Section 107.33 Visual observer. (2018)


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Section 107.33 Visual observer.

If a visual observer is used during the aircraft operation, all of the following requirements must be met:

(a) The remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system, and the visual observer must maintain effective communication with each other at all times.

(b) The remote pilot in command must ensure that the visual observer is able to see the unmanned aircraft in the manner specified in §107.31.

(c) The remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system, and the visual observer must coordinate to do the following:

(1) Scan the airspace where the small unmanned aircraft is operating for any potential collision hazard; and

(2) Maintain awareness of the position of the small unmanned aircraft through direct visual observation.

My Commentary on Section 107.33 Visual observer.

When studying this regulation you should pay very close attention to Section 107.31.

Advisory Circular 107-2 on Section 107.33 Visual observer.

VO. The use of a VO is optional. The remote PIC may choose to use a VO to supplement situational awareness and VLOS. Although the remote PIC and person manipulating the controls must maintain the capability to see the UA, using one or more VOs allows the remote PIC and person manipulating the controls to conduct other mission-critical duties (such as checking displays) while still ensuring situational awareness of the UA. The VO must be able to effectively communicate:

• The small UA location, attitude, altitude, and direction of flight;
• The position of other aircraft or hazards in the airspace; and
• The determination that the UA does not endanger the life or property of another.

To ensure that the VO can carry out his or her duties, the remote PIC must ensure that the VO is positioned in a location where he or she is able to see the small UA sufficiently to maintain VLOS. The remote PIC can do this by specifying the location of the VO. The FAA also requires that the remote PIC and VO coordinate to 1) scan the airspace where the small UA is operating for any potential collision hazard, and 2) maintain awareness of the position of the small UA through direct visual observation. This would be accomplished by the VO maintaining visual contact with the small UA and the surrounding airspace, and then communicating to the remote PIC and person manipulating the controls the flight status of the small UA and any hazards which may enter the area of operation, so that the remote PIC or person manipulating the controls can take appropriate action.

To make this communication possible, the remote PIC, person manipulating the controls, and VO must work out a method of effective communication, which does not create a distraction and allows them to understand each other. The communication method must be determined prior to operation. This effective communication requirement would permit the use of
communication-assisting devices, such as a hand-held radio, to facilitate communication from a distance.

FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.33 Visual observer from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will finalize the position of visual observer as follows. First, this rule will define a visual observer as a person who assists the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground. Second, the visual observer will remain an optional crewmember who will not be required to obtain an airman certificate. Third, the remote pilot in command will have to ensure that the visual observer is positioned in a location that allows him or her to see the unmanned aircraft in the manner specified in § 107.31. Fourth, the visual observer, the remote pilot in command, and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) will be required to coordinate in order to: (1) scan the airspace where the small unmanned aircraft is operating for any potential collision hazard; and (2) maintain awareness of the position of the small unmanned aircraft through direct visual observation. Finally, this rule will require the visual observer, the remote pilot in command, and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) to maintain effective communication, and it will allow the use of technology, such as radios, to assist with the communication.

i. Definition of Visual Observer
The NPRM proposed to define a visual observer as a person who assists the operator to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground. Skycatch suggested that the definition of visual observer should be revised to say “sense and avoid” rather than “see and avoid” because the term “sense and avoid” is the term required by Congress. According to Skycatch, the term “see and avoid” does not appear in Public Law 112-95, whereas the term “sense and avoid” appears in three locations in the enabling legislation.

As discussed earlier, this rulemaking is being conducted under section 333 of Public Law 112-95. Subsection 333(b)(1) requires the FAA to determine, in pertinent part, what type of UAS operations do not “create a hazard to users of the national airspace system.” A critical component of that determination is whether the operation is conducted “within visual line of sight.” Id. Section 333 does not use the term “sense and avoid.” As discussed in the previous section, the FAA does not currently have data indicating that small UAS technology has matured to the point that would safely allow small UAS to be operated beyond visual line of sight. To reflect this fact, as well as the fact that section 333 explicitly focuses on operations within visual line of sight as a critical consideration, this rule will retain the proposed “see and avoid” terminology in the definition of visual observer. Accordingly, this rule will define visual observer as a person who assists the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground.

ii. Operational Requirements When Using Visual Observer

The NPRM also proposed a set of operational requirements for operations that use a visual observer. First, the operator and visual observer would be required to maintain effective communication with each other at all times. Under the NPRM, the operator and visual observer would not have to stand close enough to hear each other without technological assistance; instead, they could use a communication-assisting device, such as a radio, to communicate while standing farther apart from each other. Second, the operator would be required to ensure that the visual observer be positioned in a manner that would allow him or her to maintain visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft. Third, the operator and visual observer would be required to coordinate to: (1) scan the airspace where the small unmanned aircraft is operating for any potential collision hazard; and (2) maintain awareness of the position of the small unmanned aircraft through direct visual observation. This rule will finalize the above provisions as proposed, but, due to the change in the crewmember framework, this rule will refer to the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS instead of “operator.”

Approximately 20 organizations and 8 individual commenters, including NRECA, AIA, and the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public Landgrant Universities, commenting jointly, agreed with the NPRM proposal that the visual observer should not be required to stand close enough to the operator to allow for unassisted verbal communication. These commenters generally agreed that the operator and visual observers should maintain effective communication with one another and added that effective communication can be achieved with the use of technology, such as a twoway radio or cell phone. NRECA stated that there is no additional safety benefit from requiring the visual observer to stand close enough to the operator to allow for unassisted verbal communication. In fact, NRECA continued, such a requirement might negatively impact safety by prohibiting a visual observer from adopting a vantage point that affords a different field of view from the operator (i.e., a field of view that complements and is not merely duplicative of the operator’s field of view).

Aviation Management, NBAA, and NRECA further stated that the method of effective communication should be decided by the operator and visual observer. Planehook and an individual added the operator and visual observer should have a contingency plan if electronic communications fail.

ALPA supported the use of communication-assisting devices, but asked the FAA to State (in the preamble and in advisory material) that the ability to maintain communication using any device is necessarily complicated by the fact that the pilot/operator typically uses both hands to control the small UAS. ALPA asserted that this complication limits the possibilities of using assisting devices considerably, essentially to two-way radiotelephony with a constant (i.e., “hot”) transmit-receive capability.

In contrast to the above commenters, the Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association and NAAA said that the visual observer should be able to communicate with the UAS operator “from the most minimal distance possible.”

This rule will require the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command), and the visual observer to maintain effective communication, but it will also allow the remote pilot in command to determine how that communication will take place. The FAA agrees that effective communication is essential, but there are circumstances where this can be accomplished at a distance through technological assistance. As the commenters pointed out, effective communication at a distance can easily be achieved using existing technology, such as a two-way radio or a cell phone.

In response to ALPA’s concern that the person manipulating the small UAS flight controls may be unable to simultaneously manipulate the controls of a communication device, the FAA notes that existing technology provides a number of options for hands-free communication, such as an earpiece, a headset, or the “speaker” mode on a cell phone. The remote pilot in command may choose any communication-assisting technology as long as that technology: (1) allows for effective communication; and (2) does not interfere with the safe operation of the small UAS. The FAA also agrees that the choice of effective communication should be agreed upon by the remote pilot in command and the visual observer, and that it is a good safety practice to have a contingency plan.

The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, and MPAA asserted that proposed § 107.33(b) conflicts with the visual-line-of-sight requirements of § 107.31. These commenters asserted that proposed § 107.31 stated that either “the operator or visual observer must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight” (emphasis added). However, proposed § 107.33(b) stated that when a visual observer is used, “[t]he operator must ensure that the visual observer is able to see the unmanned aircraft.”

As explained earlier, the visual-line-of-sight framework requires the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS, and the visual observer to always have visual-line-of-sight capability. The visual observer can exercise this capability instead of the remote pilot in command and person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command), but under this rule, everyone must have the visual-line-of-sight capability, even if they are not exercising it. As noted earlier, the visual observer cannot maneuver the small unmanned aircraft, so there is a potential delay in response time if the person manipulating the flight controls and the remote pilot in command are unable to see what is happening and must rely solely on the description provided by the visual observer. The FAA agrees with commenters that, as proposed, the regulatory text of § 107.31 was unclear because it implied that either the operator or visual observer (but not both) had to be positioned in a manner that allowed for visual line of sight. Accordingly, the FAA has amended the regulatory text of § 107.31 to clarify that all crewmembers must have the ability to maintain visual line of sight.

One commenter suggested that the visual observer should be required to stand close enough to the operator that the line of sight of the visual observer will not deviate from the operator’s line of sight when the operator is using an FPV device. Another commenter objected to the proposed requirement that a visual observer must be positioned in a way that allows them to always maintain visual line of sight. The commenter asserted that this requirement would significantly limit the operational area for operations that use multiple visual observers because the small unmanned aircraft could only be flown in an area where the visual observers’ individual lines of sight overlap so that each observer could satisfy the proposed line-of-sight requirement.

The FAA declines to add a requirement that the visual observer must stand close enough to the remote pilot in command to have the same visual line of sight. The remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command), and the visual observer will be able to satisfy their see-and-avoid responsibilities if they are each positioned in a manner where they have sufficient visual line of sight of the unmanned aircraft and surrounding airspace (as specified in § 107.31). This can be accomplished without each person having the same exact line of sight as the other people involved in the operation. The FAA also emphasizes that even though part 107 will not prohibit the use of an FPV device by the remote pilot in command, FPV may not be used to meet the visual-line-of-sight requirements of this rule.

With regard to the use of multiple visual observers, the FAA acknowledges the concern raised by the commenter. As noted by the commenter, § 107.33(b) requires that when a person is acting as a visual observer, he or she must be positioned in a location where he or she can perform the visual-line-of-sight duties of the visual observer. However, this rule does not require that a person remain in the role of a visual observer for the entire duration of the small UAS operation. When a person is not acting as a visual observer, he or she is not required to perform the duties of a visual observer and need not be placed in a location where he or she can maintain visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft. This provides significant operational flexibility because the remote pilot in command can activate and deactivate pre-positioned visual observers to assist with maintaining visual line of sight. The FAA emphasizes, however, that the remote pilot in command is responsible for the small UAS operation and must ensure that any hand-off of visual observer responsibility is done safely and in compliance with §§ 107.31 and 107.33. TTD asked the FAA to clarify the proposed requirement that the operator and visual observer must coordinate so that they “maintain awareness of the position of the small unmanned aircraft through direct visual observation.” (Emphasis added.) TTD pointed to an NPRM statement that it would be permissible for one’s line of sight to be temporarily obstructed by an object and asked the FAA to clarify when and to what degree obstruction of one’s visual observation is permitted under § 107.33(d)(2).

As discussed in the previous section of the preamble, this rule allows for the possibility that the person maintaining visual line of sight may briefly lose sight of the small unmanned aircraft. As noted in that section, the FAA declines to impose quantitative limits on visual-line-of-sight interruptions. Instead, an interruption to line-of-sight of the small unmanned aircraft is permissible if: (1) it is brief; and (2) the person maintaining visual line of sight is still capable of complying with the see-and-avoid responsibilities of §§ 107.31, 107.33 (if applicable), and 107.37.

iii. Optional Use of a Visual Observer

Under the proposed rule, a visual observer would be an optional crewmember who could be used to augment the small UAS operation. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will finalize this NPRM provision as proposed.

Several commenters argued that a visual observer should always be required in order to satisfy the visual-line-of-sight requirements of part 107. ALPA and TTD asserted that small unmanned aircraft are difficult to observe given their size and speed capabilities, and that this difficulty, combined with the remote pilot’s need to look down at the controls periodically, makes a visual observer a critical crewmember for the safe operation of a small unmanned aircraft. Similarly, NAAA stated that the FAA’s proposal not to require a visual observer is at odds with the fundamental see-and-avoid and visual-line-of-sight principles of the rule. NAAA argued that the NAS would be endangered by the absence of a visual observer in those situations in which the remote pilot temporarily lacks the ability to see and avoid other aircraft.

Several commenters stated that in the absence of a visual observer, a remote pilot would not be able to maintain situational awareness of activities in the air and on the ground. JAM Aviation stated that a remote pilot cannot easily monitor conditions in the air and on the ground simultaneously, and that a visual observer is needed to assist the remote pilot in doing so. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation (Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi/LSUASC) stated that a visual observer should be required until technology comes into existence, such as firstperson view, that would provide “situational awareness and [a] level of risk-mitigation comparable to that of a pilot in the cockpit of a commercial aircraft.” Similarly, another commenter argued that a visual observer should be required “unless some form of situational awareness aid is available which would allow the operator to simultaneously determine [small UAS] status and health as well as scan the surrounding airspace[.]” It is not necessary to require a visual observer for all small UAS operations. Under the visual-line-of-sight framework of this rule, a visual observer can act as a limited
substitute for the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls with regard to maintaining visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft. The visual observer position will allow the person manipulating the small UAS flight controls and the remote pilot in command to perform tasks that require looking away from the small unmanned aircraft for a significant period of time or use observational technology (such as FPV) that limits their peripheral vision; which they can do if a visual observer is present because the visual observer will observe the small unmanned aircraft with the naked eye. However, there are some small UAS operations in which the person manipulating the UAS flight controls (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) and the remote
pilot in command will simply observe the small unmanned aircraft themselves throughout the entire operation. In those types of operations, there is no need for a visual observer to be present to maintain visual line of sight of the unmanned aircraft. In response to concerns about the ability of the remote pilot to maintain see and avoid if there is no visual observer present, the FAA notes that, as discussed previously, the person maintaining visual line of sight will have the same (if not better) ability to see and avoid other aircraft as a manned aircraft pilot looking out the windshield of the manned aircraft. The fact that the person maintaining visual line of sight may briefly look away from the small unmanned aircraft to conduct other tasks such as scanning the surrounding airspace does not affect this conclusion because the “look away” will be brief. This situation is similar to manned aircraft operations where a pilot can look away from the windshield to conduct another task such as scanning or manipulating the instrument panel.

As such, this rule will not require that a visual observer be present in all small UAS operations conducted under part 107. The FAA emphasizes, however, that if a visual observer is not present, then the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) must be the ones to exercise the visual-line-of-sight capability required by § 107.31. The FAA also emphasizes that the remote pilot in command will ultimately be responsible for the safe conduct of the small UAS operation. If the remote pilot in command determines, as part of the preflight assessment of the operating area required by § 107.49, that his or her particular small UAS operation cannot be conducted in a safe manner without a visual observer, then the remote pilot will be obligated to conduct the flight with a visual observer.

One commenter stated that the operation of a small unmanned aircraft is too complex to be conducted by just one person, and that a visual observer is needed to share the duties. According to this commenter, a visual observer should be used to “assist the operator focusing on monitoring aviation air band radio transmissions, flight heights, distances, see-avoid aircraft requirements, spotting, etc.”

The FAA disagrees with the suggestion that the operation of a small UAS is too complex to be conducted by one person. Many small UAS operating under this rule are simple to control and will be limited to a confined area of operation. The remote pilot in command is responsible for the safe operation of the flight and can make a determination as to whether a visual observer or another certificated remote pilot is necessary based on the nature of the operation. For example, a remote pilot operating a small unmanned aircraft in a sparsely populated area at an altitude lower than nearby trees and buildings could safety conduct the operation without any other crewmembers.

iv. No Airman Certification or Required Training of Visual Observer
The NPRM proposed to not require airman certification or other mandatory testing or training for a visual observer. The FAA explained that because a visual observer would not be permitted to exercise independent judgment or operational control and because the visual observer’s role in the operation would be limited simply to communicating what he or she is seeing to another person, the visual observer would not be an airman as defined by statute and would therefore not be statutorily required to obtain an airman certificate. The NPRM also explained that because of the limited role of the visual observer, there would be no need to exercise the FAA’s regulatory authority to require the visual observer to obtain an airman certificate.80 For the reasons discussed below, this rule will not require visual observers to be certificated or to satisfy any other qualification requirements. Several commenters expressed support for the FAA’s proposal to not require airman certification for visual observers on the basis that certification is unnecessary. Many submissions, including those from NRECA, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the National Association of Realtors, supported the FAA’s proposal because a visual observer is optional for part 107 operations and is not responsible for operating the device. The Property Drone Consortium, NetMoby, Predesa, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the American Petroleum Institute generally commented that a visual observer should not have to satisfy airman requirements. The Professional Society of Drone Journalists added that the only requirement for visual observers should be that they are capable of visually observing the small UAS and communicating with the remote pilot. Other commenters suggested that airman certification should not be required for visual observers because the limited safety benefits of requiring certification would not justify the burden. Commenters including the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture and State Farm asserted that the costs of requiring visual observer airman certification would outweigh the benefits.

The Oklahoma Governor’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Council said that imposing additional regulatory requirements on visual observers could increase safety risks since organizations would then be incentivized to minimize the number of visual observers due to cost and logistical issues. Similarly, NRECA suggested that the imposition of certification requirements could discourage the use of visual observers.

Multiple commenters expressed the opposite view and asserted that visual observers should be certificated by the FAA. NAAA stated that the visual observer should be certificated and should clearly understand his or her role. CAPA recommended that only UAS remote pilots, licensed as such, be able to participate as visual observers. CAPA also raised the question of who would be held responsible if an accident were to occur due to an uncertificated visual observer’s negligence. Textron Systems suggested that visual observers with safety-of-flight responsibilities may be considered to be flight crewmembers and should be certificated as such.

A few individuals generally argued that the same testing requirements should apply to all participants in small UAS operations, including the remote pilot and visual observer. One individual commented that a certificated visual observer could act as a safety redundancy backup for the operator. Another commenter suggested that UAS operator teams should follow a process similar to the traditional airman certification process. A third individual suggested that a visual observer should be required to hold a certificate similar to the ones held by air traffic controllers.

Under this rule, a visual observer will act only in a flight-support role to the remote pilot in command who will exercise operational control over the small UAS and will have final authority for the flight. Part 107 will not place any responsibility on the visual observer for the safety of the flight operation, as that responsibility falls on the remote pilot in command. Rather, the intended function of the visual observer under this rule will be to assist the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) with situational awareness during the flight as needed by observing, among other things, the small unmanned aircraft’s location, other air traffic, obstacle clearance, and people on the ground, and effectively communicating those observations to the remote pilot in command.

The FAA emphasizes that this rule will not give a visual observer the power to act on his or her observations because the visual observer will not share in the operational control of the aircraft. Rather, the visual observer’s role will be simply to convey his or her observations to the person who has operational authority and/or control of the small UAS and can act on those observations. Because the visual observer’s role is limited to simply conveying his or her observations to other people, the visual observer does not need special mandatory training, testing, or certification in order to safely carry out that role. The FAA also finds that, due to the very limited role that the visual observer has in the small UAS operation, the visual observer is not an airman, within the meaning of the FAA’s statute, and is thus not statutorily required to obtain an airman certificate.

In response to CAPA’s comment concerning liability due to a visual observer’s negligence, the person who violates the pertinent regulations would be the one held liable.

The FAA also notes that, depending on the circumstances, the remote pilot in command may be held responsible as he or she has final authority over the small UAS operation. Several commenters suggested that visual observers should be required to complete mandatory training. The University of North Georgia stated that visual observers must be trained on basic FAA rules and proximity awareness. Similarly, Federal Airways & Airspace remarked that visual observers should have a training course, such as a see-andavoid course. The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences recommended that visual observers complete a training syllabus and be tested in the same areas of knowledge as the remote pilot. AIA commented that visual observer training should be required prior to assuming duty. Another commenter suggested that visual observers should be trained on the applicable sections of part 91.

ALPA recommended development of guidance material outlining appropriate background and training for the visual observer, defining appropriate subjects for the operator/pilot to discuss with the visual observer prior to flight, and clarifying what constitutes visual observation in the context of safe UAS operation. Similarly, TTD requested that the FAA issue guidance indicating the training that visual observers should complete, and asserted that, without any requirement to display skill proficiency or determine vision quality, neither the visual observer, pilot, nor FAA can be sure that the visual observer is reliable. NAAA stated that having a set of untrained eyes does little to enhance safety if the visual observer sees a safety threat that the remote pilot does not see.

As discussed previously, the role of a visual observer is limited to simply communicating what he or she is seeing to the person manipulating the flight controls (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) and the remote pilot in command. Special training and testing is not necessary for a person to be able to communicate what he or she is seeing to another person. Thus, this rule will not require visual observers to complete special training courses or pass a test prior to serving as a visual observer. While the FAA has not included provisions in the rule to require visual observer airman certification or training, the FAA may, in the future, issue guidance to assist remote pilots who choose to utilize the visual observer function.

The FAA also emphasizes that under the other requirements of this rule, the remote pilot in command must, prior to flight, provide important information to the visual observer. This information will include an understanding of the operating conditions, emergency procedures, contingency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and potential hazards. The remote pilot in command must also ensure that the visual observer understands and can properly utilize the method by which he or she will be maintaining effective communication with the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating
the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command). Many commenters generally emphasized the remote pilot’s responsibility to ensure that the visual observer is competent and appropriately trained. SWAPA supported the use of visual observers but emphasized that under the FAA’s proposal, the onus would be on the remote pilot to ensure any visual observers used in the operation were familiar with all aspects of the operation. Similarly, Aerius Flight encouraged the FAA to require the remote pilot to ensure that the visual observer has become familiar with the critical aspects of the operation prior to assuming duties. NBAA stated that the remote pilot should ensure that a visual observer, if used, understands the limits of small UAS operations.

Planehook stated that training and certification of visual observers should be an internal function unique to companies and organizations that regularly require the use of visual observers for their commercial operations. Another commenter emphasized that the UAS remote pilot is responsible for all aspects of each flight and must be in charge of selecting and training visual observers.

Additionally, several commenters, including Aviation Management and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, mentioned that remote pilots should be responsible for briefing visual observers. Aviation Management emphasized the requirement for the remote pilot to ensure that all persons involved in the small UAS operation receive a briefing that includes operating conditions, emergency procedures, contingency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and potential hazards.

The FAA agrees that the remote pilot in command, in his or her role as the final authority over the small UAS operation, has ultimate responsibility for the safety of the operation and therefore should be responsible for selecting, training, and informing the visual observer (if one is used). The FAA also agrees with the commenters that a visual observer should be informed and understand all critical aspects of the small UAS operation prior to flight. That is why this rule will require the remote pilot in command to ensure that all persons directly participating in the small UAS operation, including the visual observer, are informed about the operating conditions, emergency procedures, contingency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and potential hazards.

A joint submission from the State of Nevada, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, and the Nevada FAA-designated UAS Test Site said that the visual observer should be required to self-certify that he or she has the aeronautical knowledge and visual acuity necessary to safely perform the small UAS operation. AUVSI, Prioria Robotics, the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, and several other commenters said that the visual observer should be required to hold a valid U.S.-issued driver’s license or an FAAissued medical certificate, which would ensure a visual test but not be overly burdensome. Planehook stated that the remote pilot should determine the medical suitability of any visual observer to perform pre-briefed duties.

The FAA disagrees that a driver’s license should be a prerequisite to serving as a visual observer. As discussed in section III.F.2.a of this preamble, according to the DOT Office of Highway Policy Information, 13 percent of the population aged 16 or older does not hold a State-issued driver’s license.82 Thus, requiring a U.S. driver’s license would create an undue burden for many visual observers without a significant increase in safety because the skills necessary to obtain a driver’s license are not the same skills needed to serve as a visual observer in a small UAS operation. The FAA also disagrees that self-certification concerning aeronautical knowledge and visual acuity by a person acting as a visual observer should be required by this rule because, as discussed elsewhere in this preamble, this rule does not impose any aeronautical knowledge or visual acuity requirements on visual observers. A visual observer cannot self-certify that he or she meets requirements that do not exist in this rule.

Finally, the FAA declines the suggestion to impose a specific duty on the remote pilot in command to determine the medical suitability of a visual observer. This rule does not require the remote pilot in command to be a doctor or have any medical training. As such, evaluating the potentially complex medical condition of another human being could be beyond the remote pilot in command’s expertise. The FAA notes, however, that it expects the remote pilot in command to exercise his or her authority when a potential visual observer is clearly incapable of carrying out his or her assigned duties. For example, the remote pilot in command would not be ensuring a safe small UAS operation if he or she designates a visual observer who clearly is incapacitated or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the operation.

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