THOUSANDS OF DRONE PILOTS CERTIFIED
By Jim Moore, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
The FAA has granted more than 18,000 remote pilot certificates for the non-hobby operation of small unmanned aircraft (commonly called “drones”) since Part 107 took effect Aug. 29. About 23,000 people have completed the FAA Safety Team online course designed for pilots who already have certificates and want to fly drones for non-hobby pursuits. Efforts to educate all concerned and safely integrate drones into the National Airspace System continue, including some advice for remote pilots on the fine points of obtaining permission to fly beyond the current limits.
AOPA continues to collaborate on the safe integration of drones, representing general aviation on the Drone Advisory Committee, which is primarily focused on safely allowing drones to fly beyond their pilots’ line of sight. AOPA participated in the first meeting of the Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team that was recently created to give industry and government a venue to examine drone safety based on data. AOPA continues to work closely with the FAA on UAS operations that directly or potentially effect general aviation.
The association is also helping to spread the word on matters of interest to drone pilots in particular, such as recent FAA advice on obtaining waivers and authorizations to deviate from Part 107 rules against flying drones at night, or in controlled airspace. The FAA requires pilots to detail mitigation strategies that address risks specific to the operation for which they seek authorization. The agency has rejected many Part 107 waiver applications because they lacked detail, or sought permission that is too broad such as a request to fly across the entire country. (The FAA has taken a gradual approach to airspace authorization, beginning with Class D permissions, later fielding requests to fly drones in Class C and Class B airspace.)
Many Part 107 requirements may be waived, including the requirement to conduct the operation within visual line of sight, and the most common waivers granted to date allow drone operations at night. The FAA spells out what is required for a successful waiver request in the performance-based standards posted online. The agency accepts waiver requests through an online system, which should be used both for waivers of specific regulations under Part 107, and for authorizations to fly drones in specific locations within controlled airspace on specified dates. Such requests should not be made to local air traffic control personnel, but submitted through the online system.
“For a remote pilot to have an authorization successfully approved, we recommend you include a detailed discussion of the mitigations you intend on having in place with regards to the performance-based standards the FAA has published,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. “Pilots should not request more waivers to the rule than are needed.”
The AOPA Pilot Information Center continues to field inquiries from manned and remote pilots alike, and AOPA offers information online including news, best practices, and details on obtaining certification. AOPA is also among the organizations and government agencies that sponsor the Know Before You Fly campaign, which offers free and easy access to information tailored to various types of pilot and unmanned operations, including a briefing on rules that apply to hobby, commercial, and public use of drones.