AUVSI’s New Trusted Operator Program Gives Extra ‘Seal of Approval’ for Remote Pilots


The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has launched the Trusted Operator Program (TOP), a new certification program available to remote pilots and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) training organizations. Through TOP, operators and organizations can distinguish themselves in a growing marketplace by holding themselves to a “higher standard of safety and professionalism,” according to AUVSI.

AUVSI developed the TOP after collaboration through the TOP steering committee, a group of more than 197 subject-matter experts from more than 50 global organizations. AUVSI says their input helped develop three levels of TOP certification:

  • Level one covers low-risk operations under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) small UAS rule (Part 107);
  • Level two is for operators who require a Part 107 waiver; and
  • Level three provides standards for operating in “safety-critical” areas, such as for inspection of infrastructure (e.g., pipelines and cell towers).

“The TOP certification process results in an AUVSI-sponsored seal of approval for individuals and organizations who demonstrate a higher level of training, knowledge and commitment to safety that goes above and beyond the FAA’s requirements,” explains Tracy Lamb, vice president of regulatory and safety affairs and chief pilot of AUVSI. “Someone looking to hire a UAS operator to take images of property, inspect a roof or survey infrastructure can look for TOP-certified operators and be assured they have the knowledge and experience to operate safely and proficiently.”

Once operators receive certification, AUVSI will list them in a searchable registry.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Praxis Aerospace Concepts, Consortiq, DARTdrones and SGS Aerospace are the first organizations that have received TOP certification, says AUVSI. They will apply the TOP protocols in their UAS education and assessment programs so that students can be TOP-certified upon graduation.

“The TOP reflects levels of safety and competency protocols that are appropriate for everything from wedding photography to oil flare stack inspections,” states Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “By providing UAS operators and those they enable with a standard way to demonstrate proficiency, TOP will help ensure the safe and sustainable advancement of the unmanned systems industry.”

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