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FAA Eases COA Operations on UAS Test Sites

By Juliet Van Wagenen | May 22, 2015
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Bahrain International Airport
Unmanned aircraft system. Photo: FAA

[Avionics Today 05-22-2015] The FAA has made it simpler for the six Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test sites to conduct research by giving them “blanket” authorizations to fly public aircraft operations throughout the National Airspace System (NAS) at or below 200 feet. The FAA expects this improved access for the test sites will provide more opportunities for research that may help the agency integrate UAS into the nation’s airspace more quickly and easily.

The new Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) allow small UAS, under 55 pounds, operated by the test sites, to fly up to 200 feet above ground level anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and areas close to airports and heliports. Operators must fly during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions and within visual line of sight of the pilot. The new authorizations also let the test sites fly various types of UAS under a single COA, making it easier for them to conduct research missions. Previously, the FAA required authorization for each type of UAS the operators wanted to fly.

The FAA now permits people who hold a recreational or sport pilot certificate to conduct test site operations under the blanket COA. Previously, the agency required operators to hold at least a private pilot certificate. Additionally, a third class medical certificate also is no longer required and an operator only needs a valid driver’s license to satisfy the medical requirement.

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