FAA releases Part 107 (small systems) rules
As of August 29, 2016,1 commercial Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) operators may but no longer have to wait for Section 333 commercial use exemptions. The FAA expects that the newly enacted Part 107 regulations will provide a quicker and cheaper alternative means of accessing the National Airspace System (NAS) for UAS use. The FAA estimates that the cost per user will be less than $200. Here are the ins and outs of the process.
The FAA enacted Part 107 to “harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.”2 Under Part 107, operators do not need a pilot’s license or medical certificate requirement.3 Moreover, Part 107 has no Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requirement,4 insurance requirement,5 and most importantly, no airworthiness certificate requirement.6
Part 107 does require that UAS:
- be limited to 25kg (55 lbs);
- be operated during daylight and civil twilight hours (if the UAS has appropriate collision lighting);
- have unaided visual-line-of-sight operations;
- not be operated over any persons not directly participating in the operation, nor under a covered structure, nor inside a stationary vehicle;
- yield right of way to other aircraft(s);
- be operated at no greater than 400 feet above ground level;
- must not have a groundspeed over 100 mph (87 knots);
- not operate in Class A airspace, nor in Class B, C, D, and E airspace without ATC permission;
- not be operated from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.7
In addition, operators of UAS must acquire a certification as a remote pilot (or be supervised by a remote pilot).8 To acquire a remote pilot license, the individual must be at least 16 years old, pass a knowledge test at a FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate,9 and clear the Transportation Security Administration security and threat assessment.
For those expecting rules governing delivery services (the “Amazon Rule”), Part 107 will not satiate your appetite. Although Part 107 does not allow for flight over people who are not part of “the operation,” it does allow for UAS to carry an external payload, so long as the total weight (UAS plus payload) does not exceed 55 pounds.10 In addition, the Senate has passed an aviation bill that would require the FAA to issue regulations within two years to enable drone deliveries.11
The FAA did not provide regulations regarding the privacy rights of third parties. The FAA stated that it “never extended its administrative reach to regulate the use of cameras and other sensors extraneous to the airworthiness or safe operation of the aircraft in order to protect individual privacy.”12 The FAA does encourages all UAS operators to consult local and state law before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography, and to consult the General Best Practice Guidelines issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regarding guidelines for privacy protection on a national scale.
The FAA prohibits careless or reckless operations in the NAS. All Part 107 operators are required to notify the FAA within 10 calendar days of an operation that results in a “serious” injury involving hospitalization or loss of consciousness, or property damage over $500.13
Part 107 requirements are not set in stone—far from it. Part 107 allows commercial operators to request a waiver of most operational restrictions, such as:
- operating from a moving vehicle;
- daylight operation;
- visual line-of-sight;
- visual observer;
- operations of multiple UAS;
- yielding the right of way;
- operation over people;
- operation in certain airspace; and
- operating limitations for UAS.14
The commercial user must be able to demonstrate that the proposed operation can be conducted safely under a waiver.
Finally, rest assured, hobbyists: The FAA did not forget to invite you to the party. Hobbyists must meet the operating requirements under Part 101, instead of Part 107. However, the FAA has stated that for enforcement purposes, hobbyists who do not meet Part 101 requirements will be considered operators under Part 107, and thus subject to civil penalty.
In sum, Part 107 eliminates many of the most cumbersome and expensive requirements currently imposed on commercial drone operators, including the requirement for Section 333 exemptions. In addition, the ability to waive most of Part 107’s operational requirements
allows commercial users to define their use of the NAS, so long as they do it in a safe and reasonable manner. So happy flying, drone enthusiasts. But before you do, make sure Part 107 becomes your new best friend.
DAVID CAMAROTTO is a shareholder at Bassford Remele, P.A. David is an accomplished litigator and represents individuals, insureds, and self-insured businesses in the defense of general liability, construction, and product liability matters. He is a member of the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys and is recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyer.
UZODIMA FRANKLIN ABA-ONU is an associate at Bassford Remele, P.A. Frank practices in all areas of civil litigation, with a focus on general liability, products liability, professional liability, and employment law.
1 Leland E. Beck, “Monday Morning Regulatory Review – 6/27/16: Drone Regulations Finally Fly; Hydraulic Fracking Rule Drilled; First Persuader Decision Unpersuaded; Compost Guidance Composted & Civil Monetary Penalties Adjusted,” Federal Regulations Advisory (6/26/2016). http://www.fedregsadvisor.com/2016/06/26/monday-morning-regulatory-review-62716-drone-regulations-finally-fly-hydraulic-fracking-rule-drilled-first-persuader-decision-unpersuaded-compost-guidance-composted-civil-moneta/.
2 Federal Aviation Administration press release, “DOT and FAA Finalize Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems” (6/21/2016), available at https://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm.
3 Peter Sachs, Esq., “Don’t bother with a 333. Wait for Part 107” (6/1/2016) dronelawjournal.com.
5 Federal Aviation Administration and Office of the Secretary of Transportation, Department of Transportation, “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” Final Rule (6/21/2016), at 497, available at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/06/28/2016-15079/operation-and-certification-of-small-unmanned-aircraft-systems. The FAA does recommend that remote pilots evaluate their existing insurance policies to determine whether they have appropriate coverage for their operations.
6 Id. at 569.
7 See 14 CFR Part 107.
8 Leland, supra note 1.
9 Press Release, supra note 2.
10 Final Rule, supra note 5 at 568.
11 Reuters, “The FAA Is Finally Going to Announce New Rules for Small Drones,” Fortune (6/21/2016), http://fortune.com/2016/06/21/faa-drones-rules/.
12 Final Rule, supra note 5 at 530. Exceptions apply to Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
13 14 CFR Part 107.9 (accident reporting).
14 14 CFR Part 107.205.