination of whether operations are permitted or must be coordinated with ATC.
This risk remains unchanged regardless of the restrictions imposed on operating in
class B airspace. Other than the inner surface areas, there are very few instances where the
floor of class B airspace is less than 1,000 feet above ground level, and therefore a vertical
intrusion would be rare. The lateral boundaries of Class B airspace can be easily
ascertained and avoided with proper planning of the operation. Airspace configuration is a
knowledge area that will be tested for remote pilot certification, and a remote pilot should
be aware of proximity of the unmanned aircraft to more restrictive airspace. Remote pilot
certificate holders will also be regularly tested on their knowledge of airspace
configuration, either as part of their flight review (for part 61 pilot certificate holders) or
when they take the recurrent knowledge test (for non-part-61 certificate holders). In
addition, applicants for a remote pilot certificate who do not hold a part 61 pilot certificate
will be required to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test that includes knowledge of
airspace, airspace operating requirements, and the use of aeronautical charts. Pilots who
hold a part 61 pilot certificate with an aircraft category and class rating will not have to
take the initial aeronautical knowledge test, but they will have acquired the pertinent
knowledge in order to obtain their part 61 pilot certificate.

b. Operations in Class A airspace
The NPRM proposed prohibiting small UAS operations in Class A airspace. Class
A airspace starts at 18,000 feet mean sea level and extends up to 60,000 feet.111 This rule
will not adopt the proposed prohibition because a small unmanned aircraft will be unable to
access Class A airspace without violating the other operational restrictions of part 107.
The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, Crew Systems, and three individual
commenters questioned the need for specifically prohibiting operations in Class A airspace.
One of the individual commenters did not have an objection to the proposed restriction, but
stated that the other operational restrictions in the NPRM would make it impossible to
operate in Class A airspace. Another individual commenter pointed out that the only
location where an operation could meet all of the operational restrictions proposed in the
NPRM and still be in Class A airspace is near the summit of Mt. McKinley. This
commenter suggested that an explicit restriction on Class A airspace operations was
unnecessary, as no one would bother to carry a small UAS up a mountain in order to fly it.
The FAA agrees with the commenter who stated that other operational restrictions
in the NPRM would make it impossible to operate in Class A airspace. Title 14 CFR
section 71.33(b) designating Class A airspace in Alaska specifically excludes the airspace
less than 1,500 feet above the surface of the earth. This eliminates the possibility of a small
UAS operating under part 107 from reaching Class A airspace given the altitude limitations
of the rule. Consequently, this rule will not adopt the proposed Class A airspace restriction.

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Section 107.39 Operation over human beings. (2018)

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Section 107.39 Operation over human beings.

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

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

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

My Commentary on Section 107.39 Operation over human beings.

Notice it is stationary vehicles, not moving vehicles. The FAA only considers 4 types of people to be participating directly. Look them up below in the FAA’s discussion.

 

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.39 Operation over human beings.

None

 

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

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

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

The International Center for Law and Economics and TechFreedom claimed that by
prohibiting UAS operation over people who are not directly involved in the operation, the
FAA is “essentially limiting commercial UAS operations to unpopulated or extremely
sparsely populated areas,” and thus is “improperly ignor[ing] the important incentives for
innovation suggested by Executive Order 12866 without apparent corresponding benefit.”
The Consumers Energy Company (CEC) stated that the likelihood of injury from
contact with a small UAS is low given the restrictions on the size of small UAS, as well as

the fact that they use small rotors and carry small fuel loads. With respect to the
maintenance of power lines, poles, and related facilities, in particular, CEC pointed out that
most operations occur in remote or rural locations with low population densities, where the
risk of contact between a small UAS and a non-involved person is minimal. CEC said the
FAA needs to consider “whether the risk perceived from small UAS usage really justifies a
restriction that could have a substantial impact on the ability to use sUAS on a commercial
scale.”

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

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

With regard to the risk caused by small UAS operations, the FAA agrees that, to
date, the number of actual fatalities caused by small UAS operation has been low.
However, that may be a function of the fact that, until recently, commercial civil small
UAS operations have been prohibited in the United States. As discussed in the Regulatory
Impact Assessment, the FAA expects the use of small UAS to increase after issuance of

this rule, and thus, the agency has to ensure that part 107 implements appropriate
mitigation to address potential risk caused by small unmanned aircraft flight over people.
The FAA agrees with WAG and Foxtrot Consulting that the knowledge that remote
pilots in command will acquire during the certification process will help mitigate against
small UAS accidents caused by human error. However, the safety concern underlying the
flight-over-people restriction is not human error, it is mechanical failure. While a remote
pilot in command may be able to detect some signs of potential mechanical failure during
the preflight check, the preflight check does not, by itself, assure a level of mechanical
reliability established by the formal airworthiness and maintenance processes that apply to
other aircraft in the NAS. The appropriate mitigation to address this discrepancy, especially
for heavier small unmanned aircraft, is an operational restriction on flying over people who
could be hurt in the event of a mechanical failure.

The FAA disagrees with WAG’s assertion that model aircraft are subject to a lower
flight-over-people standard than part 107 operations. In order to operate under section 336
of Public Law 112-95, a model aircraft must, among other things, be “operated in
accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming
of a nationwide community-based organization.”98 Today, the largest nationwide
community-based organization that operates model aircraft is the Academy of Model
Aeronautics (AMA). AMA’s safety code specifically prohibits “flying directly over
unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures.”99

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

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

Professional Helicopter Pilots Association suggested allowing small UAS to be operated
over persons or property if they do so in a safe manner.

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

Trimble Navigation proposed the FAA rely on a performance-based regime for
operations over persons. Noting that the onus and obligation should be primarily on the
small UAS operator to assess the overall safety environment before operating over persons,
the company said the FAA “should avoid trying to specify precise design-based criteria in
favor of a general standard of care that requires the operator to take into account the full
range of operational safety protections and procedures at the site in question.”
A commenter suggested the final regulations should discern between UAS
weighing 5 pounds or less (which could be operated over “populated” areas at a maximum
speed of 40 mph), UAS weighing between 5 and 25 pounds (which could be operated over
“sparsely populated” areas at a maximum speed of 70 mph), and UAS weighing between
25 and 55 pounds (which could be operated according to the limitations imposed in the
NPRM). The commenter further suggested that COAs be available for UAS between 25
and 55 pounds to be operated in populated and sparsely populated areas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAMIC recommended that the FAA allow small UAS operations over people not
directly involved in the operation, as long as those operations follow enhanced safety
protocols, including, for example: (1) that the small unmanned aircraft not loiter over a
person or persons for an extended period of time, but transition over them as needed to
reach a location where operating is permitted to complete the flight; and (2) that an
operator must operate the UAS at a sufficient altitude so that if a power unit fails, an
emergency landing can be accomplished without undue hazard to persons or property on
the ground. Exelon Corporation said that the final rule should include reasonable
accommodations to allow for brief, low-risk exceptions to the ban on flights over nonparticipating
persons (e.g., flying across a road during a survey of damage to power
distribution lines in suburban areas), and that “proper safety precautions as well as signage,
education, and protocol can be put in place to mitigate any safety concerns.”
The Property Drone Consortium said that any UAS with “special safety features”
should be exempt from the ban on flight over non-participants. Furthermore, the
Consortium suggested the FAA mitigate any safety concerns by requiring appropriate
insurance coverage or creating a suggested list of “best practices” for use in the insurance
industry. Similarly, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said the proposed
prohibition “is onerous and overprotective,” and suggested instead that insurance and
equipment requirements could be employed “to promote responsible use of the UAS.”
As discussed earlier, the restriction on flight over people in this rule will be
waivable. This will allow the FAA to consider, on a case-by-case basis, any additional
mitigations that are incorporated into a small UAS operation. The FAA will grant a waiver
request allowing small unmanned aircraft flight over people if the applicant establishes that
his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver. In
response to comments suggesting an insurance requirement in place of the flight-overpeople
restriction, the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.K.1 of this preamble, the
FAA lacks jurisdiction to mandate the purchase of liability insurance.

An individual commenter suggested that operations in congested areas be permitted
with additional licensure, which the commenter said “will assist the operator in recognizing
potential hazards and risks as well as the ability to assess those risks to ensure that these
hazards to the public be minimized.” Another individual commenter recommended an
additional rating for operators to allow them to fly “in cities and other crowded areas.” The
commenter said the operators could be required to go through a more comprehensive
certification process, and the UAS could be required to have annual or semiannual
maintenance checks and be equipped with an automatically deployable parachute system.
As discussed earlier, the FAA considered and rejected additional limitations on
operations over congested areas because that approach would needlessly limit small UAS
operation over congested areas during times when those areas are devoid of people. The
FAA also does not agree that additional remote pilot certification should be required to
operate over an empty area of operation, even if that area of operation happens to be
located in a congested area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kapture Digital Media questioned whether people can become “directly involved”
in an operation if they are notified of the operation by signs posted around the area of
operation, or, alternatively, whether people can only become “directly involved” in an
operation by signing a waiver. Vail Resorts noted that many of the best uses of UAS
technology at ski areas would necessarily involve some temporary amount of flight over
individuals who are not “necessary for the safe operation” of the small UAS, which is how
the NPRM defined “directly involved in the operation.” Consequently, Vail asserted that a
strict ban on operations over people not “directly involved” in the operation “could have
the unintended consequence of making many potentially critical ski resort drone operations
noncompliant with FAA regulations.” As such, Vail said FAA should broaden the
definition of “directly involved” to include “those people who are aware of and have
consented to being involved in the drone operation by, for example, reading particular
signage or signing a release.” Similarly NoFlyZone.org said operations over nonparticipants
should be permitted provided the operator has advised all non-participants to
remain clear of the small UAS launch/recovery area, and also advised all non-participants
that the small UAS does not comply with Federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.
The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) pointed out that for UAS operations
that may involve operations near skiers and snowboarders, or participants and spectators in
special events, ski areas could inform participants of the event and associated risks and
could obtain consent prior to using a UAS. NSAA suggested further that ski areas “could
be obligated to determine, based on the event or assemblage of persons, acceptable
proximity parameters, either laterally or vertically.”

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

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

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

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

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

The FAA disagrees. While this rule will allow flight over direct participants in a
small UAS operation after they receive important safety information, the information does
not, by itself, completely mitigate the risk posed by flight over people. As discussed earlier,
the reason this rule allows flight over direct participants in a small UAS flight operation is
because without this exception, those people may be unable to complete their duties to
ensure the safety of the small UAS flight operation. People who are not directly
participating in the small UAS flight operation are not needed to ensure the safety of that
operation, and as such, this rule will not allow flight over those people without a waiver.
The Property Drone Consortium said homeowners inside their homes while an
inspection operation is conducted overhead, or homeowners who are in their back yards
while an inspection operation is conducted in their front yards, should be considered
“protected” for purposes of the ban on flight over non-participants.

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

The Institute of Makers of Explosives asked the FAA to expand or clarify the
proposed prohibition on operation of a small UAS over “most persons” to clearly define the
persons over whom UAS operations may not be conducted. IME specifically recommended
that a UAS not be allowed to operate over any person conducting operations with
explosives under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and
Explosives, and that the restriction apply to unauthorized, unrelated operators.
As discussed earlier, this rule will prohibit operations over people who are not
directly participating in the flight operation of a small UAS and who are not under a
covered structure or in a stationary covered vehicle that could reasonably protect them
from a falling small unmanned aircraft. This prohibition applies regardless of what the
person who is not directly participating in the small UAS flight operation is doing.
A number of commenters sought clarification as to what the FAA considers to be an
operation “over a human being.” Southern Company asserted that, as written, the proposed
provision could either be read strictly, to prohibit operations directly overhead, or it could
be read more broadly, to prohibit operations directly overhead and within a short lateral
distance of the person. Kansas University UAS Program similarly said the FAA needs to
clarify whether by “over a human being” means directly overhead or “within an area that
the aircraft could come down on the person.”

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

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

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

The remote pilot needs to take into account the small unmanned aircraft’s course,
speed, and trajectory, including the possibility of a catastrophic failure, to determine if the
small unmanned aircraft would go over or strike a person not directly involved in the flight
operation (non-participant). In addition, the remote pilot must take steps using a safety risk based
approach to ensure that: (1) the small unmanned aircraft does not operate over nonparticipants
who are not under a covered structure or in a stationary covered vehicle; (2)
the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property
in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason (§ 107.19); and (3) the small
UAS is not operated in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property
of another (§ 107.23). If the remote pilot cannot comply with these requirements, then the
flight must not take place or the flight must be immediately and safely terminated.

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, instead of imposing a prescriptive stand-off distance requirement, this rule
will include a performance standard requiring that: (1) the small unmanned aircraft does
not operate over a person who is not directly involved in the flight operation unless that
person is under the appropriate covered structure or vehicle; and (2) the remote pilot ensure
that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or
property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason (§ 107.19(c)). This
performance-based approach is preferable, as it will allow a remote pilot in command to
determine what specific stand-off distance (if any) is appropriate to the specific small
unmanned aircraft and small UAS operation that he or she is conducting. In response to
Green Vegans, the FAA notes that Public Law 112-95 does not direct the FAA to
promulgate a small UAS rule that includes a requirement for a small unmanned aircraft to
maintain a distance of 500 feet from persons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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