FAQ


Everyone has many many questions regarding waivers, authorizations, costs, times, etc. I created this FAQ page to help answer many of the questions.

Table of Contents

 

GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS QUESTIONS: (Police, Fire, Parks & Rec, Environmental, etc.)

How does a government entity fly legally?

A government entity has multiple methods to fly legally.  Part 107, a public COA, or a Section 333 exemption are some of the low-cost ways to get government drone operations airborne legally. See my in-depth article  Section 333 Exemption vs. Part 107 vs. Public COA vs. Blanket Public COA

A government entity can obtain a Part 107 waiver or authorization, a Section 333 exemption, or a public COA so the employees can fly under one or more of those methods. In other words, you don’t need one for each person, just one for the entire entity. Keep in mind that the pilot might need a pilot certificate depending on which method you choose (Section 333 exemption & Part 107).

Can a government entity obtain a waiver or authorization?

Yes, many governmental entities choose to operate under Part 107 and obtain Part 107 waivers (night operations, etc.) or authorizations to fly near airports. See the Q&As in this article on the waivers and authorizations for more information on them.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of obtaining a public COA?

The big advantage is you have the ability to determine your own pilot training, aircraft, and maintenance standards. However, many public entities choose to fly under Part 107 because it is easier to just do that than try and figure out standards for training, aircraft, and maintenance. Another disadvantage that many don’t talk about is that public aircraft operations under a public COA can only be for certain statutorily listed operations. This creates some headaches because you need to make sure your operations are always within one of the statutorily listed operations and not in some “grey area.” This is another reason why public entities choose to get public COAs and also choose at times to fly under Part 107.  There are many different tools in the toolbox. You aren’t stuck with one. You can have multiple solutions to meet the needs of the mission. Since public aircraft operations are very fact-specific, it is best to schedule a consultation to figure out further if a public COA is a feasible option.

 

Part 107 Waiver/Authorization Frequently Asked Questions

AIRSPACE RELATED QUESTIONS:

How many different methods are there for obtaining an authorization?

A person can choose to file for an airspace authorization (1)  on the FAA’s authorization portal or (2) they can choose to go through the LAANC system.

The LAANC system is fast but is only for a select number of airports. If you aren’t flying at one of those airports, you’ll have to apply for an airspace authorization on the FAA’s portal. Additionally, LAANC is only for simple operations. In the Federal Register notice requesting data collection approval for LAANC, the FAA said, “It’s expected that operations that are relatively simple will go through LAANC’s automated approval process while more complex operations that require a more thorough review by FAA subject matter experts (SME) will go through the FAA’s DroneZone electronic portal.”

So if your operations are simple and are at one of the selected airports, go with LAANC. If they are complex (involve waivers or close to the airport) or at an airport not participating in LAANC, then you go with the airspace authorization portal on the FAA’s website.

All of the questions below apply to the FAA’s authorization portal and that process.

What Is the Difference Between an Airspace Waiver and an Airspace Authorization? Part 107 allows FAA air traffic control (“ATC”) to give you an authorization to fly in Class B, C, D, or E @ the surface airspace. That same regulation also requires Part 107 operators to obtain the authorization. The idea is you will apply for an authorization to fly for a short period in a small area in this airspace. The preferred way of doing this is through the FAA’s portal on their website.

An airspace waiver is a waiver from the regulation requiring you to obtain authorization.  Authorizations are short term while waivers can be long term. Once an authorization expires, you need to get another one.

Right now the FAA is trying to figure out how to lengthen out the authorizations. They are currently granting authorizations out till June 30, 2018. (You can see where this is going don’t you?) At some point they are going to have to lengthen out the authorizations, start granting longer term airspace waivers much more easily, or get their automated authorization system up and running quickly. See my LAANC article which allows rapid airspace authorization at only select airports.

How long does it take to obtain an airspace waiver vs. an airspace authorizations?

The airspace authorizations are backed up, especially in the Eastern Service Area, but the airspace waivers are really really backed up. The wait times keep growing so I don’t know.

What Waivers Are Needed to Operate Near an Airport?  You do not always need a waiver when you operate near an airport. The focus is on airspace, not airports. You do not need an airspace authorization or waiver to operate near airports in Class G airspace. Keep in mind that you must not operate in these locations in a careless and reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another, in such a way as to interfere with airport traffic patterns, or cause manned aircraft to give way to your aircraft. Section 107.43 says, “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that interferes with operations and traffic patterns at any airport, heliport, or seaplane base.”

Part 107 Says I Only Need ATC Authorization. Isn’t a Phone Call Good Enough? The FAA answered this on their FAQ page:

How do I request permission from Air Traffic Control to operate in Class B, C, D, or E airspace? Is there a way to request permission electronically? You can request airspace permission through an online web portal on the FAA’s UAS website. This online portal will be available on August 29, 2016.

Can I contact my local air traffic control tower or facility directly to request airspace permission? No. All airspace permission requests must be made through the online portal.

Additionally, the FAA leadership sent out an order to ATC which says, “In the event a Part 107 operator contacts an ATC facility directly for authorization, the facility must not issue authorization. The facility must direct the operator to the FAA UAS website[.]”

The only ways to get authorizations currently are by filing for an authorization or going through the LAANC system.

Is the Waiver/Authorization for a Specific Location in the Airspace or All of the Airspace? You are most likely never going to get all of the airspace in one waiver/authorization. If you want all of the airspace, it will most likely be in two requests where you have the “doughnut” and the “doughnut hole.” This is because the doughnut hole, the airspace right around the airport, will have a maximum operating altitude that is very low and will require special ATC authorization to obtain. Doughnuts are easier to get because you don’t have to deal with ATC management. There isn’t a hard number for where the red line starts but a good rule of thumb is 1.5-2NM from the airport center reference point. Each airspace is different so the size of the doughnut hole is different (especially at Boston’s Logan airport). For most people, the doughnut covers a very large area and would meet most of their needs.

Are Waivers Per Job or Can They Be for a Period of Time? Either. Sometimes you might want to ask for an authorization for only 1 day for really congested areas because the ATC manager will be more inclined to allow the operation to fly once as opposed to as many times as you want for a longer period. At the moment, the maximum amount of time the waivers and authorizations will be granted for is still in flux. I was told they can be approved out until June 2018. I have seen airspace waivers be granted for periods of 2 years. I have also seen operational waivers go up to 4 years.  Keep in mind these are preliminary max times and they could decrease if the FAA randomly decides to change things. This is your warning that they could change.

Has the FAA Started Granting Airspace Authorizations? Yes, the first one was approved the week of September 26, 2016.

What Type of Limitations Are in the Airspace Waiver? This is variable depending on the facts of the situation. I will try and get you the least amount of restrictions for the largest area for the longest time. In other words, the best deal.

So the Prices Below Are for All Types of Airspace? No, the prices are only for airspace, excluding the airspace within 2NM radius of the airport center reference point, associated with a tower, but NOT military towers. Operations within 2NM of the airport center reference point will be hourly. Any waiver associated with a tower that is military will be hourly because of extra complexities. Basically, if there aren’t prices, then I will be charging hourly.

I Want to Fly at Night in Class C Airspace at the airport. What is the Fee? This is where things get interesting with compound waivers. You are wanting two waivers (one operational and one airspace) at the same time which creates all sorts of unique issues. At the moment, I am only offering non-compound waivers (e.g. night waiver in Class G or Class C during the day). If I did work on a compound waiver, it would be at an hourly rate.

How Can I Tell if the Airport is Military? Hard-surfaced U.S. military runways are depicted like public-use airports. They are identified by abbreviations such as: AAF (Army Air Field), AFB (Air Force Base), MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station), NAS (Naval Air Station), NAF (Naval Air Facility), NAAS (Naval Auxiliary Air Station), etc. One interesting one I found that was not listed in the Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide is an AHP which is an army heliport.

 

Can One Authorization/Waiver Be for Multiple Airports? Authorizations are for one airport. Airspace waivers can be for multiple airports.


 

WAIVER RELATED QUESTIONS:

Graphs of Waivers Filed and Waivers Approved vs. Filed

 

 

waivers-approved-filed

As of 10/31/2017, I have 60 waiver approvals for clients. Except for airspace waivers, 100% of my clients reviewed by the FAA have been approved.

Compare that to the overall rate of waiver approvals above (17%).

waivers-approved

When Will the FAA Start Processing Waivers? They already are processing them.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Waiver? 1-6 months. It really depends on how complex of a waiver you are asking for. For airspace waivers, it can take a really long time. They are really backed up.

What Types of Waivers Are There? The easiest way to conceptually break it down is into “airspace” waivers and “operational” waivers. Part 107 allows individuals to obtain waivers to operate within Class B, C, D, and E at the surface airspace. Remember, this is a waiver from the Part 107 requirement to obtain an authorization. The other category would be operational waivers.

What Types of “Operational” Waivers Are There?

  • 107.25 Operations from a moving vehicle in a populated area or from an aircraft.
  • 107.29 Operations at night.
  • 107.31 Beyond visual line of sight.
  • 107.33 Visual observer.
  • 107.35 A pilot operating multiple aircraft (Swarm).
  • 107.37(a) Not yielding the right of way to manned aircraft.
  • 107.39 Operations over people (participating and non-participating).
  • 107.51(a) Operating over 100MPH.
  • 107.51(b) Operating over 400ft AGL.
  • 107.51(c) Operating with less than 3 statute miles of visibility.
  • 107.51(d) Operating within 1,000 feet horizontally of a cloud or within 500 feet below a cloud.

What Should I Know About Operations Over People Waivers? Part 107 allows RPIC to operate directly over people “directly participating” in the flight. The FAA’s belief is that the RPIC, the visual observer, the person flying the drone who is supervised by the RPIC, or anyone necessary for maintaining the safety of the operation (such as a person maintaining a perimeter to keep non-participating people away) are the ONLY individuals falling into this category. Everyone else would NOT be considered “directly participating” (sensor operator, gimbal operator, person you are trying to rescue from drowning by dropping a life jacket on, etc.) This is weird since some of the people are not considered by the FAA to be “directly participating”…..but really are involved in the operation. To make sense of this confusion, a better way to conceptualize the FAA’s view is it is the people necessary for the safety of the flight.

I am working on waivers that will allow operations over people not directly participating in the flight, but who really are involved (actors, gimbal operators, anyone on set of a film, etc.)

How I Categorize the Different Over People Operations:

  • You don’t need a waiver from 107 operations over people because they are “directly participating.” (RPIC, VO, person on the controls, necessary for safety of the flight, etc.)
  • People involved in the operation, but are NOT necessary for safety. (Actors, gimbal operator, director screaming at the actors/RPIC, coffee monkey, trainee not on the controls, etc.)
  • People not involved in the operation and also not necessary for safety, but we need to fly over them to save their life. (Person drowning, hurt or lost hiker, etc.)
  • People not involved in the operation, they are NOT necessary for safety, and we aren’t trying to save their life. (Spectators, etc.)

What Do I Need to Know About Beyond Visual Line of Sight Waivers? They really aren’t true beyond visual line of sight because a visual observer must have his eyeballs on the drone and also be in communication with the RPIC. They are really what is called extended line of sight. The RPIC can’t see the drone but someone can. Keep in mind that the FAA said visual line of sight on a clear perfect day is around 1 statute mile. I wouldn’t lean too far out on this “around 1SM” branch because the FAA was really just only talking generally when they said this, but it does give you “food for thought” of how far out you can extend your operating range using visual observers in communication with the RPIC.

SECTION 333 EXEMPTION RELATED QUESTIONS:

Does anyone still use the 333 exemption?

Yes, there are good reasons to still use the 333 exemption. For example, if you need to fly a drone 55 pounds or heavier, that will need an exemption because you cannot do a Part 107 waiver for that. Also, other parts of the regulations require exemptions such as for the carrying of hazardous material or for certain agricultural types of operations.

What is the difference between the agricultural 333 exemption and the 55+ exemption?

The main difference is the regulations that are being exempted. Agricultural operations have regulations listed outside of Part 107 while the 55+ exemption is focusing primarily on getting an exemption from a particular section of Part 107.

 

GENERAL QUESTIONS:

What Is Your Value Proposition?

  • Proven Experience & Knowledge.
    • Experience. I am an FAA-certificated commercial pilot, remote pilot, and flight instructor (CFI & CFI-I). All three certificates are active. I wrote a study guide to be used by the drone community for the Part 107 remote pilot exam and I received a 100% on the first try. I am an aviation attorney that focuses only on drones, and have helped over 100 individuals and businesses navigate drone
      law. On 12/31/2015, Rupprecht Law, P.A. was ranked 2nd in the nation with the greatest number of 333 exemption clients when compared to other law firms.
    • Knowledge. I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, graduated magna cum laude, and have recently been accepted as a professor there in the College of Aeronautics teaching drone regulatory compliance. I have published a drone law book that is currently being used as a textbook in universities and also co-authored a drone law treatise that is being published by the highly respected American Bar Association. I have continued to publish articles on my website which has led to many mentions or quotations by news organizations.
  • Time Savings.
    • My Burden. My goal is to take this burden off of you. I intend to only bother you with sending me the contract and payment and then a follow-up phone call discussing your approved waived/authorization. This allows you to focus on your business and making money.
    • Current Skills. I’m an aviation attorney that focuses my practice ONLY on drone work so as to provide you fast, accurate, and valuable results. I do not do any other area of the law. This means my knowledge and skills are current.
    • Time Is Money. One example of my experience and speed working together is where an individual asked me about getting an airspace authorization. That individual mentioned that they were having their attorney handle it and they were having problems for weeks. Basically, I told them a couple quick things in a 15-minute conversation and managed to shave off about 1.5 months off of their wait time. How much money did I save them? Do you think hiring a professional is expensive? Wait until you hire someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
  • Security
    • Insurance. I carry legal malpractice insurance which is there to protect you and make you whole (as best as money can) in case I provide you incorrect legal advice and something happens. I went out of my way to make sure my insurance would cover you if I filed a waiver or authorization for you.
    • Confidential Communication and Protection. Since I’m an attorney, the attorney-client privilege applies to our conversations. For example, if you hired a non-attorney consultant to help you and you told the consultant about your activities (and if a scenario happened where those activities could be could be considered criminal or unsafe), the FAA or state prosecutor could subpoena them to testify against you at your prosecution; however, with me, the information you tell me is protected from being admitted in your prosecution because of the attorney-client privilege.

Can a Waiver or Authorization Be Obtained for a Company or is it Only for People? You will want to have your company obtain the waiver or authorization because if your business operations grow, remote pilots you hire can fly under your COA/COW. If you hire people who have the COA/COW themselves, you end up with operational problems when they get sick, die, you have to fire them, they quit, etc. because you’ll have to replace them with someone who has the COA/COW or wait until you get the COA/COW yourself.

What Information Do You Need from Me? Simply let me know what waivers you are interested in and I’ll send you a contract which will request the necessary information. I’ll also send a PayPal invoice to your email. Once I receive payment and a scan of the contract, I’ll submit the application for the waiver.

I Need Your Help with Something Outside of What is Listed. Contact me.

Part 107 Waiver & Authorization Pricing[1]

The prices are good for 30 days from receiving this document in your email or until you receive an email revoking them. These prices are ONLY for Part 107 authorizations or waivers, NOT Part 91 or Public COA waivers.  For all other waivers not listed below, I will be starting to roll out fixed-price waivers at some point here in the future.

Airspace Authorizations  Only:

I will be charging 500 an authorization associated with one airport if:[2]

(1) The airspace is Class B, C, D, or E at the surface airspace,

(2) There are no operational waivers involved,

(3) The tower/airport is not military,

(4) You do not need to operate within the “doughnut hole” (airport center reference point with a radius of 2 nautical mile.) AND

(5) Picking the highest of the two, you do NOT need to operate higher than 100ft AGL.

I charge hourly (@ 300/hr) for authorizations/waivers when:

  • It is a military airport,
  • There is an operational waiver involved,
  • You want multiple airports in the same waiver/authorization,
  • You want to operate higher than both 100AGL, OR
  • You are wanting to operate within the doughnut hole.

The reason for this is because there is the possibility these can be much more time intensive and unpredictable.  I cannot offer fixed pricing for something I can’t predict.

If you don’t want to do hourly rates, check in again with me to see if I have a firm price sometime in the future.

Keep in mind that I will be trying to get you airspace waivers for the long term, but the FAA might only be willing in the near future to give out short-term airspace authorizations.

Operational Waivers Only:

These operational waivers are only for Class G airspace. They last around 1-4 years. If you want to do these in any other type of airspace, I’ll have to charge hourly.

We currently are filing for:

107.29 Operations at night in Class G.

  • $750 (This includes 30 minutes of answering all of your drone law related questions, without having to do research, while the application is pending, even if they are not related to the authorization or waiver I filed for you.)

We are currently working on:

  • 107.39 Operations over people. (See FAQ for more of a discussion on this topic.) We will be trying to obtain waivers to fly over people who are involved in the operation, but not considered by the FAA to be “directly” participating (actors, production crew, etc.).
  • 107.25 Operations from a moving vehicle in a populated area.
  • 107.31 Extended line of sight.

We plan on offering these waivers in the future:

  • 107.33 Visual observer.
  • 107.35 A pilot operating multiple aircraft (Swarm).
  • 107.37(a) Not yielding the right of way to manned aircraft.
  • 107.51(a) Operating over 100MPH.
  • 107.51(b) Operating over 400ft AGL.
  • 107.51(c) Operating with less than 3 statute miles of visibility.
  • 107.51(d) Operating within 1,000 feet horizontally of a cloud or within 500 feet below a cloud.


 

Consultations:

Many individuals have random questions they want clearly answered. For these, we can do a 15-minute consultation or a 30-minute consultation where you ask me as many questions that are drone law related as you want. Keep in mind that it is ONE consultation that has a maximum number of minutes. These minutes do not carry over.

15 Minute Consultation = $100

30 Minute Consultation = $200.

 

 

[1] Versions 1.3

[2] This airspace authorization/waiver includes a 30-minute phone call to answer all of your questions.