(a) A remote pilot in command must be designated before or during the flight of the small unmanned aircraft.
(b) The remote pilot in command is directly responsible for and is the final authority as to the operation of the small unmanned aircraft system.
(c) The remote pilot in command must ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other people, other aircraft, or other property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason.
(d) The remote pilot in command must ensure that the small UAS operation complies with all applicable regulations of this chapter.
(e) The remote pilot in command must have the ability to direct the small unmanned aircraft to ensure compliance with the applicable provisions of this chapter.
My Commentary on Section 107.19 Remote pilot in command.
You should keep in mind that the responsibility of the remote pilot in command is like being in a gutter or in the sewer of a major city. If any trash or garbage happens, it will flow down on your head. You should be careful of who you fly with.
Remote PIC. A person acting as a remote PIC of an sUAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) under part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating issued by the FAA prior to sUAS operation. The remote PIC must have this certificate easily accessible during flight operations. Guidance regarding remote pilot certification is found in Chapter 6, Part 107 Subpart C, Remote Pilot Certification. Again, the remote PIC will have the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of an sUAS operation conducted under part 107.
Additionally, part 107 permits transfer of control of an sUAS between certificated remote pilots. Two or more certificated remote pilots transferring operational control (i.e., the remote PIC designation) to each other may do so only if they are both capable of maintaining Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) of the UA and without loss of control (LOC). For example, one remote pilot may be designated the remote PIC at the beginning of the operation, and then at some point in the operation another remote pilot may take over as remote PIC by positively communicating that he or she is doing so. As the person responsible for the safe operation of the UAS, any remote pilot who will assume remote PIC duties should meet all of the requirements of part 107, including awareness of factors that could affect the flight.
Textron Systems, the National Association of Realtors, Trimble Navigation, and ArgenTech Solutions recommended that this rule provide an operator with the ability to hand off control and responsibility for flight during the course of an operation. Textron Systems recommended that the rule “allow passing of ‘operator in command’ during flight operations as long as the system and the operational construct meet other requirements of the rule.” Trimble proposed that the FAA should explicitly permit multiple operators using networked radios and control stations to operate a single UAS. Under Trimble’s proposal, operators would transition control of the UAS from one operator to another while ensuring see-and-avoid concerns are met. Trimble also asserted that the technology needed to network radios and control stations is utilized in other countries for small UAS operations and has been found to be effective. The National Association of Realtors added that “daisy chaining” operators does not pose a safety concern because “[t]he real-time corrections necessary to perfect an UAS flight could be made instantaneously, rather than the observer communicating with the operator and there being a lag in the time the correction is orally given and then made within the operation.” NetMoby, on the other hand, recommended prohibiting hand-off ability because it could create an “endless daisy chain of operators.”
The FAA agrees with the commenters who stated that transfer of control of a small UAS should be allowed between certificated remote pilots. This can be accomplished while maintaining visual line of sight of the UAS and without loss of control. Multiple certificated remote pilots handing off operational control does not raise the same safety concerns as a daisy chain of visual observers because, unlike a visual observer, the remote pilot in command will have the ability to directly control the small unmanned aircraft. Thus, two or more certificated pilots transferring operational control (i.e. the remote pilot in command designation) to each other does not raise the delayed-reaction-time issue that arises with visual observers having to communicate what they see to another person who actually manipulates the small UAS flight controls. Accordingly, as discussed in section III.E.1 of this preamble, multiple certificated remote pilots may choose to transfer control and responsibility while operating a small UAS. For example, one remote pilot may be designated the remote pilot in command at the beginning of the operation, and then at some point in the operation another remote pilot may take over as remote pilot in command by orally stating that he or she is doing so. The FAA emphasizes that as the person responsible for the safe operation of the UAS, any remote pilot who will assume remote-pilot-in-command duties should be aware of factors that could affect the flight.
In a joint submission, PlaneSense and Cobalt Air stated that the language in proposed § 107.19(b) sets a different standard from that in § 107.23 (hazardous operation). They noted that while § 107.19(b) requires that small UAS operations “pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people or property[,]” § 107.23(b) prohibits persons from operating a small UAS in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another[.]” The commenters argued that these two standards are not consistent, because § 107.23 does not include other aircraft within the scope of the third parties who must be protected. The commenters went on to say that these discrepancies create inconsistencies which result in incomplete guidance for the operators of small UAS, and may result in an increase in danger to the public. The commenters suggested that the appropriate standard is to be found in § 107.19(b), and that § 107.23 should be changed to match it. Finally, the commenters asked the FAA to clarify whether “other aircraft” includes other unmanned aircraft.
Part 107 prohibits a small UAS operation from endangering life or property, and prohibits a remote pilot from operating a small UAS in a careless or reckless manner. Property includes other aircraft, including other unmanned aircraft. These two requirements complement, rather than contradict, one another, and provide the remote pilot with the flexibility to adjust his or her operation according to the environment in which he or she is operating.
For example, if the operation takes place in a residential area, the remote pilot in command could ask everyone in the area of operation to remain inside their homes while the operation is conducted. If the operation takes place in an area where other air traffic could pose a hazard, the remote pilot could advise local air traffic control as to the location of his or her area of operation and add extra visual observers to the operation so that they can notify the remote pilot if other aircraft are approaching the area of operation. These precautions would be one way to ensure that the operation will not pose an undue hazard to other aircraft, people or property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft. Additionally, during the operation of the small unmanned aircraft, the remote pilot in command is prohibited from operating the aircraft in a careless and reckless manner, further ensuring that the operation does not pose an undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft.
The NextGen Air Transportation Program, NC State University commented that § 107.19(b) is “not realistic.” The commenter stated that the remote pilot can do everything possible to minimize the risk and harm possible in the event of loss of positive control, but asserted that requiring that no damage be caused without requiring fly-away prevention or other risk management mechanisms does not align with the general NPRM objectives. Similarly, ALPA stated that many small unmanned aircraft, particularly those with multiple propulsion units, may become highly unstable when they enter a state of “lost link” or “loss of positive control.” This commenter also asserted its strong belief that if lost link occurs, mitigations to safely perform auto-hover, auto-land, and return-to-home maneuvers, and geo-fencing protection, must be incorporated into the navigation and control systems for a small UAS to safely land without harm to persons or property.
The undue hazard standard in this rule is a performance-based standard, which the remote pilot in command may satisfy through operational or equipage/technological mitigations. In section III.E.3.b.vi of this preamble, the FAA describes equipment that remote pilots may incorporate into their small unmanned aircraft systems as one means of complying with this requirement. Due to the diversity and rapidly evolving nature of small UAS operations, this rule allows individual remote pilots to determine what equipage methods, if any, mitigate risk sufficiently to meet the performance-based requirements of this rule, such as the prohibition on creating an undue hazard if there is a loss of aircraft control. This provides the greatest amount of regulatory flexibility while maintaining the appropriate level of safety commensurate with part 107 operations. The methods suggested by the commenters are some, but not all of the possible mitigations available for remote pilots of UAS. The FAA recognizes that it is impossible to prevent every hazard in the event of a loss of control of the small unmanned aircraft; however, as several commenters stated, this rule requires remote pilots to do everything possible to minimize risk and harm in the event of loss of positive control. NOAA commented that § 107.19(b) should be revised to include “protected wildlife” in the class of entities to be protected from undue hazard in the case of loss of positive control. NOAA states that this change would acknowledge the importance of other Federal statutes already in place to protect, conserve, and recover vulnerable wildlife populations and ensure the FAA-regulated community is aware of them and that the final rule does not contradict them.
The FAA notes that other Federal statutes already in place establish laws on the protection of wildlife. Independent of this rule, the remote pilot in command is responsible for complying with any other Federal, State, or local laws that apply to his or her small UAS operation.
Section 107.19 requires the remote pilot in command to ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property in the event of a loss of positive control of the aircraft for any reason. In consideration of the numerous ways that a remote pilot may mitigate the risk associated with a contingency event, the FAA considers it unnecessary to enact a prescriptive requirement such as a return-to-home function, as many other methods may exist now and in the future to ensure no undue hazard due to a loss of control. For example, non-equipage mitigations for loss of control may include utilizing physical barriers such as trees or netting, utilizing security/safety personnel to control non-participant entry into the operating area, or ensuring non-participants are under/in a protected covering
The FAA notes that although the test taker will not be tested on knowledge of obstacle clearance requirements, they will be tested for knowledge of regulations applicable to small UAS, including the requirements of §§ 107.19(c) and 107.23(a), which: (1) prohibit operating a small unmanned aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another; and (2) require the remote pilot in command to ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property in the event of loss of control of the aircraft. A small unmanned aircraft flown in a manner that creates a collision hazard with a ground structure may violate one or both of these regulations, especially if there are people near the ground structure who may be hurt as a result of the collision.