UAS: New Operation & Certification Guidelines

UAS: New Operation & Certification Guidelines

Training + Development
by Will Porter, Director of Research, Development and Intelligence

As of August 29 under a new code of federal regulations for commercially operated unmanned aircraft, a person 16 years and older can obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. With a remote pilot certificate, a person can commercially operate their FAA registered drone in the U.S. 

Many utility vegetation management vendors and utility companies as well as other utility related businesses will be applying for remote pilot certification to operate an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or drone. If you are thinking a drone will increase your sales capacity, the safety of your work or add new dimensions to existing inspection work then you will need to become familiar with the new UAS rule promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration, Part 107.

The following article highlights some of the important aspects of the new law, such as what are the roles of an observer, the pilot in command and the person operating the controls.

  • Part 107 requires operators to avoid manned aircraft and never operate in a careless manner.
  • The UAS and payload cannot exceed 55 lbs, fly faster than 100 mph or fly above 400 ft. (Higher if within 400 ft of a structure).
  • A remote pilot must pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved knowledge testing center and complete a security background check.
  • A non-certified person can operate a drone under the direct supervision of a certified remote pilot in command who can immediately take control of the UAS.
  • An 87-page Remote Pilot Small UAS study guide as well as other reference materials are recommended for preparing for the required aeronautical test.
  • Under Part 107, UAS can only be operated within the unaided view of the operator, or visual line of sight. Only glasses and contact lenses are permitted for observation. Binoculars are not permissible.
  • Some cases where a UAS is momentarily hid by an obstruction such as a tree or a structure won’t be a violation as long as the remote pilot maintains their responsibility to see and avoid hazards.
  • Line of sight operators will not be able to observe a UAS under most conditions further than a mile.

In cases where there is a need to deviate from Part 107, remote pilots can file for a certificate of waiver:

  • A waiver will allow them to not comply with specific requirements if they can demonstrate how their intended UAS application can be conducted safely.
  • Utility companies and their UAS vendor remote pilots are likely to seek a certificate of waiver to better enable ROW and asset inspections and post-storm surveillance.
  • Utility companies will most likely seek FAA approval to operate beyond visual line of sight, to fly over places where people or traffic might be present, and to fly at night.
  • Other requirement waivers that could be applied for include the use of ‘first person view’ capabilities, alterations to the minimum weather visibility of three miles from the ground station and operating off of a moving vehicle.

Part 107 will be revised in the future in response to experience and evolving science. Advances in technology will increase the autonomous controls on UAS enabling sense-and-avoid maneuvers that do not require an operator in visual line of sight. Autonomous technology will allow the FAA to update Part 107 with fewer restrictions on commercial remote pilots.

If you are thinking about operating a drone for commercial purposes, be sure to have your remote pilot certificate, register your drone and do not operate carelessly or in violation of Part 107. Please visit the FAA website for more information. You will also have to be aware of state and local rules for operating drones, many of which address privacy. The FAA has recommended best practices for operating over private property but does require obtaining permission. A future article will address state laws.

Other Training + Development