Provides clarifications on media use of drones and use of tethered drones by public safety agencies
On August 29, 2016 the new Part 107 rules for small UAS (drone) operation for commercial and government users went into effect. The current Section 333 Exemption with the blanket Certificate of Authorization (COA) will still be an option depending upon what the operator intends to do with their drone. The Part 107 will allow the operator to apply for waivers for many parts of the rule such as flying the drone within visual sight or flying no higher than 400 ft. Government/civil operators can apply for a Certificate of Authorization specific or meet the criteria of Part 107 based upon how they intend to use their drone.
Recreational or hobbyist operators will continue to follow the same rules and guidelines as those have not changed. It is still important to note that a hospital heliport/helipad is considered an airport.
All drone operators must register their drones that are between .55 to 55 pounds prior to flight, without exception.
Additional information regarding media use of drones
It has been projected that there will be approximately 600,000 commercial drones in use by the end of 2016. Media companies may use a UAS, but must adhere to the requirements of their Section 333 grant of exemption or the Small UAS Rule (Part 107). Organizations may request a waiver under Part 107 to fly over people, and will need to provide sufficient mitigations to ensure public safety. Of concern is the use of small UAS by media outlets at accident scenes, during disaster situations and mass casualties as well as near hospital helipads (Class G airspace which under Part 107 requires no notification to the operator of the airport/helipad). In an effort to be pro-active, it is highly recommended that programs reach out to their local media outlets to work in partnership on an agreed upon means in which to maintain safety in these situations. Don’t wait until there is an incident before having these conversations.
Use of tethered drones by public safety agencies
Tethered drones, drones that have a physical link to the ground station via a tether, are rapidly becoming the “drone of choice” for public safety agencies due to their increased operational safety, high speed data transfer, and increased flight duration. Keep in mind that these drones must adhere to the same operating rules as their free flight counterparts. Because the drone is “attached” via the umbilical to the ground station, many operating agencies may feel that their drone is not a safety hazard to aircraft so they may not “land the drone” until all aircraft have left the area. Unfortunately this is not the case; tethered drones can and do pose a safety risk to helicopters that are operating in close proximity to their location. It is critical that programs develop safety education regarding aircraft and tethered drone use at scenes and other instances as well as a policy on what your program’s expectations would be in these situations. Having open dialogue and communicating this information to area public safety organizations is key to maintaining a safe environment for all concerned.
According to the FAA, operators who want to fly in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace don’t need FAA/ATC authorization. They are currently processing requests to operate in Class D and Class E airport surfaces. The FAA began consideration of requests for Class C drone flights beginning 1 November and will being the process for Class B airspace after 5 December. To see the waivers the FAA has granted thus far, the company names, and the waived regulation, go to https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/waivers_granted/
Summary of Part 107: https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf
Small UAS Advisory Circular: https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/AC_107-2_AFS-1_Signed.pdf