Are you trying to learn about the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 drone regulations (sometimes called the small unmanned aircraft rule) so you can fly your drone? If so, this article is for you.
The FAA’s Part 107 provides regulations for the (1) issuance of a remote pilot certificate as well as (2) operating rules for drone operators such as will be line of sight, under 55 pounds, less than 100 MPH, and below 400ft.
However, Part 107, by itself, is not a complete fix for all drone operations. Some operations are ineligible from operating under Part 107 and some Part 107 operations can operate under Part 107 but also need waivers or exemptions to fix certain regulatory problems.
On top of that, some operators have options and can operate under different regulatory options. For example, government drone operators can fly as civil aircraft under Part 107 or fly as public aircraft under Part 91. They have different tools in their toolbox. See my article on 107 v public COA for a much more in-depth discussion.
Moreover, Part 107 is not the only regulation that could apply to your flight. It isn’t like your “little world” where all regulations that could apply to your flight reside in this one location. There are many other laws that could apply. I created an ultimate guide to U.S. Drone Regulations Guide here which talks about other drone regulations.
The FAA released Part 107 on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 but was later amended on January 15, 2021 to allow for night flying and flying over people without waivers. The FAA wants to regulate by regulation, not by granting waivers.
Table of Contents of Article
Non-Part 107 Operations
While many might think all drone operations operate under part 107, there are some operations that do not. Part 107 does not apply to:
- Model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified by 49 U.S.C. § 44809.
- Public aircraft (these are government aircraft choosing to fly as government aircraft). Note that public aircraft eligible aircraft can also fly as civil aircraft under Part 107 but not as public aircraft. See my article on 107 v public COA for a much more in-depth discussion.
- Aircraft operating under a section 44807 determination.
- Air carrier operations. These are Part 135 or Part 121 air carriers. Drone package delivery would fall under this. They have a whole host of legal issues. See my article on the major problems with drone package delivery.
So if you don’t fall into one of those drone operations, then you would be eligible for Part 107 drone operations.
Major Provisions of Part 107
Part 107 Operational Limitations:
- At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS for those people to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
- Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle unless flying an approved aircraft.
- Night operations with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
- Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
- May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
- First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
- Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
- Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL) or, if higher than 400 feet AGL, remain within 400 feet of a structure.
- Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
- Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
- Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission.
- No person may act as a remote pilot in command or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
- No operations from a moving aircraft.
- No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.
- No careless or reckless operations.
- No carriage of hazardous materials.
- Requires preflight inspection by the remote pilot in command.
- A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
- Foreign-registered small unmanned aircraft are allowed to operate under part 107 if they satisfy the requirements of part 375.
- External load operations are allowed if the object being carried by the unmanned aircraft is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.
- Transportation of property for compensation or hire allowed provided that-
- The aircraft, including its attached systems, payload and cargo weigh less than 55 pounds total;
- The flight is conducted within visual line of sight and not from a moving vehicle or aircraft; and
- The flight occurs wholly within the bounds of a State and does not involve transport between (1) Hawaii and another place in Hawaii through airspace outside Hawaii; (2) the District of Columbia and another place in the District of Columbia; or (3) a territory or possession of the United States and another place in the same territory or possession.
- Most of the restrictions discussed above are waivable if the applicant demonstrates that his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.
Remote Pilot in Command Certification and Responsibilities
- Establishes a remote pilot in command position.
- A person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).
- To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, a person must:
- o Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
- Passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center; or
- Hold a part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot, complete a flight review within the previous 24 months, and complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.
- Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
- Be at least 16 years old.
- o Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
- Part 61 pilot certificate holders may obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate immediately upon submission of their application for a permanent certificate. Other applicants will obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate upon successful completion of TSA security vetting. The FAA anticipates that it will be able to issue a temporary remote pilot certificate within 10 business days after receiving a completed remote pilot certificate application.
- Until international standards are developed, foreign-certificated UAS pilots will be required to obtain an FAA-issued remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.
A remote pilot in command must:
- Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the rule.
- Report to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in at least serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage of at least $500.
- Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is in a condition for safe operation.
- Ensure that the small unmanned aircraft complies with the existing registration requirements specified in § 91.203(a)(2).
- A remote pilot in command may deviate from the requirements of this rule in response to an in-flight emergency.
Part 107 Aircraft Requirements
- FAA airworthiness certification is not required. However, the remote pilot in command must conduct a preflight check of the small UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation.
Operations Not Fixed by Part 107. (They Need Extra Approvals)
For any of the operations listed below, a drone operator could NOT fly purely under the FAA’s Part 107 operating rules but would need to be authorized via a waiver, Public COA, a special Section 44807 Exemption (formerly called a Section 333 exemption), or a SAC/COA combo. Contact me if you are interested in any of these types of operations.
- Flying with Reduced Visibility
- Smoke fires
- Flying in bad weather.
- Flying within 500ft of the base of the clouds.
- Low clouds due to local climate.
- You need to fly high around an object which may be at cloud level (lower towers, buildings, etc.)
- Beyond Visual Line of Sight
- Power line inspections
- Search and rescue
- Other side of a building out of your line of sight.
- 55 Pounds and Heavier
- Package delivery
- Crop dusting
- Firefighting retardant delivery
- High-end LIDAR to monitor crops such as lumber. The LIDAR is used to detect the diameter of the wood so the loggers know which forest to harvest first.
- Cinematography (Dual Red Epics for 3-D filming or full Arri Alexa with lens and a large stack of batteries for extra flight time.)
- Higher than 400ft and 400ft away from the object.
- 100 MPH and Faster
- Survey large areas fast
- Fast package/medical delivery
- Operations from a Moving Vehicle in non-sparsely populated areas.
Actual Text of Part 107 with Guidance Material
I have created pages for almost all of the regulations below. The pages were designed to help people study the regulations. Each page has the (1) actual text of the law, (2) my commentary on the law and maybe supporting links, (3) relevant portions of the FAA’s advisory circular on the particular regulation, and (4) the FAA’s discussion on the topic or particular regulation from the preambles of final rule.
Subpart B—Operating Rules
Subpart C—Remote Pilot Certification
Subpart D—Operations Over Human Beings
Subpart E- Waivers
Important Articles on Part 107:
- Free Part 107 Test Study Guide
- How to Get Your FAA Drone Pilot License (For First-Time and Current Pilots)
- Part 107 Waiver (COA) – What Drone Pilots Need to Know
- Part 107 Airmen Certification Standards Explained
- Part 107 Knowledge Test (65 Questions Answered & Explained)
- More Part 107 Test Questions for Remote Pilot Knowledge Test
- How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver from 107.29)
- Section 44807 Exemption vs. Part 107 vs. Public COA vs. Blanket Public COA