Are you interested in learning about the current U.S. recreational drone laws?
On May 17, 2019, the FAA started implementing Sections 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Advisory Circular 91-57C is the latest document. You need to throw out what you knew about recreational drone laws in the United States as a big reset button has been pressed.
Table of Contents of Article
- 1 Brief History of the Recreational Drone Laws:
- 2 Recreational Drone Law Summary:
- 3 Comparison of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 Major Changes :
- 4 Actual Text of 49 U.S.C. Section 44809 (The New Recreational Drone Laws)
- 5 The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST)
- 6 FAA Advisory Circular 91-57C Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft
- 7 Actual text of Federal Register Announcement on the New Recreational Drone Laws
- 8 Text of Certificate of Authorization for Limited Recreational Purposes at Fixed Sites
- 9 Actual Leaked FAA Memo Regarding New Recreational Drone Laws
Brief History of the Recreational Drone Laws:
For decades and decades model aircraft were flown with very few restrictions.
The earliest document the FAA published regarding model aircraft flying was Advisory Circular 91-57 which was published in 1981. In February 2007, the FAA published its policy statement indicating that AC 91-57 only applies to modelers and companies and people flying commercial cannot fly under it.
In February 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed which created Section 336 which prohibited the FAA from creating any new regulation governing model aircraft that fell into the criteria of Section 336. In June 2014, the FAA published there interpretation on Section 336 which further refined the model aircraft and non-model aircraft distinction by saying, “the aircraft would need to be operated purely for recreational or hobby purposes” and seem to start applying already existing manned aircraft regulations to model aircraft (the FAA thought that Section 336 prohibited creating new regulations to model aircraft, not applying already existing regulations that predated Section 336 to model aircraft). In August 2014, multiple lawsuits challenged this interpretation one of which was filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
Advisory Circular 91-57 was updated to AC 91-57Aon September 2, 2015, which created more restrictions and also stealthy included a prohibition on flying in special flight rule areas (one of which was the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area). This was challenged by one of the three Taylor v. FAA lawsuits.
In December 2015, the FAA illegally created the Part 48 regulations which applied to Section 336 protected model aircraft. These regulations were challenged in 1 of the Taylor v. FAA lawsuits. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Part 48 regulations as illegal in May 2017 but in December 2017, Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 overturned the court’s ruling.
On May 4, 2016, the FAA published its interpretation allowing for the educational use of unmanned aircraft under 336. In July 2016, Congress passed the FAA Extension Safety, and Security Act of 2016 which criminalized unmanned aircraft flights near wildfires August 2016, the FAA published Part 101 Subpart E regulations for model aircraft flyers which was basically a copy-paste job of the previous Section 336 from the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. In October 2018, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 which did away with Section 336 and added many more restrictions to model aircraft flyers.
In April 2019, the FAA published an official withdrawal of their 2014 model aircraft interpretation. On May 17, 2019, the FAA started implementing Sections 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Because of the changes from the 2018 FAA Reauthorization, Part 101’s Subpart E model aircraft regulations have been superseded. A giant reset button had been pressed for model aircraft flyer laws. On May 31, 2019, the FAA published Advisory Circular 91-57B which canceled AC 91-57A and brought everything up-to-date. On 12/11/20, the FAA repealed Part 101 Subpart E so recreational flyers would not be confused since it was no longer good law due to Section 349 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
October 20, 2022, the FAA updated to the C version of Advisory Circular 91-57.
Note: If you are a drone manufacturer, the notification of the recreational drone laws as required by 49 USC Section 40101 will have to be updated since the FAA Reauthorization of 2018 changed things.
Recreational Drone Law Summary:
- Section 336 was repealed.
- Part 101 Subpart E’s regulations are NO LONGER VALID. These were the recreational drone laws we flew under for a while.
- The recreational flyer must pass a test and keep proof of passing the test to show to FAA or law enforcement. The test will cover recreational drone laws.
- Must obtain authorization prior to flying in B, C, D, or E at the surface associated with airport airspace and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
- Recreational aircraft have to be registered and marked. Have to show registration to FAA or police if asked.
- Flown strictly for recreational purposes.
- The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer collocated and in direct communication with the operator.
- Does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
- In Class G airspace
- The aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and
- Complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions. This would include the 1,000s of security flight restrictions all over the US that are listed here. Security flight restrictions can be punished with prison time. I talk about how to check for these security flight restrictions and temporary flight restrictions in the Rupprecht Drones’ Airspace and Chart Reading Course.
- Unmanned aircraft, which includes model aircraft, cannot interfere with wildfire suppression efforts, law enforcement, or emergency response efforts. See 49 U.S.C. Section 46320 and 18 U.S.C. 40A.
- It’s a crime to fly in runway exclusion zones without authorization. See 49 U.S.C 39B. I talk about this law and other airspace laws in the Rupprecht Drones’ airspace course.
- It’s also a crime to fly knowingly or recklessly interfering with, or disrupt the operations of, a manned aircraft in a manner that poses an imminent safety hazard to the occupant(s). See 49 U.S.C 39B.
Recreational flyers will now need to know airspace and how to identify where and where not to fly. Fortunately, I’ve created a 40+ video online course on airspace and chart reading. This course will educate recreational, commercial, and public aircraft flyer so they can fly safely and confidently in the national airspace. Airspace & Chart Reading for Drone Pilots
Notice to airport manager and to tower if there is a tower.
Need authorization prior to flying in B, C, D, or E2 airspace. Here is the authorization.
Need to pass a test and keep proof.
FPV racing was NOT considered lawful at one point and then uncertain until the FAA published their withdrawal.
FPV racing is permissible if the co-located visual observer keeps his eyes on the drone racing.
No altitude restriction
400 feet above ground level for G Airspace. B, C, D, and E2 airspace will be whatever the UASFM will allow.
Not clear if Section 336 prevented the FAA from applying preexisting flight restriction regulations that had not been used for decades to model aircraft. This is one of the issues raised in one of the Taylor v. FAA cases the court did not address in their ruling. Basically, were the manned aircraft regulations that existed for years also the recreational drone laws?
Must comply with airspace flight restrictions.
Actual Text of 49 U.S.C. Section 44809 (The New Recreational Drone Laws)
Section 349 and Section 350 of the FAA Reauthorization of 2018 created Title 49 of the United States Code Section 44809.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (e), and notwithstanding chapter 447 of title 49, United States Code, a person may operate a small unmanned aircraft without specific certification or operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration if the operation adheres to all of the following limitations:
(1) The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.
(2) The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
(3) The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer colocated and in direct communication with the operator.
(4) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
(5) 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, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(6) In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(7) The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test described in subsection (g) and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
(8) The aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of this title and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
AIRCRAFT THAT DO NOT CONFORM TO THE GENERAL LIMITATIONS:
(b) OTHER OPERATIONS.—Unmanned aircraft operations that do not conform to the limitations in subsection (a) must comply with all statutes and regulations generally applicable to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.
RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES:
(c) OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES.—
(1) OPERATING PROCEDURE REQUIRED.—Persons operating unmanned aircraft under subsection (a) from a fixed site within 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, or a community-based organization conducting a sanctioned event within such airspace, shall make the location of the fixed site known to the Administrator and shall establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the air traffic control facility.
(2) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT WEIGHING MORE THAN 55 POUNDS.—A person may operate an unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds, including the weight of anything attached to or carried by the aircraft, under subsection (a) if—
(A) the unmanned aircraft complies with standards and limitations developed by a community-based organization and approved by the Administrator; and
(B) the aircraft is operated from a fixed site as described in paragraph (1).
FAA SHALL PERIODICALLY UPDATE OPERATIONAL LIMITATIONS:
(1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator, in consultation with government, stakeholders, and community-based organizations, shall initiate a process to periodically update the operational parameters under subsection (a), as appropriate.
(2) CONSIDERATIONS.—In updating an operational parameter under paragraph (1), the Administrator shall consider—
(A) appropriate operational limitations to mitigate risks to aviation safety and national security, including risk to the uninvolved public and critical infrastructure;
(B) operations outside the membership, guidelines, and programming of a community-based organization;
(C) physical characteristics, technical standards, and classes of aircraft operating under this section;
(D) trends in use, enforcement, or incidents involving unmanned aircraft systems;
(E) ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that updates to the operational parameters correspond to, and leverage, advances in technology; and
(F) equipage requirements that facilitate safe, efficient, and secure operations and further integrate all unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.
(3) SAVINGS CLAUSE.—Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as expanding the authority of the Administrator to require a person operating an unmanned aircraft under this section to seek permissive authority of the Administrator, beyond that required in subsection (a) of this section, prior to operation in the national airspace system.
(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
FAA CAN CREATE RULES OF GENERAL APPLICABILITY THAT GOVERN RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT:
(f) EXCEPTIONS.—Nothing in this section prohibits the Administrator from promulgating rules generally applicable to unmanned aircraft, including those unmanned aircraft eligible for the exception set forth in this section, relating to—
(1) updates to the operational parameters for unmanned aircraft in subsection (a);
(2) the registration and marking of unmanned aircraft;
(3) the standards for remotely identifying owners and operators of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft; and
(4) other standards consistent with maintaining the safety and security of the national airspace system.
FAA TO CREATE KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST FOR RECREATIONAL FLYERS:
(g) AERONAUTICAL KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator, in consultation with manufacturers of unmanned aircraft systems, other industry stakeholders, and community-based organizations, shall develop an aeronautical knowledge and safety test, which can then be administered electronically by the Administrator, a community-based organization, or a person designated by the Administrator.
(2) REQUIREMENTS.—The Administrator shall ensure the aeronautical knowledge and safety test is designed to adequately demonstrate an operator’s—
(A) understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge; and
(B) knowledge of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and requirements pertaining to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in the national airspace system.
COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED:
(h) COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘community-based organization’ means a membership based association entity that—
(1) is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
(2) is exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
(3) the mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;
(4) provides a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation addressing the assembly and operation of model aircraft and that emphasize safe aeromodelling operations within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of individuals and property on the ground, and may provide a comprehensive set of safety rules and programming for the operation of unmanned aircraft that have the advanced flight capabilities enabling active, sustained, and controlled navigation of the aircraft beyond visual line of sight of the operator;
(5) provides programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and
(6) provides assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites.
FAA IS REQUIRED TO PUBLISH CRITERIA AND PROCESS TO BECOME A COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION:
(i) RECOGNITION OF COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS.—In collaboration with aeromodelling stakeholders, the Administrator shall publish an advisory circular within 180 days of the date of enactment of this section that identifies the criteria and process required for recognition of community-based organizations.’’.
USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION:
(a) EDUCATIONAL AND RESEARCH PURPOSES.—For the purposes of section 44809 of title 49, United States Code, as added by this Act, a ‘‘recreational purpose’’ as distinguished in subsection (a)(1) of such section shall include an unmanned aircraft system operated by an institution of higher education for educational or research purposes.
(b) UPDATES.—In updating an operational parameter under subsection (d)(1) of such section for unmanned aircraft systems operated by an institution of higher education for educational or research purposes, the Administrator shall consider—
(1) use of small unmanned aircraft systems and operations at an accredited institution of higher education, for educational or research purposes, as a component of the institution’s curricula or research;
(2) the development of streamlined, risk-based operational approval for unmanned aircraft systems operated by institutions of higher education; and
(3) the airspace and aircraft operators that may be affected by such operations at the institution of higher education.
(c) DEADLINE FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF PROCEDURES AND STANDARDS.—Not later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may establish regulations, procedures, and standards, as necessary, to facilitate the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems operated by institutions of higher education for educational or research purposes.
(d) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
(1) INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION.—The term ‘‘institution of higher education’’ has the meaning given to that term by section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)).
(2) EDUCATIONAL OR RESEARCH PURPOSES.—The term ‘‘education or research purposes’’, with respect to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system by an institution of higher education, includes—
(A) instruction of students at the institution;
(B) academic or research related uses of unmanned aircraft systems that have been approved by the institution, including Federal research;
(C) activities undertaken by the institution as part of research projects, including research projects sponsored by the Federal Government; and
(D) other academic activities approved by the institution.
(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—
(1) ENFORCEMENT.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
(2) REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS.—Nothing in this section prohibits the Administrator from promulgating any rules or standards consistent with maintaining the safety and security of the national airspace system.
The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST)
On 2/22/2021, the FAA announced that the FAA is accepting applications to “become an FAA Approved Test Administrator of the Recreational UAS Safety Test.”
How to Become an FAA Approved TRUST Test Administrator
Here is what the FAA said:
In order to make the test accessible and available to the largest possible audience the FAA offers the drone community the opportunity to become an FAA approved test administrator:
- The FAA provides TRUST content to FAA Approved test administrators
- Test administrators provide on-line test to Recreational Flyers
- Test administrators determine the best platform, consistent with the requirements outlined in the Operating Rules, for packaging, delivering training and testing content.
- Test administrators must agree to offer the test at no cost to recreational flyers.
Stakeholders approved to provide the test will be known as FAA Approved Test Administrators of The Recreational UAS Safety Test (FAA Approved TA TRUST).
To apply you have to fill out the Test Administrator Application Package and sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
And this is where things get fun. Time for me to put on my drone attorney hat.
The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
It says a bunch of stuff but I’m going to pull out the really important provisions with my commentary:
MOA’s Actual Text
“188.8.131.52 The FAA reserves the right to update the TRUST content at any time. The FAA will provide written notice thirty (30) calendar days in advance of such changes absent good cause for earlier or immediate changes.”
|This could be annoying depending on the backend of the LMS if things substantially get changed around or if the FAA doesn’t have a change log or some method of showing the changes.|
“184.108.40.206 The FAA reserves the right to modify this Agreement or the Operating Rules if the FAA determines, at its sole discretion that the modification is in the best interests of the United States Government, the aviation industry, or the general public. The FAA will provide written notice thirty (30) calendar days in advance, absent good cause for earlier or immediate modification.”
So we have another potential annoying issue where things can change and then you have to update things potentially very rapidly.
“220.127.116.11 Costs to administer the TRUST: __________________________ agrees to provide and maintain any hardware, software, communications equipment, and any other resources needed to design and administer the TRUST. ______________________ agrees not to charge test takers for administering the TRUST directly or indirectly”
It has to be free. You can’t charge for the test directly or indirectly. I wonder what the FAA’s view is on upsells or selling email lists on the backend?
“ARTICLE 3. NO COSTS No funds are obligated under this Agreement. Each TA will bear the full cost it incurs in performing, managing, and administering its responsibilities under this Agreement. The TAs agree to not charge a fee to test takers directly or indirectly to take the test or for test administration. . . . The costs for which is responsible include, but are not limited to, all developmental costs incurred in the establishment and maintenance of ’s servers and software, and all costs associated with the connection and communications lines required to administer TRUST.”
So you have to pay for the services.
It would be nice to know how much data the FAA wants to serve here. Is this just small text files or huge mega video files that will totally max out bandwidth?
Running it all might not be expensive but setting it up and debugging it could get costly. And yes, some server updates will cause an issue in the future.
Also, who handles the customer support emails you might get? “My computer doesn’t work.” “My images are showing incorrectly.” “The video freezes.”
And for what? Some emails you are going to try and upsell?
“ARTICLE 13. INSURANCE __________must arrange by insurance for reasonable protection of itself from and against all liability to third parties arising out of, or related to, its performance of this Agreement”
Now you need liability insurance. We have liability insurance over at www.rupprechtdrones.com and it can get pricey PER YEAR.
“ARTICLE 14. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY The parties agree that the FAA assumes no liability under this Agreement for any losses arising out of any action or inaction by _______________________. The parties agree that the FAA assumes no liability under this Agreement for any losses arising out of any action or inaction by the FAA or its agents, officers, employees, or representatives. In no event must the FAA be liable for claims for consequential, punitive, special, or incidental damages; lost profits; or other indirect damages.”
And if the FAA’s material is messed up, you can’t sue them but you can get sued for the mistakes of any of their material.
“ARTICLE 15. INDEMNITY _________________agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Government and its agents, officers, employees, and representatives (the Indemnified Parties) from and against all claims, demands, damages, liabilities, losses, suits, and judgments, including the costs and expenses incident thereto (collectively, Claims), that may accrue against, be suffered by, be charged to, or be recoverable from the Indemnified Parties arising out of acts or omissions of FAA and the United States government in connection with this Agreement”
To add insult to injury, if the FAA receives a claim or demand, you now have to indemnify them. Basically, you put your business and any insurance policies up as security.
On top of that, there is an extremely good chance any insurance policy you did obtain will specifically exclude this indemnification from coverage unless you get it approved….which means more $$$ on top of the $$$ to protect just you. (Remember you are doing this for free).
If that was not bad enough, you indemnify the FAA for “acts or omissions of FAA and the United States government[.]”
Indemnification is warned about in the Bible in numerous places:
Proverbs 6:1-3 “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, 2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, 3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.”
Proverbs 11:15 “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
Proverbs 17:18 ” One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.”
Actual text of Federal Register Announcement on the New Recreational Drone Laws
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration
[Docket No. FAA-2019-0364]
Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft
AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT).
ACTION: Notice implementing the exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft.
SUMMARY: This action provides notice of the statutory exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft. It also describes the agency’s incremental implementation approach for the exception and how individuals can operate recreational unmanned aircraft (commonly referred to as drones) today under the exception.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions concerning this notice, contact Danielle Corbett, Aviation Safety Inspector, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, 490 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7225, Washington, DC 20024, telephone (844) 359-6982, email [email protected].
Operators of small unmanned aircraft (also referred to as drones) for recreational purposes must follow the rules in 14 CFR part 107 for FAA certification and operating authority unless they follow the conditions of the Exception for Limited Recreational This document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 05/17/2019 and available online at https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-10169, and on govinfo.gov Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, discussed in this notice. The FAA refers to individuals operating under that statutory exception as “recreational flyers.”
On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-254). Section 349 of that Act repealed the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (section 336 of Pub. L. 112-95; Feb. 14, 2012) and replaced it with new conditions to operate recreational small unmanned aircraft without requirements for FAA certification or operating authority. The Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft established by section 349 is codified at 49 U.S.C. 44809.
With the repeal of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the regulations at 14 CFR part 101, subpart E, which implemented the Special Rule, are no longer valid, and the FAA intends to remove that subpart in the near future.
Section 44809(a) provides eight conditions that must be satisfied to use the exception for recreational small unmanned aircraft (those weighing less than 55 pounds). Some of those conditions (specifically the aeronautical knowledge and safety test as well as recognition of community-based organizations and coordination of their safety guidance) cannot be implemented immediately. Accordingly, the FAA is incrementally implementing section 44809 to facilitate recreational unmanned aircraft operations. The next section sets forth the eight statutory conditions, explains how the agency is implementing each of them, and provides guidance to recreational flyers.
Recreational flyers must adhere to all of the statutory conditions to operate under the Exception for Limited Recreational Operation of Unmanned Aircraft. Otherwise, the recreational operations must be conducted under 14 CFR part 107.
Although 49 U.S.C. 44809(c) permits operations of some unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds under additional conditions and as approved by the FAA, the FAA intends to publish guidance concerning operations of these larger unmanned aircraft in the near future.
II. Statutory Conditions and Additional Guidance
The eight statutory conditions are as follows:
1. The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.
Your unmanned aircraft must be flown for only a recreational purpose throughout the duration of the operation. You may not combine recreational and commercial purposes in a single operation. If you are using the unmanned aircraft for a commercial or business purpose, the operation must be conducted under 14 CFR part 107 or other applicable FAA regulations.
2. The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the FAA and community-based aeromodelling organizations (CBOs) to coordinate the development of safety guidelines for recreational small unmanned aircraft operations. 49 U.S.C. 44809(a)(2). CBOs are defined in section 44809(h) and must be recognized by the FAA in accordance with section 44809(i). Section 44809(i) requires the FAA to publish guidance establishing the criteria and process for recognizing CBOs. The FAA is developing the criteria and intends to collaborate with stakeholders through a public process.
Until the FAA establishes the criteria and process and begins recognizing CBOs, it cannot coordinate the development of safety guidelines. Accordingly, no recognized CBOs or coordinated safety guidelines currently exist, as contemplated by section 44809(a)(2). Additionally, the FAA acknowledges that aeromodelling organizations have developed safety guidelines that are helpful to recreational flyers. The FAA has determined that it is in the public interest to reasonably interpret this condition to allow recreational unmanned aircraft operations under the exception while the FAA implements all statutory conditions. The alternative would be to prohibit these operations or to require all operators of recreational unmanned aircraft to obtain a remote pilot certificate under 14 CFR part 107 and comply with the part 107 operating rules. Accordingly, to facilitate continued recreational unmanned aircraft operations during the implementation process, the FAA finds that operations conducted in accordance with existing safety guidelines of an aeromodelling organization satisfy this condition, provided those guidelines do not conflict with the other statutory conditions of section 44809(a).
Alternatively, during this interim period, the FAA directs recreational flyers to existing basic safety guidelines, which are based on industry best practices, on its website (faa.gov/uas):
- Fly only for recreational purposes
- Keep your unmanned aircraft within your visual line-of-sight or within the visual line of sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you
- Do not fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace
- Do not fly in controlled airspace without an FAA authorization
- Follow all FAA airspace restrictions, including special security instructions and temporary flight restrictions
- Never fly near other aircraft
- Always give way to all other aircraft
- Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
- Never fly near emergency response activities
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
You also should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines you are following if you are flying under the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The FAA will provide notice when it has issued final guidance and has started recognizing CBOs.
3. The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.
Either the person manipulating the controls of the recreational unmanned aircraft or a visual observer, who is near the operator and able to communicate verbally, must have eyes on the aircraft at all times to ensure the unmanned aircraft is not a collision hazard to other aircraft or people on the ground. Using a visual observer generally is optional, but a visual observer is required for first-person view (FPV) operations, which allow a view from an onboard camera but limit the operator’s ability to scan the surrounding airspace.
4. The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
When flying an unmanned aircraft, you are responsible for knowing the aircraft’s altitude and its position in relation to other aircraft. You also are responsible for maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft by giving way to all other aircraft in all circumstances.
5. 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, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
Classes B, C, D, and E are collectively referred to as controlled airspace. The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control services and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, equipment, and operating requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. Generally, these classes of controlled airspace are found near airports.
Manned aircraft operations receive air traffic control services in controlled airspace and are authorized in controlled airspace as part of these services. Small unmanned aircraft operations do not receive air traffic services, but they must be authorized in the airspace because FAA air traffic control is responsible for managing the safety and efficiency of controlled airspace. For operations under part 107, the FAA has an online system, Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), to provide this real-time, automated authorization. Part 107 operators also can request airspace authorization through FAA’s DroneZone portal, but this manual process can take longer.
The FAA currently is upgrading LAANC to enable recreational flyers to obtain automated authorization to controlled airspace. The FAA is committed to quickly implementing LAANC for recreational flyers. The FAA also is exploring upgrades to DroneZone to enable access for recreational flyers.
Authorization to Operate Recreational Unmanned Aircraft at Certain Fixed Sites in Controlled Airspace
Until LAANC is available for recreational operations, the FAA is granting temporary airspace authorizations to operate at certain fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) that are established by an agreement with the FAA. For fixed sites that are located in controlled airspace two or more miles from an airport, operations are authorized up to the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) facility map (UASFM) altitudes. The FAA is reviewing fixed sites located within two miles of an airport and will make individualized determinations of what airspace authorization is appropriate. Aeromodelling organizations that sponsor fixed sites, regardless of their location within controlled airspace, can obtain additional information about requesting airspace authorization from the person identified in the “For further information, contact” section of this document.
During this interim period, you may fly in controlled airspace only at authorized fixed sites. The list of authorized fixed sites is available on the FAA’s website at www.faa.gov/uas and will be depicted on the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com. Agreements establishing fixed sites may contain additional operating limitations. If you fly at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the agreement, which is available from the fixed site sponsor.
As a reminder, existing FAA rules provide that you may not operate in any designated restricted or prohibited airspace. This includes airspace restricted for national security reasons or to safeguard emergency operations, including law enforcement activities. The easiest way to determine whether any restrictions or special requirements are in effect as well as the authorized altitudes where you want to fly is to use the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://uddsfaa.opendata.arcgis.com, and to check for the latest FAA Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). This information may also be available from third-party applications.
The FAA will provide notice when LAANC is available for use by recreational flyers.
Please do not contact FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorization because these facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.
6. In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace in which the FAA does not provide air traffic services.
You may operate recreational unmanned aircraft in this airspace up to an altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL).
Additionally, you may not operate in any designated restricted or prohibited airspace. This includes airspace restricted for national security reasons or to safeguard emergency operations, including law enforcement activities. The easiest way to determine whether any restrictions or special requirements are in effect where you want to fly is to use the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com, and to check for the latest FAA NOTAMs.
7. The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
Section 44809(g) requires the FAA to develop, in consultation with stakeholders, an aeronautical knowledge and safety test that can be administered electronically. This test is intended to demonstrate a recreational flyer’s knowledge of aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating unmanned aircraft.
The FAA currently is developing an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and plans to engage stakeholders on its development through a public process.
The FAA acknowledges that satisfying this statutory condition is impossible until the FAA establishes the aeronautical knowledge and safety test. For the reasons discussed earlier in this document, the FAA has determined this condition will apply only after the FAA develops and makes available the knowledge and safety test. Accordingly, during this interim period, recreational flyers who adhere to the other seven conditions under section 44809(a), may use the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The FAA will provide additional guidance and notice when the aeronautical knowledge and safety test is available and the date on which adherence to this condition is required.
8. The aircraft is registered and marked and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
Registration and marking requirements for small unmanned aircraft, including recreational unmanned aircraft, can be found at 14 CFR part 48, and online registration can be completed at faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/. Each unmanned aircraft used for limited recreational operations must display the registration number on an external surface of the aircraft. Recreational flyers also must maintain proof of registration and make it available to FAA inspectors or law enforcement officials upon request.
The FAA remains committed to facilitating safe operation of recreational unmanned aircraft to the maximum extent authorized by Congress, while effectively addressing national security and public safety concerns. The FAA is devoting resources to fully implement this new framework as expeditiously as possible.
This interim implementation guidance provides information to recreational flyers on how to comply with the statutory conditions for the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, codified at 49 U.S.C. 44809. Accordingly, the FAA has determined this interim implementation guidance does not independently generate costs for recreational flyers.
The FAA has updated FAA Advisory Circular 91-57B to reflect the interim guidance provided in this notice. The FAA will continue to provide updated direction and guidance as implementation proceeds. The FAA intends to follow up with regulatory amendments to formalize the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The guidance provided in this notice is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the Department or the FAA as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Regardless of whether you rely on the guidance in this document, you are independently required to comply with all existing laws applicable to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems. Conforming your actions with the guidance in this notice does not excuse or mitigate noncompliance with other applicable legal requirements.
Nevertheless, if your operation fails to satisfy the eight statutory conditions, as described in this notice, or if you are not operating under part 107 or other FAA authority, your operation may violate other FAA regulations and subject you to enforcement action. Additionally, if you operate your recreational unmanned aircraft carelessly or recklessly, the FAA may exercise existing authority to take enforcement action against you for endangering the national airspace system.
Please continue to check faa.gov/uas on a regular basis for the most current direction and guidance.
Issued in Washington, D.C. on May 8, 2019.
Robert C. Carty,
Deputy Executive Director,
Flight Standards Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-10169 Filed: 5/16/2019 8:45 am; Publication Date: 5/17/2019]
Text of Certificate of Authorization for Limited Recreational Purposes at Fixed Sites
Recreational flyers operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as defined under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 Section 349, Exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft (49 U.S.C. 44809).
This certificate is issued for the operations specifically described hereinafter. No person shall conduct any operation pursuant to the authority of this certificate except in accordance with the standard and special provisions contained in this certificate, and such other requirements of the Federal Aviation Regulations not specifically waived by this certificate.
Operation of an UAS, flown within visual line of sight and solely for limited recreational purposes: At fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) that are established by an agreement with the FAA, as listed at http://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/. Operations at the listed fixed sites are authorized up to the altitudes indicated on the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) facility map (UASFM).
LIST OF WAIVED REGULATIONS BY SECTION AND TITLE
1. A copy of the application made for this certificate shall be attached and become a part hereof.
2. This certificate shall be presented for inspection upon the request of any authorized representative of the Federal Aviation Administration, or of any State or municipal official charged with the duty of enforcing local laws or regulations.
3. The holder of this certificate shall be responsible for the strict observance of the terms and provisions contained herein.
4. This certificate is nontransferable.
Note-This certificate constitutes a waiver of those Federal rules or regulations specifically referred to above. It does not
constitute a waiver of any State law or local ordinance.
Special Provisions 1 and 2, inclusive, are set forth in this authorization.
This certificate for operations authorized by 49 U.S.C. 44809 is effective from May 17, 2019, through December 31, 2019, and is subject to cancellation at any time upon notice by the Administrator or his/her authorized representative.
BY DIRECTION OF THE ADMINISTRATOR
FAA Headquarters, AJV-115
Scott J. Gardner
Acting Manager, FAA, Emerging Technologies Team
1. FLIGHT OPERATIONS:
a. This authorization can be rescinded by the FAA at any time and is issued in order to allow recreational operations to continue while the FAA evaluates and develops a long term plan for implementation of 49 U.S.C. 44809. This authorization should be considered temporary in nature and non-precedent setting for future recreational operations. Do not contact FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorization because these facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.
b. Any impacted air traffic control facility may disapprove, terminate, restrict, or delay UAS flight operations covered by this authorization at any time. Agreements establishing fixed sites may contain additional operating limitations. While flying at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the agreement, which is available from the fixed site sponsor.
c. This Authorization and the Special Provisions shall be in effect between civil sunrise and civil sunset local time.
d. Recreational operations are to be conducted in accordance with or within the programming of a Community Based Organization’s (CBO) set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA. Once the FAA has established the criteria and begins recognizing CBOs, those CBOs’ safety guidelines will be available for use. During this interim period, the FAA offers two means to satisfy this statutory condition; existing safety guidelines of aeromodelling organization, provided the guidelines do not conflict with other statutory conditions of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a), or the existing basic safety guidelines for recreational operations, which are available on the FAA website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/).
e. As the FAA continues to review additional recreational flyer sites, the authorized locations may change. Therefore, the recreational flyer is responsible for reviewing and complying with the authorized recreational flyer sites within the published UASFM at http://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/. Prior to each flight to ensure that no changes have been made to the map (i.e., altitude changes, airspace modifications, etc).
f. The recreational flyer must check the airspace they are operating in and comply with all restrictions that may be present in accordance with Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or the Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone. See https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/ for information on ordering charts.
g. The recreational flyer is responsible for avoiding operations in security areas or over sensitive locations identified in red. View current security areas, at http://uddsfaa. opendata.arcgis.com/. View current Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) at https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/.
h. Recreational flyers should also be familiar with the information contained in the most current version of the Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57.
i. The recreational flyer must operate the aircraft in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
2. EMERGENCY/CONTINGENCY PROCEDURES – Lost Link/Lost Communications Procedures:
a. If the UA loses communications or loses its Global Positioning System signal, all emergency/contingency procedures should be planned to ensure that the unmanned aircraft remains within the recreational flyer site.
b. The recreational flyer must abort the flight in the event of unexpected hazards or an emergency.
Actual Leaked FAA Memo Regarding New Recreational Drone Laws
I contacted the FAA and this document was verified as legitimate.
Date: May 10 2019
From: Aaron Barnett, Director, Operations-Headqunters, AJT-2
Subject: Mandatory Briefing Item: Pre-Duty Brief – Operational Personnel Sec 349 sUAS Implementation, due May 16, 2019
Due to changes in the law mandated by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, all hobbyist or recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operators are required to have authorization from Air Traffic to fly in controlled airspace. This new law puts restrictions in place that limit all recreational operations to less than 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace and requires approval for any operation in controlled airspace. This memo and attached pre-duty brief serves as interim guidance for the implementation of this new law.
Previously, recreational flyers could communicate with the lower or controlling facility and notify of “intent to fly.” The language in the previous law was vague and did not allow for or require, an intervention or approval from air traffic controllers. This new law will remove local air traffic controller involvement with recreational UAS operators and reduce distractions and phone calls while improving the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS).
Air Traffic Facilities should not authorize or approve any recreational flight. The purpose of this implementation plan is to diminish the need for calls to the towers from any recreational operator requesting to fly in controlled airspace. The authorization and restrictions for recreational UAS operators will be a National Authorization for fixed sites in controlled airspace as detailed below:
- Recreational UAS operators will be authorized to fly in controlled airspace at fixed sites that will be listed via multiple venues from Federal Register Notice (FRN), Advisory Circular (AC) and FAA Office of Communications (AOC) public releases.
- Approximately 350 Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) fixed sites are located in controlled airspace, but less than 200 are listed for recreational UAS use.
- These sites will be more than 2 miles from a runway surface and be required to operate in accordance with altitudes specified in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Map’s (UASFM).
- The authorizations will be in the form of a National Authorization with national restrictions that have been approved by Law, DOT and FAA HQ. Therefore, air traffic controller personnel or support staff should not make any phone calls or authorizations,
This is a significant change in how we have previously conducted business. Please be understanding when recreational UAS operators call; use the language in the attached pre-duty brief and refer them to www.faa.gov/uas for guidance on how and where to operate.
NOTE: In the summer, Low Altitude Authorization Notification Capability (LAANC) will accept and authorize recreational requests in UASFM values, but will not accept or authorize anything for altitudes higher than 400 feet or outside the UASFM.
Refer all Recreational Flyer or general inquiries to www.faa.gov/uas.
Air Traffic Managers must ensure all operational personnel are briefed on the attached PowerPoint no later than May 16 as this briefing is a pre-duty requirement.
If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Henry Rigol, at [email protected] or (202) 267-8185, or William Stanton at [email protected] or (202) 267-4564, Air Traffic Services, Operational Integration, AJT-3.
Calvin Rohan, Acting Director, Air Traffic Operations, Eastern Service Area, AJT-EN/ES
Tony Mello, Director, Air Traffic Operations, Central Service Area, AJT-CN/CS
Jeff Stewart, Acting Director, Air Traffic Operations, Western Service Area, AJT-WN/WS