Tag Archives: Part 107

The FAA Says Part 107 Will Be Finalized by Late Spring.

 

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced at the 2016 FAA UAS Symposium that formal rules allowing commercial drone operations would be finalized in late spring. The new rules will greatly simplify commercial operations with sUAS aircraft – commonly called drones. No more COA’s for most flights. No more requirement for an observer. And no more ‘pilot’s license’ required.

The FAA is in-fact finished with the Part 107 rules and the NPRM is now at the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for final review. While the OIRA has 60-days by statute to review the new rules, the political pressure on commercial drone use is likely to encourage them to push it out sooner than later. when the FAA gets it back, the next step is to publish the rules in the Federal Register. Typically a rule is effective within 30-days of publication, but if the agency can cite “good-cause” for making them effective sooner, they can.

 

How will the Rules Under Part 107 Differ from 333 Exemptions?

Commercial drone operators are required by statute to have an operator’s certificate. That’s why the Commercial sUAS PIC had to have an FAA-issued Airman’s Certificate. Pilots holding an airman’s certificate from the FAA may petition to be exempt from certain FAA rules that would otherwise make legal commercial use of an sUAS aircraft impossible. Authority to exempt pilots from these rules are enumerated in Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. When Part 107 rules are effected, that does not change. The PIC still needs to hold an FAA-issued Airman’s Certificate. But Part 107 creates a new class of Airman’s Certificate for sUAS, ‘unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating’, that is obtained by taking a written examination at an FAA-approved testing center and pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. In other words, you don’t need to learn to land a Cessna.

What is “Part 107”?

In brief, Part 107 is a new set of rules proposed by the FAA on February 15, 2015 that would permit the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) weighing less than 55 pounds.

Here is a summary of the proposed Part 107 rules: (Link)

The NPRM that creates Part 107 rules also changes other FAA rules.

  • 14 CFR Part 21 “Certification Procedures For Products And Parts” changes to exempt aircraft operating under Part 107 rules.
  • 14 CFR Part 43 “Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding, And Alteration” changes to exempt aircraft operating under Part 107 rules.
  • 14 CFR Part 45 “Identification And Registration Marking” is changed to exempt aircraft operating under Part 107 rules.
  • 14 CFR Part 47 “Aircraft Registration” adds the requirement that small unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds must be registered.
  • 14 CFR Part 61 “Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, And Ground Instructors” is changed in two areas.
    • Flight time accumulated under Part 107 flight rules cannot be used to meet the flight time requirements under Part 61.
    • Flight Instructor privileges are changed: “authorized to accept an application for an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating and verify the identity of the applicant in a form and manner acceptable to the Administrator.”
  • 14 CFR Part 91 “General Operating And Flight Rules” changes to exempt operations under Part 107 rules and Hobby Flight.
  • 14 CFR Part 101 “Moored Balloons, Kites, Amateur Rockets And Unmanned Free Balloons” is modified to define “model aircraft”.
  • 14 CFR Part 107 “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”
  • 14 CFR 183.23 – “Pilot Examiners” adds the provision for a Pilot Examiner to perform the identification of sUAS operator applicants.

 

The new rules are a big win for the commercial sUAS operators. And the sword of Damocles for the hobby flyers.

The new sUAS operator certificate is a big win for the UAS industry and companies seeking to optimize their businesses with sUAS, especially because it demonstrates that the FAA is taking a sensible approach to integrating these “low risk operations” into the National Airspace. The FAA is also reasserting its enforcement authority over model aircraft flight by codifying the FAA’s Advisory Circular AC-57 in Part 101.

The word “commercial” does not appear anywhere in the proposed Part 107 rules. As I said above, the commercial operators are required by statute to hold an FAA-issued Airman’s Certificate: (49 U.S. Code § 44711 – ‘Prohibitions and exemptions’, and 49 U.S. Code § 46317 – ‘Criminal penalty for pilots operating in air transportation without an airman’s certificate’). Title 49 of the United States Code are not FAA rules.

The only thing stopping the FAA from enforcing Part 107 rules for all sUAS aircraft, commercial and hobby flights, is Section 336 of the same FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which prohibits the FAA from promulgating new rules governing model aircraft. All that it will take is one high-profile incident to find Section 336 on a swift-boat to repeal. I don’t think it’s a matter of “if”. The other shoe will drop.

The Micro UAS Operations Amendment to the Aviation Reauthorization Act of 2016

An amendment to H.R 4441, also known as the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016, is a common sense step in the right direction.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today [2/12/2016] will offer an amendment to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR Act), that would benefit small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drone, manufacturers like Horizon Hobby in Champaign, IL. The amendment would create a new exemption for small UAS from regulation under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Davis will offer this amendment, along with U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), at today’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of H.R. 4441, a bill to reform and reauthorize the FAA.

“U.S. policy regarding drones has not kept up with technology and lags behind that of other countries,” said Davis. “This commonsense amendment will remove bureaucratic red tape and allow for the responsible use of small drones. This new classification will spur innovation and help small manufacturers like Horizon Hobby, which specializes in manufacturing drones for agriculture use, expand and create jobs.”

Currently, several countries including Canada, Mexico, and Australia have exemptions for small UAS and Europe has proposed a similar classification. This amendment creates a new classification that would exempt micro UAS weighing up to 4.4 pounds from regulation under the FAA but would still require the UAS to be operated within line of sight, less than 400 feet above the ground, and more than five miles from any airport.

(Source: http://rodneydavis.house.gov/)

Link to the amendment

The Micro UAS was originally proposed by Brendan Schulmann for the UAS america Fund in a petition to the FAA on December 18, 2014. The FAA chose to dismiss that petition as they felt it overlapped with the Part 107 NPRM.

The Section 442 amendment states that any operator of a UAS under 4.4 pounds (2Kg) shall be exempt from obtaining an airman’s certificate, flight test, or age and experience requirements. It also states that the aircraft itself will not be required to obtain airworthiness certification, nor a Certificate Of Authorization to operate commercially or otherwise in the NAS. This is big, really big for operators that want to earn money with their small drones.

4.4 pounds puts operators the very popular DJI Inspire out of luck and they still need to go through the FMRA Section 333 Exemption Process.  But the DJI Phantom series of small drones would be included.

Most of the commercial users of Phantom and similar aircraft would still be restricted to 400 ft AGL, 40 knots (46 MPH) max airspeed, in VLOS, daytime only, and notify ATC if within 5 miles of the center of a charted airport.

We can hope that the amendment goes through as written (it’s already passed the Transportation Committee).  This will mean that anyone can buy a Phantom-sized drone and start selling photos.  I think the FAA will still want the aircraft to be registered

Part 107 Rules (Part one)

Or, just wait for the other shoe to drop.

First, let’s go back a few decades, OK a lot of decades. WW-I pilots were coming home to the US and the era of Barnstorming began. For a dollar or two the pilot would take you up for a few minutes of flight in his surplus airplane. For five dollars he would teach you to fly. Before long there were a bunch of poorly trained and poorly maintained airplanes taking poorly informed people up for rides. Too often, these rides ended in a fatal crash.

Congress reacted by creating the Civil Aviation Authority and passed laws to promote aviation commerce and safety. One of those laws requires that any aircraft flown in commerce be piloted by a certificated operator and that the aircraft be maintained by certificated mechanic. The logic is that when a paying passenger gets into an airplane, they don’t know the pilot nor how well maintained the aircraft is. Certification of aircraft and airmen is how the government assures that when you buy an airline ticket, the pilot and mechanic’s meet at least the minimum standards of education and experience.

That’s how things have worked for the past Century. To fly for compensation you needed a commercial pilot certificate. Today, unmanned aircraft are entering the commercial space. The unmanned aircraft got cheaper and easier to fly and now there are thousands of them flying in commercial airspace. (And many thousands more are flown by hobbyists). When Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), it directed the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System. Section 333 of the FMRA gave the Secretary of Transportation the authority to grant exemptions to existing FAA rules for certificated pilots to fly small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in commerce.

The FAA recognized that learning to fly a manned aircraft to operate an unmanned sUAS was overkill. In order to comply with the FMRA and their original mission of promoting aviation commerce, the FAA proposed the Part 107 rules. The Part 107 rules introduces a new class of Airman’s Certificate that only requires a written examination. No flight time and you don’t need to learn to land a Cessna. (Though, getting a few hours in a Cessna with an instructor will greatly add to your aeronautical knowledge).

No one has seen the final rule as it hasn’t been published yet, but there are indications that it could come in early to mid-2016 with an effective date 30- to 90-days later. Shortly after the Part 107 rules are effective, the other shoe will drop. (I’ll explain in another post what “the other shoe” is).