Commercial, Military, Unmanned

A Run-Down of the New Small Drone Rule

By Juliet Van Wagenen | August 29, 2016
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The DJI Phantom drone. Photo: DJI
The DJI Phantom drone. Photo: DJI

[Avionics Today 08-29-2016] The FAA’s new small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) rule, known as Part 107, comes into effect today, Aug. 29, opening the skies to commercial drones. The long-awaited rule applies to UAS that weigh less than 55 pounds and enables commercial operations within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) for operators that have passed an FAA-administered test, awarding them with the new UAS Operator certification.

The new rule allows certified UAS operators to fly FAA-registered aircraft during daylight hours, or within the hours of civil twilight, near non-participating structures, whereas previously commercial flights were only enabled within certain areas or areas specified for specific operations under Section 333 certification. An operator who wishes to fly UAS in controlled airspace does need approval form the relevant Air Traffic Controller (ATC) to do so.

If you wish to fly commercial operations outside of these specifications, the new small UAS rule allows for some expanded operations based on technology mitigations if an operator can make the safety case for a waiver of some provisions, according to the FAA. Operators can apply for waivers to operate at night, Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS), above 400 feet and other specific types of operation. Operators who wish to request waivers can do so through the FAA’s online portal.

If an operator currently has a Section 333 exemption grant, and the FAA previously authorized an operator to operate under Part 107 with a waiver, the operator will receive a letter by Aug. 29, notifying them that the FAA has granted it a waiver or that the agency needs additional information to make the safety case.

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