Ultimate Guide to the FAA Part 107 Drone Regulations


 

faa-part-107

The FAA released Part 107 on Tuesday, June 21st. Part 107 provides for individuals to obtain their “Remote Pilot Certificate” which is what you need if you want to fly your drone commercially.

Part 107 will provide a certificate as well as operating rules for drone operators who do not fall into Section 336 to operate their aircraft in the national airspace. The two main groups that will benefit will be the commercial drone operators and public sector operators.

A large majority of the drone operators will fall into Part 107 which will be line of sight, under 55 pounds, daylight, less than 100 MPH, and below 400ft; however, this is not a complete fix for everyone. Keep reading below to see what will not be covered by 107.

 

Summary of the Major Provisions of Part 107

General:

  • Part 107 does not apply to:
    • Model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
    • Public aircraft
    • Section 333 exempted aircraft operating under regulations.
    • Air carrier operations.

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.
  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) 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-

o The aircraft, including its attached systems, payload and cargo weigh less than 55 pounds total;

o The flight is conducted within visual line of sight and not from a moving vehicle or aircraft; and

o  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.

o Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.

o Be at least 16 years old.

  • 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.

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.

Important Documents or Websites:

Important Blog Posts on Part 107:

SUMMARY OF ONLY THE IMPORTANT CHANGES IN THE FINAL RULE FROM THE NPRM 

Anything that is in BOLD and UNDERLINED is different. Anything in [BRACKETS] means I inserted it because there were a few typos that needed clarifying. Small little differences were NOT noted so as to improve readability. This is a comparison of the summary Peter Sachs leaked to the final Part 107.

PART 107 NPRM

FINAL PART 107

“Pilots of a small UAS would be considered ‘operators’”Called Remote Pilots
“Be at least 17 years old.”“Be at least 16 years old.”
“Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.”“Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center (or pass this online course, for Part 61 certificate holders).
“Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.”“Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days if the sUAS operation results in serious injury or property.”
“Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.”“Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level.”

 

 

NON – PART 107 OPERATIONS

For any of the operations listed below, a drone operator could NOT fly purely under part 107’s operating rules but would need to be authorized via a waiver, Public COA, a special Section 333 Exemption, or a SAC/COA combo.  Contact me if you are interested in any of these types of operations.

  • Beyond Visual Line of Sight
    • Power line inspections
    • Search and rescue
  • Night Operations
    • SAR at night
    • Firefighting at night
    • Inspections using thermal equipment in hot environments and night is the best time to use the equipment.
    • Cinematography for TV/movie night scenes
    • Inspections on critical time/sensitive material that require 24/7 monitoring (example: turbidity monitoring for dredging operations)
    • Sports at night.
  • 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
  • Operation Over Persons
    • Concerts
    • Live news events
    • Sports
  • Operations from a Moving Vehicle in non-sparsely populated areas.

The change from 500ft to 400ft makes sense in that there is a buffer zone now between drones and fixed-wing manned aircraft. See 14 C.F.R. 91.119 which places fixed-wing aircraft at a minimum of 500ft in non-congested areas. Remember that altimeters for manned aircraft can be incorrect sometimes, especially when going from high pressure to low pressure or high temperature to low temperate. (High to low, look out below.)

Drone law violations

Drone law violations

These regulations are going to set the framework for future enforcement actions. Recently released FOIA documents showed that the FAA has done at least 23 enforcement actions against drone operators. I wrote an in-depth article analyzing those actions. Out of the multiple regulations cited against drone operators that I graphed out, the FAA used traditional regulations from mostly Part 91. It will be interesting to see how things go forward under 107 because in at least two places Part 107 references some ideas that are Part 91 such as where it claims FPV racers cannot see-and-avoid, 14 CFR 91.113 reference, and the prohibition on flying your aircraft in a careless and reckless manner, 14 CFR 91.13. This creates a situation where aviation attorneys defending Part 107 drone operators could look to Part 91 case law interpreting those passages.

pilotheadshot

In summary, it looks like the FAA has cleared for take-off the drone regulations which will usher in a new era of the drone industry. I hope this summary will help you in making business decisions. Keep in mind that as everyone runs into Part 107, you might want to try to separate yourself from the competition by getting approval for non-107 operations. Contact me if you are interested in those operations. As always my friends, fly safe and when choosing an attorney for help navigating airspace and the regulations, don’t hire a poser – hire a pilot. Why? Posers will keep you grounded – while a pilot will help your ideas soar.

 

 

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Jonathan Rupprecht

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

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