Drone Rules Are In Effect; FAA Outlines What To Do Now

Regulations for the non-hobbyist use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) officially took effect today, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it has several processes in place to help users take advantage of the rules, formally known as Part 107.

As announced in June when the rules were finalized, the agency says it is offering a process to waive some of the rules’ restrictions if an operator demonstrates the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. Users must apply for these waivers at an online portal located here.

The FAA says it is issuing more than 70 waivers today (based on petitions for Section 333 exemptions). These majority of these approved waivers, which will be posted on Sept. 1, are for night operations under Part 107.

In addition, the agency says, users can operate their unmanned aircraft in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace without air traffic control permission. However, operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace need air traffic approval. Users must request access to controlled airspace via an electronic portal on the agency’s website. The FAA says it will use a phased approach to evaluate airspace authorization requests.

Operators may submit their requests starting today, but air traffic facilities will receive approved authorizations, if granted, according to the following tentative schedule:

  • Class D & E Surface Area – Oct. 3;
  • Class C – Oct. 31; and
  • Class B – Dec. 5.

The FAA says it will make every effort to approve requests as soon as possible, but the actual processing time will vary, depending on the complexity of an individual request and the volume of applications the FAA receives. The agency is urging users to submit requests at least 90 days before they intend to fly in controlled airspace.

The FAA notes that it will use safety data from each phase to ensure appropriate mitigations are in place as small UAS operations are integrated into controlled airspace.

Testing centers nationwide can now administer the Aeronautical Knowledge Test required under Part 107. After an operator passes the test, he or she must complete an FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application to receive a remote pilot certificate. (More information can be found here.)

The agency says it may take up to 48 hours for the website to record that the applicant has passed the knowledge test. The FAA expects to validate applications within 10 days; applicants will then receive instructions for printing a temporary airman certificate, which is good for 120 days. The FAA will mail a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate within 120 days.

In the future, the FAA also will address operations not covered by Part 107 without a waiver, including operations over people, beyond line of sight operations, extended operations, flight in urban areas, and flight at night.

The FAA is reminding model aircraft operators that Part 107 does not apply to them and that they must continue to satisfy all the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (which is now codified in part 101), including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.

“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer, and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” says Anthony Foxx, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “These new rules are our latest step toward transforming aviation and society with this technology in very profound ways.”

“The FAA’s role is to set a flexible framework of safety without impeding innovation,” adds Michael Huerta, FAA administrator. “With these rules, we have created an environment in which emerging technology can be rapidly introduced while protecting the safety of the world’s busiest, most complex airspace.”


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