Table of Contents of Article
Section 107.23 Hazardous operation.
No person may:
(a) Operate a small unmanned aircraft system in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another; or
(b) Allow an object to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that creates an undue hazard to persons or property.
My Commentary on Section 107.23 Hazardous operation.
This is like a catch-all regulation for when the FAA doesn’t know how to get you for other regulations they will cite you for a violation of this.
Careless or Reckless Operation of sUAS. Part 107 also prohibits careless or reckless operation of an sUAS. Flying an sUAS while driving a moving vehicle is considered to be careless or reckless because the person’s attention would be hazardously divided. Therefore, the remote PIC or person manipulating the flight controls cannot operate an sUAS and drive a moving vehicle in a safe manner and remain in compliance with part 107.
Careless or Reckless Operation. As with manned aircraft, remote PICs are prohibited from engaging in a careless or reckless operation. We also note that because sUAS have additional operating considerations that are not present in manned aircraft operations, there may be additional activity that would be careless or reckless if conducted using an sUAS. For example, failure to consider weather conditions near structures, trees, or rolling terrain when operating in a densely populated area could be determined as careless or reckless operation.
FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.23 Hazardous operation from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule
As discussed previously, this rule will allow operation of small UAS from land and water-based vehicles over sparsely populated areas. However, the FAA emphasizes that this rule will also prohibit careless or reckless operation of a small UAS. The FAA considers flying a small UAS while purposely distracted by another task to be careless or reckless. The FAA cannot envision at this time an instance of a person driving a vehicle while operating a small UAS in a safe manner that does not violate part 107. Additionally, other laws, such as State and local traffic laws, may also apply to the conduct of a person driving a vehicle. Many states currently prohibit distracted driving and State or local laws may also be amended in the future to impose restrictions on how cars and public roads may be used with regard to a small UAS operation. The FAA emphasizes that people involved in a small UAS operation are responsible for complying with all applicable laws and not just the FAA’s regulations.
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 FAA adds this performance-based approach requirement in response to concerns that small UAS operations may present a hazard to manned aircraft operating at low altitudes in the vicinity of airports in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace. Due to the requirements for remote pilots to not operate in a careless or reckless manner and to yield the right of way to all other aircraft, the FAA does not consider it necessary to prohibit small UAS operations in the vicinity of an airport in uncontrolled airspace. Like ballooning, skydiving, banner towing, and other non-traditional aeronautical activities, the FAA expects that remote pilots will work with airport operators to identify ways to safely integrate small UAS operations into the flow of other operations at the airport.
Current FAA regulations (codified in 14 CFR 91.13(a)) prohibit a person from operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. The NPRM proposed to apply similar regulations in § 107.23 to ensure that a small UAS is not operated in a hazardous manner. For the reasons discussed below, the FAA will finalize this provision as proposed in the NPRM.
One commenter stated that § 107.23 must have the same force and effect as 14 CFR 91.13. Two commenters said that “careless and reckless” is a vague and subjective standard, with one stating that it is unenforceable unless the FAA describes concretely what constitutes careless or reckless behavior.
Section 107.23(a) will prohibit a person from operating a small UAS in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. This provision is derived from a similar prohibition on careless/reckless conduct that currently exists for manned aircraft in § 91.13(a), and as such, the FAA expects that these two provisions will have similar effects.
The determination of whether conduct is careless or reckless is made on a case-bycase basis through NTSB caselaw. The FAA has issued guidance (FAA Order 8900.1, vol. 14, ch. 3, sec. 5) summarizing the pertinent caselaw, which provides illustrative examples of conduct that is considered to be careless or reckless.
One commenter suggested that the FAA should permit local law enforcement authorities to enforce the prohibition against careless or reckless operations. In response, the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.I of this preamble, the FAA cannot delegate its formal enforcement functions.
One commenter asked the FAA to clarify what evidence would be used to prove that a remote pilot operated in a careless or reckless manner. Another commenter suggested that a flight data recorder be required to facilitate the enforcement of the prohibition against careless or reckless operations.
A flight data recorder requirement would add cost, complexity, and weight to small unmanned aircraft without a corresponding incremental safety benefit. The FAA notes that enforcement of violations will be similar to enforcement conducted for part 91 operations: in addition to conducting routine surveillance of part 107 operations, the FAA will act on reports of violations to conduct further investigations. The FAA relies on many sources to further investigate complaints, such as accounts from witnesses, video, and reports from Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
In §107.23(b) of the proposed rule, the FAA proposed to prohibit an object from being dropped from a small unmanned aircraft if such action endangers the life or property of another. The FAA received approximately 15 comments in response to this proposed provision.
CAPA and one individual commenter expressed concern about the proliferation of small UAS and their accessibility to persons with limited or no aviation experience. Both commenters asserted that it requires great skill to drop an object safely from an aircraft. CAPA also expressed concerns about the potential security risks of permitting objects to be dropped from small unmanned aircraft. Similarly, two individual commenters worried that small unmanned aircraft equipped for package delivery could be used to carry out terrorist activities, such as dropping canisters of poisonous gases into populated areas such as shopping malls.
The FAA disagrees with the commenters that airmen operating under part 107 will lack the skill necessary to safely drop an object from a small UAS. As discussed in section III.E.1 of this preamble, all small UAS operations must be conducted either by a certificated remote pilot or under the direct supervision of a certificated remote pilot in command. In order to obtain a remote pilot certificate under part 107, an applicant will be required to demonstrate his or her knowledge of how to safely operate a small UAS under part 107. Thus, operations under part 107 will be conducted and overseen by certificated airmen who will have the knowledge necessary to safely conduct various part 107 operations, including safely dropping objects from a small UAS.
With regard to dropping dangerous objects, the FAA notes that, as discussed in section III.C.1 of this preamble, this rule will prohibit the carriage of hazardous material by small unmanned aircraft. With regard to terrorism and criminal activities more broadly, as discussed in section III.J.2 of this preamble, there already exist criminal statutes that prohibit criminal and terrorist activities.
Five commenters suggested that the language in the final rule regarding the dropping of objects should mirror the language in 14 CFR 91.15. These commenters suggested that while proposed § 107.23(b) does not necessarily differ in substance from 91.15, it should be made explicit that the rule does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property. DJI suggested that the FAA adopt the “hazard to persons or property” standard used in § 91.15 for external load and towing operations.
Section 91.15 prohibits an object from being dropped from an aircraft in flight in a manner that creates a hazard to persons or property. Section 107.19(b) of this rule uses a similar standard of “undue hazard” with regard to loss of positive control of a small unmanned aircraft. In order to promote regulatory consistency throughout part 107, the FAA has rephrased the regulatory text of § 107.23(b) to use the “undue hazard” standard specified in § 107.19(b). The revised § 107.23(b) will prohibit dropping objects from a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that creates an undue hazard to persons or property.
DJI noted that the term “hazard” is inherently subjective. DJI acknowledged that “it may be impossible to adopt a non-subjective standard,” and requested that the FAA provide guidance on the types of operations that the FAA would consider to be hazardous.
As discussed earlier, § 107.23(b) will prohibit dropping an object from a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that creates an undue hazard to persons or property. For purposes of this rule, a falling object creates an undue hazard to persons or property if it poses a risk of injury to a person or a risk of damage to property. This standard will be applied on a fact-specific basis. For example, a small unmanned aircraft that drops a heavy or sharp object capable of injuring a person in an area where there are people who could be hit by that object would likely create an undue hazard to persons. The remote pilot in command of the operation could take reasonable precautions prior to flight by moving people away from the drop site to a distance where they would not be hit by a falling object if something goes wrong with the operation. Guidance associated with the enactment of part 107 will provide additional examples to help remote pilots comply with § 107.23(b).