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07 August 2017

FAA Progress on Opening National Airspace to Drones – Part 107 Rules

Author: Philip Finnegan, Drawn From: World Civil UAS

FAA Progress on Opening National Airspace to Drones – Part 107 Rules

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has moved to begin the opening of US airspace to commercial operations with the issuance of the first rules for the operation of commercial drones in national airspace. Over the past several years the FAA has shown increasing flexibility in working to open airspace to UAS.

The Part 107 rules, which went into effect in August 2016, are the latest indication of the new FAA attitude. The rules specify a series of criteria that must be met before small UAS can undertake commercial operations. Small UAS is defined as systems that are 55 pounds and under.

The rules are important because they should ease access to airspace. The previous Section 333 process of exemptions was slow and potentially costly for companies to do the required paperwork. Under the new rules for Part 107, no pilot’s license is required although there is a knowledge test.

Part 107 does allow for operators to request a waiver of some of the usual restrictions on flying beyond visual line-of-sight, flying over people and night operations. These are all important limitations on the potential for commercial operations, particularly flying beyond line-of-sight and flying over people. It remains to be seen the extent to which the FAA will be willing to make waivers.

The rules are also important in spurring interest from law enforcement and fire agencies that must no longer operate under the cumber-some certificate of authorization process of the past. The Part 107 rules provide for:

  • All operations need to be within a visual line-of-sight.
  • A small UAS Operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
  • The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
  • A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
  • Flights should be limited to 400 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
  • Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions.
  • Operations need to be conducted only in the daylight.
  • No operations are allowed from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.

About the Author

Philip Finnegan

Philip Finnegan

Phil is Director of Corporate Analysis at Teal Group. He has provided strategic and market analysis for clients in commercial aerospace and defense, including major U.S. and European prime contractors, since joining Teal fifteen years ago.

He also writes and edits Teal's Defense and Aerospace Companies Briefing, which analyzes the performance, outlook and strategies of 50 aerospace and defense companies in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. He is a co-author of the annual World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems with responsibility for UAV companies.

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