All posts by williamscobb

Born to fly, learned to write, love to do this combines my dream to write about flying,.

Operations and Operating Legally, a Personal Checklist

We have been doing quite a bit of flying this past week, getting our operations fine tuned as we build up our business.  On Thursday, Sept 22, we hosted one of our Part 107 Cram Sessions and had all 3 applicants pass, which keeps our pass rate at a solid 100 percent.

Thursday was also a time to operate at the Airport where we perform our Cram Sessions.  It is a good setup, our clients come there, we brief them and they take the FAA Part 107 Knowledge test immediately afterwards.  We remain there until they are done.  At any rate, we flew there while our clients took their tests.  Setup and flight was no big deal, the only thing holding us up was waiting for the Airport Manager to give us permission to operate.  Having the Airport Manager’s permission isn’t required by Part 107, but it is a good courtesy to pilots operating in an airport environment.

This brings up points relevant to the title of this article.  Operations.  My personal checklist for my System goes as Follows.

  1.  Remove from Case
  2.  Remove Gimble covers
  3.  Power up System
  4.  Connect Ipad to Controller
  5.  Launch Go App
  6.  Calibrate Compass
  7.  Launch
  8.  Film
  9. Recover
  10. Power off and repack system.

Before powering up, we highly recommend making sure your area of operations is legal for Drone flying.  Our two tools are VFRmap and the Airmap App. 

Both of these are useful supplements to one another.  The VFR Map allows you to use have a current Sectional Chart electronically available while the Airmap App lets you supplement the Sectional Chart information in an easily visible manner.  As mentioned before, only a Sectional Chart provides legal means for establishing Airspace locations, however one good thing about Airmap is that it allows you to see things such as National Parks, where drone flying is still Forbidden by the National Park Service, which in my Area of Operations occupies a significant portion of airspace.

In addition you should verify weather conditions are VFR so you can operate legally in according to Part 107 limitations.  The best way to do so i either calling 1800-WXBrief for a weather briefing, or by looking at the weather at your nearest airport at

Finally,  on Friday a client of mine asked about checking and deciphering NOTAMs. Checking NOTAMs and TFRs are also part of preflight actions for a Remote Pilot.  In this case, the NOTAM he mentioned was in a rather indecipherable format as seen below.


A quick run thorough a NOTAM deciphering tool located at yielded this translation.

Decoded NOTAM: !TCL 09/014 TCL Service SPECIAL EVENT UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA FOOTBALL SEE Notice To Airman Publication 1609241100-1609242359 .

Googling the Notice To Airmen Publication number gave the link below.

Searching there showed all NOTAMs from September 15 to October 12, 2016.  Looking up the University of Alabama Football game in Tuscaloosa  on that publication gave detailed Air Traffic instructions for pilots arriving for the Game.

As can be seen flying legally is clearly a process.  However, it is up to us as Remote Pilots to make sure we do so every time we fly.




Systems, Airspace and Part 107

We have been quite busy test flying our system and working with clients as we build our own UAS Operation up after obtaining our Part 107 Temporary Certificate from the Birmingham FSDO.  However we have gained enough experience navigating the oft tricky regulations to post some of our insights on this blog.

Here is what we have found.

First of all, we highly recommend obtaining your Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate as soon as possible.  The reasons are simple, number one being that you can accept compensation for Drone Operations, something that was not possible before unless you were an approved Section 333 Exemption holder.

Secondly, a close review of regulations clearly shows that Part 107 Remote Pilot Privileges are far greater than they are for non Certificate holders, even for operations not involving compensation or hire.   Our own example should suffice, as you shall see later in this post.

In order to gain experience in UAS operations, we operated a simple house drone for several months in order to gain familiarity with control inputs and RC flying.  We also utilized borrowed systems which were a bit more complex before graduating to our first real pro grade system, a DJi Phantom 3 Professional.   Our goal was to master hand flying the Phantom 3 Pro prior to obtaining a Phantom 4, which we will do in immediate future.

Our experience operating the Phantom 3 Professional is worth recounting here, for both system and airspace knowledge.  Though we have also set up and operated the Phantom 4 on behalf of a client and are a fan, the Phantom 3 Professional offers some features that are useful for a novice UAS Operator.

As a Pilot in Command of any aircraft, you are responsible for evaluating ALL AVAILABLE information prior to any flight.   This includes system knowledge, as well as weather and airspace in your local area.  Failure to do any of these things could result in a host of issues, from operator induced system failure to potential Airspace Violations and FAA Enforcement Action.

Because we were a Professional Flight Instructor for 8 years prior to making the jump to the UAS world, we took these responsibilities seriously.   Our use of the Phantom 3 Professional directly followed Manufacturer’s instructions, and we did not even activate the system until obtaining DJI Care, which is basically an manufacturer’s insurance plan that will cover the cost of repairs in the event of damage up to the amount of system replacement cost.  Because DJI allows purchase of DJI Care only 48 hours after system activation, we bought the plan and only then activated the system.

System activation is a process, as any UAS operator ought to know.  You cannot simply turn on a system and expect to fly it, there are firmware updates to perform, and you must calibrate a system’s compass whenever you operate from a new location.   Follow your manufacturer’s instructions and make sure you follow the proper steps.  Failure to do so could result in your system crashing or flying away, never to be seen again.  In either case you are risking your investment, so make sure you do what you must to make certain your system is flight worthy before taking it up.

Our initial test flights took place in a local waterfront park close to our home.  Weather was VFR, and the park is located outside the Surface Area of a Class C regional Airport.  With a relatively clear operating area, we were able to conduct a series of successful test flights.  We began in Beginner mode, which basically restricts the System to a 30 meter bubble around the operator.   After basic flight in Beginner mode, we switched to the system’s more advanced control modes.

This leads to a System’s biggest learning curve.   After Beginner Mode, the Phantom E Professional has normal operating 3 modes, Positioning or P-mode which involves GPS positioning along with attitude sending, Attitude or A-Mode, which occurs when a loss of GPS signal occurs, and Function or F-Mode, which involves the autopilot functions of the System.  Make sure you are in the proper mode you intend to operate in, which in the case of our Test Flights involves operating in P-Mode after our time in Beginner mode.

Operations in P-Mode make the Phantom 3 Professional a great system even for a novice UAS pilot like myself.  The GPS augments the Attitude sensors in the System, allowing for a more stable hover.  The system will account for wind and retain its position in a hover, countering wind effects and basically acting as a stationary eye in the sky.  This is great for capturing stills or videos, and is one of the things that makes the system the top seller it is.  This allows the Phantom 3 Pro to act as a stable camera platform, which is what it is designed to do.  With such a system, you can see how the P3P isn’t just a simple RC Toy, instead it is an expensive camera that happens to fly.

A-mode is a bit trickier, as without GPS positioning, System operation is a bit more “interesting.”  If you are operating in P-mode and you lose GPS signal, your tablet Device will flash a warning message in RED across the top of the screen and you will hear a female voice repeat a warning that you are in “Addi Mode, Addi Mode, Addi Mode.”  Both these things are disconcerting, as any Aviator who has spent their time in manned aircraft can tell you, red screen warning messages are never a good thing.  On top of that, the system’s control stability deteriorates, it is not as stable as in GPS mode, and without GPS positioning, your system can and will drift with the wind, a combination that can and will lead to some challenging moments.

The final mode is F-mode, which adds an autopilot function in conjunction with the GPS and Attitude Sensors.  We are gaining experience in this mode and will post more as we do so, however our initial goal is to operate manually as much as possible at first, before moving on to automation.   Our overall goal is to be able to sort out issues manually prior to operating automatically, as we do not want to use automation as a crutch, but rather as an augmentation that will allow us to operate our system at peak efficiency.

With basic control and test flying completed, we were able to gain experience with the system and thus far have only compliments for its simplicity.   One of the big reasons DJI has the success it does is that the Go App which runs on your tablet is compatible with the Phantom 3, 4 and Inspire systems.  One tablet, one App, multiple systems.  The Go interface is also user friendly and allows you to perform your operations with a high level of confidence.

Getting back to airspace.  After successfully operating in our Practice Field and in other locations whose airspace was verified via Aeronautical Charts we received quite a shock when discovering the Airmap App online.  This app is a handy tool for seeing where one can and cannot operate a Drone, however it is not perfect.   We played with its features and compared the airspace depictions with those of our Charts.

As any pilot knows, a Chart is the primary legal means of identifying airspace, along with FAA NOTAMS and TFRs, which can be obtained from the links in this paragraph, or via phoning 1800 WX Brief when calling for a Weather Brief.   Therefore our airspace verification was confined to confirmation via Chart that we were not operating in any controlled airspace.  Part 107 allows operations in all Class G uncontrolled Airspace up to 400 feet Above Ground Level, which is the default start point of Airspace from the ground if there isn’t another type of airspace depicted on a chart.

Imagine our shock when we saw that the Airmap App showed an airport within a 5 mile radius of our test flying area.   Recreational operations within a 5 mile radius of an airport require calling the Airport Operator to inform them of Drone Operations within that radius.   Unfortunately, the Airmap App gave the wrong number for that particular airport.  The B4Ufly app didn’t work on our phone either, so our efforts at complying with the airspace rules reached an impasse.

This is where a careful re-reading of Part 107 Rules came in quite handy.  The FAA’s online FAR Part 107 states the following.

§107.43   Operation in the vicinity of airports.

No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that interferes with operations and traffic patterns at any airport, heliport, or seaplane base.

There it is in Black and White.  Don’t fly a drone in any way that can interfere with manned aircraft operations.  The Advisory Circular on Part 107 goes further in explaining things.

Small UA Operations Near an Airport—Notification and Permissions.
Unless the flight is conducted within controlled airspace, no notification or authorization is necessary to operate at or near an airport. When operating in the vicinity of an airport, the remote PIC must be aware of all traffic patterns and approach corridors to runways and landing areas.  The remote PIC must avoid operating anywhere that the presence of the sUAS may interfere with
operations at the airport, such as approach corridors, taxiways, runways, or helipads. Furthermore, the remote PIC must yield right-of-way to all other aircraft,including aircraft operating on the
surface of the airport.
Remote PICs are prohibited from operating their small UA in a manner that interferes with operations and traffic patterns at airports, heliports, and seaplane bases. While a small UA must always yield right-of-way to a manned aircraft, a manned aircraft may alter its flightpath, delay its landing, or take off in order to avoid an sUAS that may present a potential conflict or otherwise affect the safe outcome of the flight. For example, a UA hovering 200 feet above a runwaymay cause a manned aircraft holding short of the runway to delay takeoff, or a manned aircraft on the downwind leg of the pattern to delay landing. While the U A in this scenario would not pose an immediate traffic conflict to the aircraft on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern or to the aircraft intending to take off, nor would it violate the right-of-way provision of § 107.37(a), the small UA would have interfered with the operations of the traffic pattern at an airport.
In order to avoid interfering with operations in a traffic pattern, remote PICs should avoid operating in the traffic pattern or
published approach corridors used by manned aircraft. When operational necessity requires the remote PICto operate at an airport in uncontrolled airspace, the remote PIC should operate the small UA in such a way that the manned aircraft pilot does not need to alter his or her flightpath in the traffic pattern or on a published instrument approach in order to avoid a potential collision.  Because remot ePICs have an obligation to yield right-of-way to all other aircraft and avoid interfering in traffic pattern operations, the FAA expects that most remote PICs will avoid operating in the vicinity of airports because their aircraft generally do not require airport infrastructure, and the concentration of other aircraft increases in the vicinity of airports.
So you can clearly see the FAA’s intent behind the rules.  It makes sense.  If you are flying as an RC Hobbyist, stay out of controlled airspace and be at least 5 miles away from any uncontrolled airport unless you notify the airport in question that you will be flying.  Once you have your Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate, you can operate near airports, but only if you operate in a manner that does not interfere with the operation of Manned Aircraft.  The rules will likely get more complex as time goes on.  However, AC-107-2 goes a long way towards explaining why these rules have come about.  Basically, operating as a newbie stay away from airports unless you call with a warning.   Take the test and know the rules, then you can fly closer as long as you don’t interfere with manned aircraft.
Getting back to my situation.   Because I already had my Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate, even in its temporary form, before starting my test flight in the area I was operating from, I was legal without notifying the field in question that I am operating my system within 5 miles of the airport in question.  This privilege is one that I intend to respect with utmost devotion, as my background in manned aircraft operations makes me quite familiar with the risks of any type of aircraft operation.
Finally, it is yet another reason to get your Part 107 Remote Pilot License, as not only can you make money off of drones, you have more freedom to operate them as well.

Obtaining Your Part 107 UAS Certificate

We have been keeping a low profile the past few weeks since our last update on Part 107 in order to focus our efforts on obtaining our own Part 107 RPA Certificate.  For those unfamiliar with the process there are two distinct paths towards obtaining your Part 107 Certificate.

If you already possess an FAA Airmen Certificate, the process is much simpler if you do not.  Anyone who has a Pilot Certificate and current Flight Review can log on to and take the FAA Safety Team’s online UAS Course and Course Exam.  After completing the FAA’s online course and exam, you can then print out your graduation certificate and then submit your paperwork via the FAA’s Integrated Airmen Certification and Rating Application IACRA website.

Please note that there are two distinct ways the FAA will process your paperwork. if you already hold your Pilot’s License the process is much simpler than if you do not.  You have the choice of using a traditional paper FAA 8710 Application or using the FAA’s IACRA Website.  However, going via a paper application may result in a delay in obtaining your Part 107 Temporary Certificate since it must be mailed in.

The FAA  is strongly encouraging the use of IACRA for application submissions.  An FAA Flight Standards District Office, FAA Designated Pilot Examiner or Airmen Certification Representative can issue a Temporary Part 107 Airmen Certificate to an applicant on the spot.  Therefore we decided to set an appointment with our local Flight Standards District Office in order to obtain our Temporary Certificate right away.

Our appointment was set at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2016, the first day the FAA officially implemented Part 107.   We made certain we had our credentials in order and arrived at 8:05 AM, slightly early but due a slight overcompensation for anticipated heavy traffic in the city of our local FAA District Office.

The process is similar to obtaining an FAA Issued Airmen Certificate.   There is currently no Flight Time requirements for the Part 107 Certificate, so the application is issued on the basis of completing the required course.  Therefore, you must bring a Government issued Photo ID such as a Passport or Driver’s License, proof of a current Flight Review, and your course completion certificate.

We met with Greg Muse, our local FAA UAS contact person and began the process of completing our application via IACRA.  Mr Muse was quite friendly and helpful during the process and despite a couple computer glitches managed to get our application processed in a timely and efficient manner.   We were the first Part 107 UAS applicant processed by our local FAA Flight Standard’s District Office, and the process went quite smoothly despite the learning curve for us both.


All told the process took just under an hour and we walked out of our local FSDO with our temporary certificate in hand.  We cannot say enough about how helpful Mr. Muse was throughout the process, and look forward to conducting our operations in a safe and professional manner.

For those who do not already hold an FAA Pilot Certificate the process is a bit more complicated.  Here is the text in Bold from the FAA’s Part 107 Certification Website.  Our comments will follow in Italics.

Pilot certificate Requirements

  • Must be easily accessible by the remote pilot during all UAS operations
  • Valid for 2 years – certificate holders must pass a recurrent knowledge test every two years

Application Process

    1. Schedule an appointment with a Knowledge Testing Center (KTC), which administer initial and recurrent FAA knowledge exams
      1. View the list of Knowledge Testing Centers (PDF) to find one near you.
      2. Applicants must bring government-issued photo ID to their test
    2. Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test – initial knowledge test areas include:
      1. Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
      2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
      3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
      4. Small unmanned aircraft 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
      11. Airport operations
      12. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
    3. Complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)*
      1. Register using the FAA IACRA system
      2. Login with username and password
      3. Click on “Start New Application” and 1) Application Type “Pilot”, 2) Certifications “Remote Pilot”, 3) Other Path Information, 4) Start Application
      4. Follow application prompts
      5. When prompted, enter the 17-digit Knowledge Test Exam ID (NOTE: it may take up to 48 hours from the test date for the knowledge test to appear in IACRA)
      6. Sign the application electronically and submit to the Registry for processing.
    4. A confirmation email will be sent when an applicant has completed the TSA security background check. This email will provide instructions for printing a copy of the temporary remote pilot certificate from IACRA.
    5. A permanent remote pilot certificate will be sent via mail once all other FAA-internal processing is complete.

* Applicants who do not wish to complete FAA Form 8710-13 online may choose the paper process. Please note that the processing time will be longer if a paper application is used since it requires in-person approval and signature by a designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI), and must then be mailed to a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for final review and signature. Additionally, a temporary remote pilot certificate will not be provided to the applicant.

Instructions for completing the paper application process may be found in Chapter 6, Section 4 of the Part 107 Advisory Circular.

As can be seen, the FAA Part 107 Knowledge Test process is a lot more involved for Non Pilot Certificate holders than it is for already licensed pilots.  You can expect to pay around $150 for the Knowledge Test and will also be required to pass a TSA Background Check before any Temporary Certificate can be printed from the IACRA Website. 

We will continue to update this website as more information about the process becomes available, but as Part 107 officially went into effect today, the path is now clear for those wishing to path to legally operate Drones commercially.

Those wishing to obtain their Part 107 Certificate in the area covered by the Birmingham FSDO can set an appointment with Mr. Greg Muse, who can be contacted by phone at 205-876-1329.  Please note that FAA FSDO visits are by appointment only, so please call to set yours in advance when you have your credentials in order.

FAA Part 107 Update

The FAA has updated its website to reflect further changes in the implementation of Part 107 rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  These rules offer a clarification of the FAA Summary of Part 107, and the previously posted Part 107 Rule.  In addition the FAA Website itself states  that the Part 107 Rule will take effect on August 29, 2016.

FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The FAA has also issued an Advisory Circular to offer further clarification of how to use Part 107 for potential 107 operators.  This Advisory circular is a highly useful guide and a more detailed explanation of specific aspects of the 107 rule.   Please note, that the rules are subject to change until the final text of Part 107 is published as part of the Federal Aviation Regulations.    We will be carefully monitoring the changes and will continue to offer our insights  on the intent of Federal UAS regulations..

FAA Advisory Circular How to Use Part 107

Analysis of the Summary of Part 107

Here are highlights from the summary of the FAA’s new rule.  We are annotating this summary in order to help explain the rules new impact.

Our comments will be in italics, while the FAA’s summary is in Bold.

• Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must
remain within VLOS of the remote pilot in command and the
person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS.
Alternatively, the unmanned aircraft must remain with
in VLOS of the visual observer.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close
enough to the remote pilot in command and the person
manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS for those
people to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons
not directly participating in the operation, not under a
covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before
official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time)
with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
This is a change from prior rules which required use of a spotter.
• First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid”
requirement but can be used as long as requirement is
satisfied in other ways.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
Increase in Ground Speeed limit from prior rule.
• Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL) or, if
higher than 400 feet AGL, remain within 400 feet of a structure.
Slight change with requirement of structure.
• Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
Basic VFR limitations, unchanged from prior rule
• Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with
the required ATC permission.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• No person may act as a remote pilot in command or VO for
more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• No operations from a moving aircraft.
New addition not covered prior.
• No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is
over a sparsely populated area.
Addition of sparsely populated area exemption.
• No careless or reckless operations.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• No carriage of hazardous materials.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Requires preflight inspection by the remote pilot in
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or
she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental
condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a
small UAS.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• Foreign-registered small unmanned aircraft are allowed to
operate under part 107 if they satisfy the requirements of
part 375.
Unchanged from prior rules issued by the FAA.
• External load operations are allowed if the object being
carried by the unmanned aircraft is securely attached and
does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or
controllability of the aircraft.
New change to allow external load operations.
• Transportation of property for compensation or hire allowed
provided that-
o The aircraft, including its attached systems, payload and
cargo weigh less than 55 pounds total;
o The flight is conducted within visual line of sight and not
from a moving vehicle or aircraft; and
o The flight occurs wholly within the bounds of a State and
does not involve transport between (1) Hawaii and
another place in Hawaii through airspace outside
Hawaii; (2) the District of Columbia and another place
in the District of Columbia; or (3) a territory or
possession of the United States and another place in
the same territory or possession.
Definite change in allowing transportation for compensation or hire.
• Most of the restrictions discussed above are waivable if the
applicant demonstrates that his or her operation can safely
be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.
 This appears to make Waivers the new 333 exemption.
Remote Pilot in Command Certification and Responsibilities
• Establishes a remote pilot in command position.
• A person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote
pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under
the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote
pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).
• To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, a person must:
o Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
Passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at
an FAA-approved knowledge testing center; or
Hold a part 61 pilot certificate other than student
pilot, complete a flight review within the previous 24 months,
and complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.
o Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
o Be at least 16 years old.
• Part 61 pilot certificate holders may obtain a temporary
remote pilot certificate immediately upon submission of their
application for a permanent certificate. Other applicants will
obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate upon successful
completion of TSA security vetting. The FAA anticipates that
it will be able to issue a temporary remote pilot certificate
within 10 business days after receiving a completed remote
pilot certificate application.
• Until international standards are developed, foreign
-certificated UAS pilots will be required to obtain an FAA
-issued remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.
A remote pilot in command must:
• Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for
inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records
required to be kept under the rule.
• Report to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that
results in at least serious injury, loss of consciousness, or
property damage of at least $500.
• Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft
and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS
is in a condition for safe operation.
• Ensure that the small unmanned aircraft complies with the
existing registration requirements specified in §91.203(a)(2).
A remote pilot in command may deviate from the requirements
of this rule in response to an in-flight emergency.
This entire portion of the proposed rules sets the standards for Remote Pilots in Command and is a welcome bit of guidance for potential professional UAS pilots.
.Aircraft Requirements
• FAA airworthiness certification is not required. However, the
remote pilot in command must conduct a preflight check of
the small UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe
Model Aircraft
• Part 107 does not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of
the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
• The rule codifies the FAA’s enforcement authority in part
101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering
the national airspace system.
As can be seen the new rule is able to provide a welcome series of steps towards clarifying the FAA’s regulations towards Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  These new rules should take effect 60 days from publication of the Part 107 rule, which was done today, June 21, 2016.  It is unclear what if any further changes to FAA rules will take place.

Part 107

Today the FAA has announced its Part 107 Rule for Small Unmanned Aircraft. This rule will be the final framework for which all unmanned aircraft operations will be regulated.

We will update more as time goes on. However, please keep in mind this rule has a variety of changes from existing regulations, and proper analysis of its impact will take some time.

Here is a summary of the new rule.

Part 107 Summary

Here is the link to the new Part 107 rule.

Part 107 Rule

FAA Drone Registration Rules

This morning the FAA announced its Drone Registration Rules.  The entire 211 page PDF Document is available for you to view here.

Highlights of the new rules are as follows.

All unmanned aircraft from .55 (250 grams) up to 55 lbs for consumer use are covered by this new rule.

Must be a U.S. Citizen at least 13 years of age to register.

There will be a $5 registration fee.  This fee will be refundable until January 20, 2015.

The registration fee can cover multiple drones if used for recreational purposes.

Fine for non registration can be a civil penalty fine of up to 27,500 and a criminal penalty of up to a $250,000 fine and 3 years in prison.

These highlights do differ in several ways from the recommended rule posted before.   As this is the Interim Final Rule it will be interesting to see how this registration process is implemented.

The Registration Website should be operational on December 21, 2015.  The FAA will charge a $5 registration fee, but will refund this fee to anyone who registers before January 20, 2016.   Drones bought before the December 21 of this year must be registered by February 19, 2016.  The registration fee is the same as aircraft, however, this fee and individual registration number can cover multiple drones if used for hobby purposes,

All drones bought after December 21, 2015 must be registered before their first flight outdoors.   The penalty for non-registration can be a civil penalty of up to $27,500 and criminal fines of up to $250,000 and 3 years in prison.  Indoor flights do not require registration, however, before you first operate your drone outdoors, you must have a proof of your registration certificate with you once this rule is implemented  This can be a printed copy, or an electronic version of the certificate.  At this time only U.S. Citizens at least 13 years of age may register their drones.

Registration rules will differ depending on use.  Drones used exclusively as hobby model aircraft must only have a single registration, with a single registration number marked on all, those used for commercial purposes must have individual registrations.  As this already applies to operations under Section 333 exemptions, not much has changed on this front.   The new UAS registration website may be available for commercial operators in the future, but right now this process only applies to recreational users.   A more detailed clarification of the rules may be found here.

However, mandatory registration is a big change for hobby operations.  All drones weighing from .55 to 55 lbs must be registered.  This applies to tethered, not tethered, and every type of Unmanned Aircraft System with a remote control.  Frisbees and paper airplanes are not covered as they do not have such a control system.  It is unclear as to the exact status of kites, but in the FAQs it does appear to rule them out as they do not have a remote control system.

This is link to the FAA’s Registration FAQs.

As we’ve said before, this is a big step by the FAA.  Registration will be here, like it or not, and if you plan to fly a drone you bought after December 21, you’d better get it registered, especially since for the first month it will be free.

Drone Registration Update

Not a whole lot has happened yet on the Drone Registration front, however, there are rumors that registration may have a fee associated with it.   Sources close to FAA decision makers have said that the FAA is now weighing the possibility of charging a $5 fee for Drone Registration.  This would surpass the recommendations of the Drone Registration Task Force, though it would follow Federal Law in charging for such registration service.  Stay tuned, the FAA’s decision is sure to be interesting, and will certainly bear watching for anyone associated with Drone Operations.

There are mixed reactions among different parties as to whether registration is a good solution.

In any case, as stated before, we believe that Drone Registration is good thing, provided the registration process involves minimal difficulty for anyone operating a craft weighing more than the recommended 250 grams.

How the View Differs…Plane vs Drone

I hope you have all had a very Happy Thanksgiving.

The point of this post is to show how piloting perspectives differ between inhabited aircraft and drones.   It is more than just the obvious, the fact that a regular airplane pilot flies their aircraft from the inside, while a drone operator flies it from outside.  This post is all about perspective.  How someone sees something certainly impacts how they will react to things.  We hope that some clarification of different perspectives will be helpful both in showcasing differences and finding common ground.

For a pilot of an inhabited aircraft, flying represents a form of freedom, and the ability to change perspective at will, from takeoff, through climbout, leveloff and cruise.  A regular airplane pilot will see many things during the course of a flying day, from a dawn patrol sunrise flight through an early evening sunset.  They will directly experience wind, turbulence, and the onset of stormy weather, from a perspective denied that to people on the ground.  Most importantly of all, they will experience both thrills and chills, as the challenges of the flying environment manifest throughout a flight.  For some it is a time to play, for others it is their job.  But for both, flying represents stepping away from the known world into a realm far to few really get to experience.

For drone pilots with an RC aircraft background, flying initially came about as something fun, something different.  Many in the drone community started flying RC aircraft when young, and graduated to more sophisticated systems.  Still, their perspective is that of an outsider looking in, unless First Person View (FPV) is brought into the equation.   When dealing with FPV, you are dealing with a unique hybrid of both realms, where you can virtually experience flying, yet remain safely on the ground.  The military has known this for years, and initially went the path of having trained military aviators fly military drone systems.  As time went on, however, they developed a UAS specific career path, which is now bringing in many qualified operators who do a fantastic job in flying high tech uninhabited systems.

It is a given that the FAA has followed the lead of the military in certifying drone pilots.  Hence, the requirement that all Section 333 exemption operators hold at least a Sport Pilot rating.  Though some may find this an unduly burdensome requirement, from the perspective of the FAA, standard pilots do bring a lot to the table.  They are vetted by TSA, have an understanding of Airspace and Weather, and possess knowledge of Regulations and a Pilot Certificate that can be taken away in case of a violation.  This will change, and though welcome for many, a form of perspective will be lost when this happens.

One thing the FAA is trying to do that bears watching is their classification of drones as regular aircraft, from the smallest 251 gram toy that may soon need to be registered, to the largest systems flying today.  By classifying ALL DRONES as Aircraft, the FAA is legally binding all drone operators as Pilots.  This is clearly stated in both the new proposed rules for consumer operators, and by the head of the FAA himself in his recent remarks concerning consumer drone registration.  From the FAA’s perspective Pilot in Command Responsibility will apply to all.  Therefore, our posts on this responsibility aren’t just an academic exercise, they highlight rules that apply to everyone who flies.

Another key difference between regular aircraft and drone pilots is the consequences of failure.  A crash in a regular aircraft can cause severe injury and possible death, both for people in the aircraft and on the ground.  That is something all regular airplane pilots MUST think about every time they fly.  It guides their every action, and woe unto anyone who believes this isn’t so.  Most commercial grade drones do not have such a level of danger.  They are sophisticated tools, but something 55 lbs or under isn’t likely to hurt someone unless they land directly on them.  A plane crashing on a house can have terrible consequences for those inside, even the biggest 55 lb drone would probably not hurt the occupants inside.  There is a financial penalty and legal issues may arise, but if a drone crashes, it just isn’t the same thing as an airplane with humans aboard.

This brings us to another different perspective, that between drone pilots and regular fliers while flying.  Both can suffer from limited visibility and blind spots.  People on both sides are beginning to square off into different Pro and Anti-Drone Camps.  As someone who is moving from inhabited aircraft to drones, I can clearly see this dynamic at work.  Drone pilots want minimum restrictions so they can do their jobs, something laudable as long as it does not cause safety issues for regular aircraft.  On the other hand, regular airplane pilots know the sky is a big place, they just want to keep irresponsible operators for operating in any manner unsafe to aircraft.

So where is the middle ground between these two groups.  Personally, I believe it boils down to the fact that we are all PILOTS, whether you fly a 251 Gram Quadcopter all the way to the Captain of an Airbus A380.  If you manipulate the controls, you are flying an aircraft, and therefore are acting as a Pilot.  The FAA says so, so I’ll take it from them.  If you fly an airplane of any type…YOU ARE A PILOT.

So how can we all get along.  First of all by establishing a professional level of trust many layers thick.  Irresponsible pilots of all types are found out  by reputation.  The same will happen to drone pilots.   We can all realize the sky is big enough to share, as long as we keep to our assigned spaces and understand the big picture of what is going up there.  If you realize the FAA is a referee of the vast flying circus that occurs over our heads every day, you’ll see that registration isn’t an excessive burden, merely the ticket to the show.   The National Airspace is a wonder to behold, and as pilots we owe it to everyone who flies to do our part to maintain it as safely as possible.

Happy Thanksgiving

We hope you are having a very Happy Thanksgiving today.  It also happens to be my 42nd Birthday, and I cannot be thankful enough the good fortune I have been able to experience today.  We wish you all the best, with our fondest Aloha,

William S. Cobb, Webmaster