Blanket COA


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Rupprecht Law’s In-Depth Analysis of the New 400ft Blanket COA for Commercial Drone Operators

On March 23, 2015,[1] the FAA announced the “blanket” COA that would be given out to all Section 333 Exemptions for commercial drone operations going forward. Fast forward a year to March 29, 2016,[2] the FAA announces a revision to the blanket COA to allow operations up to 400ft.

Why is the 400ft increase so important? The reason for the blanket COAs being created in the first place was because EVERY COA was geographically defined. Unless the old blanket COA, which “blanketed” most of the operations, was created, the system would have choked to death in months. The 200ft old blanket COA somewhat worked for some operations around the U.S., but there are many lattice radio towers all over the U.S. that are between 200 – 400ft. Under the old blanket COA, each of these towers would need a new 400ft COA that would be site-specific and not nationwide like the blanket COA. This bogged down the system tremendously because EACH radio tower had to have a COA. Now commercial operations have the ability to fly their commercial drones up to 400ft. This new blanket COA has the ability to speed up the COA process because COA analysts won’t be wasting their time on these 200-400ft towers but now putting their skills to better use at looking at near airport COAs. The FAA “estimates the move will lessen the need for individual COAs by 30 to 40 percent.”[3] The new blanket COA coupled with the new Section 333 exemptions being given out with the “super list” of 1,120 pre-approved drones means processing times for 333 exemptions and COAs will start to decrease.

Many in the drone community have been frustrated because recreational drone operators can fly up to 400ft while the commercial operators were always stuck at 200ft, unless they obtained another COA. The FAA changing things while leaving other things inefficient shouldn’t surprise us. The FAA has been doing that over the past couple of years with recreational drones. See my analysis on Advisory Circular 91-57A.

Let’s compare the new and old COAs to see what has changed.

OLD COA

NEW COA

Max Height is 200ft Above Ground Level

 

Max Height is 400ft Above Ground Level

 

Signed by Jacqueline R. Jackson

 

Signed by Scott Gardner

 

SEE-AND-AVOID SECTION

3. The operator or delegated representative must not operate in Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or, the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone. Such areas are depicted on charts available at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/. Additionally, aircraft operators should beware of and avoid other areas identified in Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) which restricts operations in proximity to Power Plants, Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes, National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, the Washington DC Metro Flight Restricted Zone, Military or other Federal Facilities.” 3. The operator or delegated representative must not operate in Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or, the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone, except operations in the Washington DC Special Flight Rule Area may be approved only with prior coordination with the Security Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 202-267- 8276. Such areas are depicted on charts available at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/. Additionally, aircraft operators should beware of and avoid other areas identified in Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) which restricts operations in proximity to Power Plants, Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes, National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, the Washington DC Metro Flight Restricted Zone, Military or other Federal Facilities.”
4. All aircraft operated in accordance with this Certificate of Waiver/Authorization must be identified by serial number, registered in accordance with 14 CFR part 47, and have identification (N-Number) markings in accordance with 14 CFR part 45, Subpart C. Markings must be) as large as practicable.4. The unmanned aircraft will be registered prior to operations in accordance with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS ON PAGE 4 (Brand New)

4. Incident/Accident/Mishap Reporting After an incident or accident that meets the criteria below, and within 24 hours of that incident, accident or event described below, the proponent must provide initial notification of the following to the FAA via email at mailto: 9-AJV-115- [email protected] and via the UAS COA On-Line forms (Incident/Accident).

1. All accidents/mishaps involving UAS operations where any of the following occurs:
a. Fatal injury, where the operation of a UAS results in a death occurring within 30 days of the accident/mishap
b. Serious injury, where the operation of a UAS results in: (1)hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received; (2) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose); (3) causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; (4) involves any internal organ; or (5) involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.
c. Total unmanned aircraft loss
d. Substantial damage to the unmanned aircraft system where there is damage to the airframe, power plant, or onboard systems that must be repaired prior to further flight
e. Damage to property, other than the unmanned aircraft.
2. Any incident/mishap that results in an unsafe/abnormal operation including but not limited to
a. A malfunction or failure of the unmanned aircraft’s on-board flight control system (including navigation)
b. A malfunction or failure of ground control station flight control hardware or software (other than loss of control link)
c. A power plant failure or malfunction
d. An in-flight fire
e. An aircraft collision involving another aircraft.
f. Any in-flight failure of the unmanned aircraft’s electrical system requiring use of alternate or emergency power to complete the flight
g. A deviation from any provision contained in the COA
h. A deviation from an ATC clearance and/or Letter(s) of Agreement/Procedures
i. A lost control link event resulting in
(1) Fly-away, or
(2) Execution of a pre-planned/unplanned lost link procedure.

  1. Initial reports must contain the information identified in the COA On-Line Accident/Incident Report.
  2. Follow-on reports describing the accident/incident/mishap(s) must be submitted by providing copies of proponent aviation accident/incident reports upon completion of safety investigations.
  3. Civil operators and Public-use agencies (other than those which are part of the Department of Defense) are advised that the above procedures are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board under 49 CFR Part 830 §830.5.
  4. For other than Department of Defense operations, this COA is issued with the provision that the FAA be permitted involvement in the proponent’s incident/accident/mishap investigation as prescribed by FAA Order 8020.11, Aircraft Accident and Incident Notification, Investigation, and Reporting.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SPECIAL PROVISIONS

(nothing)3. The area of operation defined in the NOTAM must only be for the actual area to be flown for each day defined by a point and the minimum radius required to conduct the operation.
3. Operator must cancel NOTAMs when UAS operations are completed or will not be conducted.4. Operator must cancel NOTAMs when UAS operations are completed or will not be conducted.
4. Coordination and deconfliction between Military Training Routes (MTRs) is the operator’s responsibility. When identifying an operational area the operator must evaluate whether an MTR will be affected. In the event the UAS operational area overlaps (5 miles either side of centerline) an MTR, the operator will contact the scheduling agency 24 hours in advance to coordinate and deconflict. Approval from the scheduling agency is not required. Scheduling agencies are listed in the Area Planning AP/1B Military Planning Routes North and South America, if unable to gain access to AP/1B contact the FAA at email address mailto:[email protected] with the IR/VR routes affected and the FAA will provide the scheduling agency information. If prior coordination and deconfliction does not take place 24 hours in advance, the operator must remain clear of all MTRs.5. Coordination and de-confliction between Military Training Routes (MTRs) is the operator’s responsibility. When identifying an operational area the operator must evaluate whether an MTR will be affected. In the event the UAS operational area overlaps an MTR, the operator will contact the scheduling agency 24 hours in advance to coordinate and de-conflict. Approval from the scheduling agency is not required. Scheduling agencies are listed in the Area Planning AP/1B Military Planning Routes North and South America, if unable to gain access to AP/1B contact the FAA at email address mailto:9-AJV-115 [email protected] with the IR/VR routes affected and the FAA will provide the scheduling agency information. If prior coordination and

de-confliction does not take place 24 hours in advance, the operator must remain clear of all MTRs.

FLIGHT PLANNING REQUIREMENTS

(1) At or below 200 feet AGL(1) At or below 400 feet AGL
d) 2 NM from a heliport, gliderport or seaplane base[4]  d) 2 NM from a heliport

 

The new blanket COA can be downloaded here. 

Drone Operator's Logbook

The monthly COA reporting requirements have not changed, see another blog post on it here, which is good because this means the Drone Operator’s Logbook is still compatible. Unfortunately, the new COA still has the near airport restrictions. If you are needing help with Class B, C, D, E, or G airspace COAs, Rupprecht Law, P.A. can help with obtaining these COAs.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, you can contact me. Remember, when dealing with drone law matters, don’t hire a poser, hire a lawyer who is a pilot!

pilotheadshot

pilotheadshot

[1] https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=82245

[2] http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=85264&cid=TW416

[3] Id.

[4] Notice BOTH COA’s still say, “Beyond the following distances from the airport reference point (ARP) of a public use airport, heliport, gliderport, or seaport listed in the Airport/Facility Directory[.]”


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Short list of things a 333 operator canNOT do under their stock 333 and blanket COA

I was recently asked, “What can a drone operator with a 333 NOT do when flying for cinematography purposes?”  Here is a partial list of some of the things that a 333 operator cannot do.  These are the most common types of violations I see.

 

Under the current 333 exemptions being given out, a drone operator cannot:

  • Fly at night (flying after civil twilight which is roughly around 20 minutes after sunset).
  • Fly within 500ft of non-participating and unprotected individuals, unless they have closed-set approval and those individuals are considered “participating” (actors) under the motion picture manual.
  • Fly aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds
  • Allow the drone pilot to fly when he does not have an FAA sport pilot license or higher license
  • Fly a drone while in a moving vehicle
  • Fly a drone that is not listed on their exemption
  • Fly a drone that is not registered

 

Under their blanket certificate of authorization or waiver (COA), a drone operator cannot:

  • Fly unless they have filed a notice to airman AND waited 24 hours
  • Fly over 200 feet above the ground
  • Fly within 5 nautical miles of an operational towered airport
  • Fly within 3 nautical miles from an airport having a published instrument flight procedure, but not having an operational control tower; or
  • Fly within 2 nautical miles from an airport not having a published instrument flight procedure or an operational control tower; or
  • Fly within 2 nautical miles from a heliport, gliderport or seaplane base; or
  • Fly near Power Plants, Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes, National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, the Washington DC Metro Flight Restricted Zone, Military or other Federal Facilities.

 

Keep in mind that the 333’s being given out give these restrictions. They can be changed if an “equivalent level of safety” is shown.  Also, an individual can get a COA to fly near an airport, but the operator must put in an application that is site specific to the airport.  If you don’t like these restrictions, you can try and change them. They are NOT set in stone.

 


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Monthly COA Reporting

COA reports

If you have a 333 with a blanket COA, you have to report your monthly activity even if you did NOT fly. Yes, I know this stinks because I myself have a 333 and have to report each month. The FAA’s COA website says, “The Monthly Operational report is expected to be submitted within 5 business days after end of the reporting month.”

Thankfully, these requirements are not in Part 107 going forward. However, there are NTSB and FAA reporting requirements if your drone happens to crash. Better to read and know them BEFORE you crash so you are not fumbling around if the situation happens.

Do we have a continuing obligation to report once we all switch over to Part 107 and stop using our 333s? Strictly speaking, yes, because the 333 and COA are still valid and the COA requires you to report even when you do not fly. I would continue to do it until the FAA tells you to stop or until the exemption expires 2 years after the grant date. You can find your expiration date by looking at the last page of your exemption.

Filing reports shouldn’t be much trouble if you set up an alert in your schedule or digital calendar to remind you at the end of each month.

SHARE! You should let your friends know about their monthly reporting requirements. Simply click one of the social media or email buttons located above or below to share with your friends.

 

Reporting Requirements from the Blanket COA

1. Documentation of all operations associated with UAS activities is required regardless of the airspace in which the UAS operates. NOTE: Negative (zero flights) reports are required.
2. The operator must submit the following information through mailto: [email protected] on a monthly basis:

a. Name of Operator, Exemption number and Aircraft registration number
b. UAS type and model.
c. All operating locations, to include location city/name and latitude/longitude
d. Number of flights (per location, per aircraft)
e. Total aircraft operational hours
f. Takeoff or Landing damage
g. Equipment malfunctions. Reportable malfunctions include, but are not limited to the following:

(1) On-board flight control system
(2) Navigation system
(3) Powerplant failure in flight
(4) Fuel system failure
(5) Electrical system failure
(6) Control station failure

3. The number and duration of lost link events (control, performance and health monitoring, or communications) per UA per flight.

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