Section 107.74 Small unmanned aircraft system training

By | March 6, 2021

Section 107.74 Small unmanned aircraft system training

Training for pilots who hold a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meet the flight review requirements specified in § 61.56 covers the following areas of knowledge:

(a) Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;

(b) Effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance;

(c) Small unmanned aircraft loading;

(d) Emergency procedures;

(e) Crew resource management;

(f) Determining the performance of the small unmanned aircraft;

(g) Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures; and

(h) Operation at night.


Advisory Circular 107-2A on Section 107.74 SUAS Training

6.7.1.1 A part 61 certificate holder who meets the flight review requirements specified in § 61.56 may complete training instead of taking the knowledge test (see paragraph 6.7). This training includes the following topics:

1. Applicable regulations relating to small UAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
2. Effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance;
3. Small unmanned aircraft loading;
4. Emergency procedures;
5. CRM;
6. Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft;
7. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures; and
8. Operation at night.

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6.8 Aeronautical Knowledge Training. This paragraph is applicable to individuals who hold a part 61 airman certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, and meet the flight review requirements specified in § 61.56.

6.8.1 Training. As described in paragraph 6.7, an individual who holds a part 61 airman certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, and meets the flight review requirements specified in § 61.56 may complete training instead of the initial knowledge test. The training can be taken online at https://www.faasafety.gov. The FAA offers options for training completion in addition to those available on https://www.faasafety.gov. Other options include completion of special pilot proficiency programs, such as an FAA-provided WINGS course specific to small UAS operations. These programs will offer tools and resources to strengthen decision-making skills and enable the remote pilot to continue to ensure he or she operates safely within the bounds of part 107


FAA’s Commentary on 107.74 from the Preamble of the:

2020 Operations Over People Rule

The rule continues to allow an eligible person who holds a part 61 pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) to complete training on the knowledge areas specified in § 107.74 when seeking a remote pilot certificate.[78] Furthermore, the rule allows all remote pilots to complete recurrent training online every 24 calendar months, in place of a recurrent knowledge test. The rule amends the aeronautical knowledge test and training requirements for remote pilots provided in §§ 107.73 and 107.74 to include a new knowledge area related to operating a small UAS at night. For more information about the testing and training on the night operations knowledge area, please see Section IX.B.

This final rule requires the initial knowledge test and the recurrent training cover identical areas of knowledge under § 107.73. Similarly, for eligible part 61 pilots, the initial training and recurrent training will cover the same knowledge areas under § 107.74. The FAA is concurrently updating the part 107 Airman Certification Standards (ACS), the initial aeronautical knowledge test, the part 107 certification course for eligible part 61 pilots, and the recurrent training.[79] The updated aeronautical knowledge test and updated training replaces the current knowledge test and training after the effective date of the rule. Both the updated aeronautical knowledge test and the updated training will be available on March 1, 2021.

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The FAA considered hands-on remote pilot flight training as part of the requirements for operating a small unmanned aircraft over people. The FAA has determined that it is unnecessary to require additional knowledge testing or training for operations over people beyond the initial testing and initial or recurrent training requirements of part 107. Questions and training specific to operations over people may be added to the testing and training in the existing areas of knowledge in §§ 107.73 and 107.74 without the need for an additional knowledge area. As stated previously, the FAA declines to require practical training for part 107 remote pilots. Additionally, the FAA does not find it necessary to tailor the subject areas to specific small UAS, because existing systems vary widely. Furthermore, the remote pilot is already required to comply with all applicable regulations, including the preflight familiarization and inspection requirements, to ensure that their small UAS is in proper working condition prior to operation.

2016 Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will allow part 61 pilot certificate holders (other than the holders of a student pilot certificate) with current flight reviews139 to substitute an online training course for the aeronautical knowledge testing required by this rule.

Airborne Law Enforcement Association and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, suggested requiring only the recurrent knowledge test for part-61-certificated pilots. Numerous commenters also suggested that holders of part 61 airman certificates should be required to take only the recurrent knowledge test, not the initial knowledge test, or should be exempted entirely from knowledge-testing requirements. One commenter suggested that the holders of private, commercial, and ATP certificates who have operated UAS under exemptions be exempted from the initial knowledge test requirement. Another commented that non-military COA pilots should be permitted to take just the recurrent test, since the applicants will usually hold at least a private pilot certificate. One commenter stated that those applicants who hold part 61 pilot certificates should be required only to complete UAS-specific modules as part of the existing FAA Wings program. Another commenter stated that there should be a provision to enable existing small UAS pilots with a certain amount of logged PIC time to fly a small UAS without having to take a knowledge test.

The FAA agrees with commenters who suggested that requiring part-61-certificated pilots who satisfy the flight-review requirements of § 61.56 to take an initial or recurrent knowledge test is unduly burdensome. Through initial certification and subsequent flight reviews, a part-61-certificated airman is required to demonstrate knowledge of many of the topic areas tested on the UAS knowledge test. These areas include: airspace classification and operating requirements, aviation weather sources, radio communication procedures, physiological effects of drugs and alcohol, aeronautical decision-making and judgment, and airport operations. Because a part 61 pilot certificate holder is evaluated on these areas of knowledge in the course of the part 61 certification and flight review process, reevaluating these areas of knowledge on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests conducted under part 107 would be needlessly duplicative.

However, there are UAS-specific areas of knowledge (discussed in section III.F.2.j of this preamble) that a part-61-certificated pilot may not be familiar with. Accordingly, instead of requiring part-61-certificated pilots who are current on their flight reviews to take the initial and recurrent knowledge tests, this rule will provide those pilots with the option to take an online training course focusing on UAS-specific areas of knowledge. Just as there is an initial and recurrent knowledge test, there will also be an initial and recurrent training course available to part 61 pilot certificate holders. Those certificate holders will be able to substitute the initial training course for the initial knowledge test and the recurrent training course for the recurrent knowledge test. To ensure that a certificate holder’s UAS-specific knowledge does not become stale, this rule will include the requirement that a part 61 pilot certificate holder must pass either the recurrent training course or the recurrent knowledge test every 24 months.

The FAA emphasizes that the online training course option in lieu of taking the knowledge test will be available only to those part 61 pilot certificate holders who satisfy the flight review required by § 61.56. This is to ensure that the certificate holder’s knowledge of general aeronautical concepts that are not included on the training course does not become stale. Part 61 pilot certificate holders who do not meet the flight review requirements of § 61.56 will be unable to substitute the online training course for the required aeronautical knowledge test. Thus, under § 107.63(a)(2), a part 61 pilot certificate holder seeking to substitute completion of the initial training course for the initial aeronautical knowledge test will have to present his or her logbook upon application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to demonstrate that he or she has satisfied this requirement. The applicant will also have to present a certificate of completion showing that he or she has completed the initial online training course.

The FAA also notes that the above discussion does not apply to holders of a part 61 student pilot certificate. A person is not required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test, pass a practical (skills) test, or otherwise demonstrate aeronautical knowledge in order to obtain a student pilot certificate. Further, student pilot certificate holders who have received an endorsement for solo flight under § 61.87(b) are only required to demonstrate limited knowledge associated with conducting a specific solo flight. For these reasons, the option to take an online training course instead of an aeronautical knowledge test will not extend to student pilot certificate holders.

j. Areas of Knowledge on the Aeronautical Knowledge Tests and Training Courses for Part  61 Pilot Certificate Holders
The NPRM proposed that the initial aeronautical knowledge test would test the following areas of knowledge: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation; (3) official sources of weather and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance; (4) small UAS loading and performance; (5) emergency procedures; (6) crew resource management; (7) radio communication procedures; (8) determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft; (9) physiological effects of drugs and alcohol; (10) aeronautical decision-making and judgment; and (11) airport operations. The NPRM also proposed the following areas of knowledge for the recurrent knowledge test: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation; (3) official sources of weather; (4) emergency procedures; (5) crew resource management; (6) aeronautical decision-making and judgment; and (7) airport operations.

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will remove obstacle clearance requirements and add maintenance and inspection procedures as areas of knowledge that will be tested on both the initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests. Further, aviation weather sources will be removed from the recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests. Except for these changes, this rule will finalize all other areas of knowledge as proposed in the NPRM.

With regard to the initial and recurrent training courses for part 61 pilot certificate holders, those courses will only cover UAS-specific areas of knowledge that are not included in the training and testing required for a part 61 pilot certificate. Thus, the initial training course will cover: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) small UAS loading and performance; (3) emergency procedures; (4) crew resource management; (5) determining the performance of the small unmanned aircraft; and (6) maintenance and inspection procedures. The recurrent training course will cover: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) emergency procedures; (3) crew resource management; and (4) maintenance and inspection procedures.

i. Regulations Applicable to Small UAS
The NPRM proposed to include an area of knowledge on both the initial and recurrent knowledge tests that determines whether the test taker knows the regulations applicable to small UAS. By testing the applicant for an airman certificate on knowledge of applicable regulations, the initial and recurrent knowledge tests would ensure that the applicant understands what those regulations require and does not violate them due to ignorance.

The FAA did not receive any adverse comments on this aspect of its proposal, and as such, this rule will include regulations applicable to small UAS as an area of knowledge that is tested on both initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests. This area of knowledge will also be included on the initial and recurrent training courses that can be taken by part 61 pilot certificate holders instead of a knowledge test because regulations applicable to a small UAS are a UAS-specific area of knowledge that is not included in the training and testing required for a part 61 pilot certificate.

ii. Airspace Classifications and Operating Requirements, and Flight
Restrictions Affecting Small Unmanned Aircraft Operation The NPRM also proposed testing (on both the initial and recurrent knowledge tests) knowledge of airspace classification and operating requirements, as well as knowledge of flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation. The NPRM explained that part 107 would include airspace operating requirements, such as the requirement to obtain ATC permission prior to operating in controlled airspace, and in order to comply with those requirements, an airman would need to know how to determine the classification of the airspace in which he or she would like to operate. The NPRM also proposed to test knowledge of how to determine which areas of airspace are prohibited, restricted, or subject to a TFR.

Under the NPRM, this area of knowledge would also be included in the recurrent knowledge test because: (1) airspace that the airman is familiar with could become reclassified over time; (2) the location of existing flight restrictions could change over time; and (3) some airmen may not regularly encounter these issues in their operations. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will include knowledge of airspace classification and operating requirements and knowledge of flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation as an area of knowledge tested on both the initial and recurrent knowledge tests.

The California Agricultural Aircraft Association supported testing on how the airspace is managed, what the rules and regulations are, and how manned aircraft operate in the airspace. Aerius suggested that the knowledge test should include special use airspace, right-of-way rules, visual scanning, aeromedical factors (e.g., the limitations of the human eye), and accident reporting. On the other hand, the Electronic Frontier Foundation asserted that airspace classification is not relevant for low altitude micro UAS flights far away from airports and should not be tested for airmen seeking to operate micro UAS. The FAA declines to eliminate airspace classification as an area of knowledge tested for small UAS operations. As an initial matter, the FAA notes that this rule will not prohibit any small UAS (including micro UAS) from operating near airports. For UAS not operating near an airport, the FAA notes that controlled airspace can extend a significant distance away from an airport. For example, the surface area of Class B airspace can extend up to 8 nautical miles away from an airport. Additionally, airspace classification may change over time; uncontrolled (Class G) airspace may be changed to controlled airspace and vice versa. A remote pilot of any small UAS will need to have the ability to determine what class of airspace his or her small UAS operation will take place in to ensure that the operation complies with the airspace rules of part 107.

In response to Aerius, the FAA notes that special-use airspace will be covered under knowledge of flight restrictions, which will determine the test taker’s knowledge of regulatory restrictions on small UAS flight imposed through means such as prohibited airspace or a TFR. Right-of-way rules, visual scanning, and accident reporting will be covered by the knowledge area of regulations applicable to small UAS operations because all of these concepts are codified in the operational regulations of part 107. Aeromedical factors will not specifically be included on the knowledge test, but the FAA may publish further guidance to remote pilots on topics such as aeromedical factors and visual scanning techniques.

AUVSI recommended that the FAA require more extensive knowledge testing than what was proposed for an operator desiring to fly in Class B, C, D, or E airspace, operate small UAS for commercial purposes, or operate small UAS beyond visual line of sight with risk-based approval. The commenter did not, however, specify what should be included in this more extensive testing, and as such, the FAA is unable to evaluate AUVSI’s suggestion.

iii. Obstacle Clearance Requirements
The NPRM proposed to include obstacle clearance requirements as an area of knowledge to be tested on the initial knowledge test to ensure that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate knows how to avoid creating a collision hazard with a ground structure. One commenter suggested removing this area of knowledge from the knowledge test because, according to the commenter, there are no obstacle clearance requirements in part 107, and therefore, there should be nothing to test. The FAA agrees with this comment and has removed obstacle clearance requirements as an area of knowledge to be tested on the initial knowledge test.

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.

iv. Aviation Weather Sources and Effects of Weather on Small Unmanned

Aircraft Performance The NPRM proposed to test, on the initial and recurrent knowledge test, knowledge of official sources of weather. The NPRM also proposed to test on the initial knowledge test whether the applicant understands the effects of weather and micrometeorology (weather on a localized and small scale) on a small unmanned aircraft operation. The NPRM explained that knowledge of weather is necessary for the safe operation of a small unmanned aircraft because, due to the light weight of the small unmanned aircraft, weather could have a significant impact on the flight of the aircraft.

One commenter recommended the removal of “official” from “official weather sources,” saying that operation of a UAS calls for assessment of “local” weather conditions, and, furthermore, that there are no clearly identified “official sources of weather.” Aviation Management suggested that official sources of weather be excluded from the recurrent knowledge test.

The FAA agrees with the commenter that there are no specific “official sources of weather,” and has removed that terminology from this rule. However, the FAA emphasizes that there are several sources of aviation weather useful to remote pilots. Accordingly, remote pilots will be required to be familiar with aviation weather products such as the ones provided by the National Weather Service through Flight Service Stations, Direct User Access Terminal Systems (DUATS), and/or Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B).140 While this rule does not require the use of those sources of weather for planning flights, aviation weather sources could be a valuable resource for remote pilots that choose to use them. For example, a remote pilot conducting an operation in an area with quickly changing weather may wish to access weather information from an aviation weather source for the most up-to-date weather data to ensure that the small UAS operation will comply with the minimum visibility and cloud clearance requirements of § 107.51. The FAA notes that aviation weather sources include weather data that can be used to evaluate local weather conditions.141 Because there is no requirement for remote pilots to use aviation weather products on an ongoing basis, the FAA has removed this area of knowledge from the recurrent aeronautical knowledge test.

Accordingly, this rule will include knowledge of aviation weather sources and the effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance on the initial knowledge test. Additionally, this rule will include knowledge of the effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance as an area of knowledge on the initial training course available to part 61 pilot certificate holders because this is a UAS-specific area of knowledge that is not included in the training and testing required for a part 61 pilot certificate. The training course will not include knowledge of aviation weather sources because that is not a UASspecific area of knowledge.

v. Small UAS Loading and Performance
The NPRM proposed to include weight and balance as an area of knowledge to be tested on the initial knowledge test to ensure that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate knows how to calculate the weight and balance of a small unmanned aircraft to determine impacts on performance. The NPRM noted that in order to operate safely, operators need an understanding of some fundamental aircraft performance issues, including load balancing and weight distribution as well as available power for the operation. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture suggested that the FAA’s proposal suggests a lack of understanding by the FAA of these lightweight aircraft. The commenter added that when they place a battery or camera on their aircraft, it is immediately obvious if something is not balanced.

While the FAA agrees that in some circumstances the effect certain loads may have on the weight, balance, and performance of the aircraft may be obvious—such as adding a five pound weight to one side of a 0.5 pound small unmanned aircraft—other weight distributions and how they affect the balance of the aircraft may be more difficult to surmise. For example, it may not be intuitive for a remote pilot to determine the effect a half-pound battery will have when added to a forty-pound aircraft. Additionally, a remote pilot needs to understand the effect that the added weight will have on the aircraft’s operation over time. For example, while a small unmanned aircraft may be balanced for the first few flights after a weight is added, that weight may influence the aircraft over time
such that during later flights the aircraft is no longer balanced and no longer flying safely. For these reasons, the FAA will include a section on the initial knowledge test ensuring that a remote pilot applicant understands how to calculate the weight and balance of a small unmanned aircraft and the resulting impacts on performance. Because small unmanned aircraft loading is a UAS-specific area of knowledge, the FAA will also include it on the initial training course that part 61 pilot certificate holders can take in place of the knowledge test.

vi. Emergency Procedures
The NPRM noted that a small UAS airman may have to deal with an emergency situation during a small UAS operation. As such, the NPRM proposed to include an area of knowledge on the initial knowledge test that would determine whether the applicant knows how to properly respond to an emergency. The NPRM also proposed to include knowledge of emergency procedures on the recurrent knowledge test because emergency situations will likely be infrequent and as such, a certificate holder’s knowledge of emergency procedures may become stale over time. The FAA did not receive adverse comments on including emergency procedures on the initial knowledge test, and as such, this area of knowledge will be included on the initial knowledge test.

Turning to the recurrent knowledge test, Aviation Management recommended that the FAA remove emergency procedures as an area of knowledge covered on that test. The FAA declines to remove emergency procedures from the recurrent knowledge test. As discussed in the NPRM, emergency situations will likely arise infrequently, and as such, a remote pilot’s knowledge of emergency procedures may become stale over time. Accordingly, including this area of knowledge on the recurrent knowledge test will ensure that the remote pilot retains the knowledge of how to properly respond to an emergency. Because this area of knowledge is UAS-specific, it will also be included on the initial and recurrent training courses that can be taken by part 61 pilot certificate holders instead of an initial or recurrent knowledge test.

vii. Crew Resource Management
The NPRM proposed to include crew resource management as an area of knowledge to be tested on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests to ensure that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate knows how to function in a team environment, such as when visual observers are used to assist a remote pilot. In those circumstances, the remote pilot would be in charge of those observers and therefore need an understanding of crew resource management.

Several commenters, including the Small UAV Coalition, Princeton University, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that crew resource management may not be relevant for all small UAS operations and, as such, should be removed from the knowledge test. Princeton University added that crew resource management would be an irrelevant area of knowledge for student operators who will be operating the aircraft at a low altitude, for a limited distance, on university property, and under the direct supervision of a faculty member. Electronic Frontier Foundation stated that this area of knowledge is irrelevant for micro UAS operations.

One commenter suggested removal of crew resource management stating it is “overkill” and is really just referring to possible communications between the pilot and the visual observer. If kept, the commenter suggested modifying it to “Crew resource management as it may pertain to operation of a small unmanned aircraft system.” The FAA acknowledges that not all small UAS operations will utilize a visual observer or more than one manipulator of the controls of the small unmanned aircraft. However, the FAA anticipates that many remote pilots operating under part 107 will likely use a visual observer or oversee other individuals that may manipulate the controls of the small unmanned aircraft. In order to allow flexibility for certificated remote pilots to determine whether or not to use a visual observer or oversee other individuals manipulating the controls of the small unmanned aircraft, the FAA must ensure that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate is able to function in a team environment and maximize team performance. This includes situational awareness, proper allocation of tasks to individuals, avoidance of work overloads in self and in others, and effectively communicating with other members of the crew such as visual observers and individuals manipulating the controls of a small UAS.

The scenario Princeton University provided in its comment is precisely the type of scenario that would require a certificated remote pilot in command to have an understanding of crew resource management. The remote pilot in command in Princeton University’s scenario would be supervising a student who is manipulating the controls of the small unmanned aircraft. Therefore, the remote pilot in command in that scenario would need to know how to effectively communicate and guide his or her crew (the student). In response to Electronic Frontier Foundation, the FAA notes that even remote pilots operating smaller UAS may choose to use a visual observer or supervise other manipulators of the controls.

It is not necessary to change the title of this area of knowledge because crew resource management correctly captures what this area of knowledge will cover. The FAA also notes that this rule will include crew resource management as an area of knowledge on the initial and recurrent training courses available to part 61 pilot certificate holders because this is a UAS-specific area of knowledge.

viii. Determining the Performance of the Small Unmanned Aircraft
The NPRM proposed to include an area of knowledge on the initial aeronautical knowledge test to ensure that an applicant knows how to determine the performance of the small unmanned aircraft. Aviation Management suggested that this area of knowledge be excluded from the initial knowledge test because, the commenter argued, this knowledge is unnecessary for all small UAS operations.

The FAA will retain determining the performance of the small unmanned aircraft as an area of knowledge on the initial knowledge test. As discussed in section III.E.6.a.i of this preamble, the remote pilot in command will be required to conduct a preflight assessment of the area of operation and ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other aircraft, people, or property if there is a loss of positive control. In order to be able to do that, the remote pilot in command will need to be able to assess how a small unmanned aircraft will perform in a given operating environment. This area of knowledge will determine whether an applicant for a remote pilot certificate has acquired the knowledge necessary to conduct this assessment.

This rule will also include this area of knowledge on the initial training course that can be taken by part 61 pilot certificate holders instead of an initial knowledge test because it is a UAS-specific area of knowledge.

ix. Physiological Effects Of Drugs and Alcohol
The NPRM proposed to include the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol as an area of knowledge covered by the initial knowledge test. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that knowledge of the effects of drugs and alcohol is irrelevant for micro UAS operations and should not be tested for pilots of a micro UAS. The FAA disagrees. As explained in the NPRM, there are many prescription and over-the-counter medications that can significantly reduce an individual’s cognitive ability to process and react to events that are happening around him or her. This can lead to impaired decision-making, which could adversely affect the safety of any small UAS operation. Accordingly, the initial aeronautical knowledge test will include an area of knowledge to determine whether the applicant understands how drugs and alcohol can impact his or her ability to safely operate a small UAS.

x. Aeronautical Decision-Making and Judgment
The NPRM proposed to include aeronautical decision-making and judgment as an area of knowledge tested on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests. Aviation Management suggested that this area of knowledge be excluded from the knowledge tests because this knowledge is unnecessary for all small UAS operations.

The FAA disagrees. As discussed in the NPRM, even though small unmanned aircraft will be limited to a relatively low altitude by the provisions of this rule, they will still share the airspace with some manned-aircraft operations. To safely share the airspace, a remote pilot in command will need to understand the aeronautical decision-making and judgment that manned aircraft pilots engage in so that he or she can anticipate how a manned aircraft will react to the small unmanned aircraft. Accordingly, this rule will retain aeronautical decision-making and judgment as an area of knowledge covered on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests.

xi. Airport Operations
Noting that some small UAS operations could be conducted near an airport, the NPRM proposed to include airport operations as an area of knowledge tested on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests.

Several commenters, including the Small UAV Coalition, Princeton University, and Predessa, argued that airport operations may not be relevant to all small UAS operations, and as such, should be removed from the knowledge tests. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that this area of knowledge is “clearly irrelevant” for micro UAS flights conducted far away from airports.

There are over 5,000 public use airports in the United States. As such, the FAA expects that a number of small UAS operations may take place near an airport. The FAA also expects that there could be instances where a small unmanned aircraft unexpectedly ends up flying near an airport due to adverse conditions, such as unexpectedly strong winds that carry the aircraft toward the airport. In those instances, the remote pilot in command will need to have an understanding of airport operations so that he or she knows what actions to take to ensure that the small unmanned aircraft does not interfere with airport operations or traffic patterns. Accordingly, this rule will retain airport operations as an area of knowledge tested on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests.

xii. Radio Communication Procedures
Finally, the NPRM proposed to include radio communication procedures as an area of knowledge covered on the initial aeronautical knowledge test.

Several commenters, including Princeton University, Predesa, and Aviation Management, argued that radio communications may not be relevant for all small UAS operations and as such, should be removed from the knowledge test. Predesa suggested that the FAA design a new “Class G-only unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating” that, among other things, does not include radio communication procedures as an area of knowledge that is tested on the knowledge test. One commenter recommended removal of “radio communication procedures” because there is no requirement for radio communications of any sort with small UAS operations.

As discussed earlier, the FAA expects that a number of small UAS operations will take place near an airport. That is why § 107.43 prohibits a small unmanned aircraft from interfering with airport operations or traffic patterns. Understanding radio communication procedures will assist a remote pilot in command operating near a Class G airport in complying with this requirement. Understanding radio communication procedures will assist a remote pilot in command operating near a Class G airport in complying with this requirement if that pilot chooses to use a radio to aid in his or her situational awareness of manned aircraft operating nearby. As described in section 4-1-9 of the Aeronautical Information Manual, manned-aircraft pilots may broadcast their position or intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). This procedure is used primarily at airports that do not have an airport traffic control tower, or have a control tower that is not in operation. Pilots of radio-equipped aircraft use standard phraseology to announce their identification, location, altitude, and intended course of action. Self-announcing for arriving aircraft generally begins within 10 nautical miles of the airport and continues until the aircraft is clear of runways and taxiways. Aircraft on the ground intending to depart will begin to make position reports prior to entry of the runway or taxiway and continue until departing the traffic pattern. Aircraft remaining in the pattern make position reports on each leg of the traffic pattern. Thus, knowledge of radio communication procedures will provide a remote pilot in command with the ability to utilize a valuable resource, CTAF, to help determine the position of nearby manned aircraft. As such, this rule will retain this area of knowledge on the initial aeronautical knowledge test.

xiii. Other Areas of Knowledge Suggested by The Commenters
The NPRM invited comment on whether additional areas of knowledge should be tested on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests. In response, the FAA received comments listing additional areas of knowledge that commenters would like to see on the knowledge tests. For the reasons discussed below, the FAA will add a section on maintenance and inspection to the initial and recurrent knowledge tests and the online training courses. The FAA will not add any other areas of knowledge to the knowledge tests or training courses.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested that the test content should include awareness of lost-link failsafe procedures, operator development, use of maintenance and inspection steps and guides, and the characteristics and proper handling of lithium batteries. The NTSB referred to an April 2006 accident involving a U.S. Customs and Border Protection unmanned aircraft and encouraged the FAA to review its recommendations and supporting information stemming from that accident for potential lessons learned when developing guidance material and specific content for the written knowledge tests outlined in proposed part 107.

The FAA notes that topics associated with lost-link failsafe procedures will be covered by the area of knowledge testing an applicant’s understanding of the applicable small UAS regulations. With regard to maintenance and inspection, the FAA has taken action by adding maintenance and inspection knowledge test topic area requirements to the initial and recurrent knowledge tests. The addition of maintenance and inspection knowledge test topics will consist of small UAS basic maintenance and inspection knowledge that is common to all small UAS regardless of complexity. An understanding of maintenance and inspection issues will ensure that remote pilots are familiar with how to identify when a small unmanned aircraft is not safe to operate, and how to maintain a small
unmanned aircraft to mitigate the possibility of aircraft failure during flight. Although this area of knowledge will not cover every possible inspection and maintenance method, it will
provide a baseline of knowledge that will be useful to all small UAS remote pilots. The FAA disagrees with NTSB’s recommendation that the knowledge test include a topic on the characteristics and proper handling of lithium batteries. Under § 107.36, small  UAS are prohibited from carriage of hazardous materials. When installed in the aircraft for use as a power source (as opposed to carriage of spares or cargo), lithium batteries are not considered hazardous material.

NOAA suggested that the knowledge test include questions relating to protecting and operating in the context of wildlife. The Ventura Audubon Society also suggested that the FAA test an applicant’s understanding of Federal and State wildlife protection laws. The FAA is required by statute to issue an airman certificate to an individual when the Administrator finds that the individual is qualified and physically able to safely perform the duties authorized by the certificate. See 49 U.S.C. 44703(a) (stating that the Administrator “shall issue” an airman certificate to an individual who is qualified and physically capable). Therefore, the FAA cannot deny or delay the issuance of an airman certificate if an applicant has demonstrated that he or she is qualified and physically able to safely perform the duties authorized by the certificate. In this case, a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating authorizes the holder to operate a small UAS safely in the NAS. Thus, under § 44703(a), the FAA is required to issue an airman certificate to an individual who has demonstrated an ability to safely operate a small UAS, and may not require that individual to also demonstrate an understanding of Federal and State wildlife protection laws.

The FAA emphasizes, however, that a small UAS operation may be subject to other legal requirements independently of this rule. A remote pilot in command is responsible for complying with all of his or her legal obligations and should thus have a proper understanding of wildlife protection laws in order to comply with the pertinent statutes and regulations.

Drone User Group Network suggested the following topics for the knowledge test: the concepts of lift, weight, thrust and drag, Bernoulli’s principle, weight and balance, weather, situational awareness, safety in preflight, in flight and post flight, battery theory, radio frequency theory, electrical theory, understanding flight modes, fail-safes, and aircraft types and limitations

The FAA notes that weight and balance, weather, and preflight requirements will be tested under § 107.73. The FAA agrees with the commenter that technical topics such as principles of flight, aerodynamics, and electrical theory may enhance the knowledge and technical understanding of the remote pilot. However, these topics are not critical subject areas for safe operation of small UAS. The FAA includes many of these topics in the curriculum of part 61 knowledge testing because they are critical knowledge areas for persons operating an aircraft with passengers over populated areas that may need to respond to an emergency resulting from engine failure, unexpected weather, or onboard fire. Conversely, small UAS operations take place in a contained area in a light-weight aircraft that has no people onboard, so these topics are not applicable to the same extent as they are to a manned-aircraft operation. However, the remote pilot in command should familiarize him or herself with all of the necessary information to be able to fly the unmanned aircraft without causing damage to the aircraft.

Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association encouraged the FAA to require that operators be knowledgeable about Safety Management Systems (SMS) and the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which could be used to collect data to support a risk managed growth of the industry and the integration into the NAS. The FAA disagrees that SMS and ASRS systems should be covered on the knowledge tests. Participation in a formal SMS program is currently required only for part 121 operations, which are the largest and most complex manned-aircraft operations regulated by the FAA. Requiring small UAS to participate in this program would not be justified considering the fact that the FAA does not require non-part-121 manned-aircraft operations to have an SMS. Similarly, the FAA will not require testing on ASRS knowledge because ASRS is not currently required knowledge for part 61 pilot certificate holders.

k. Administration of the Knowledge Tests and Training Courses
This section discusses how the initial and recurrent knowledge tests and online training courses will be administered under this rule. Specifically, this section addresses: (1) the location at which a knowledge test can be taken; (2) the prohibition on cheating and engaging in unauthorized conduct during a knowledge test; (3) the identification of the test taker; and (4) retesting after failing a knowledge test.