The FAA began issuing Part 107 waivers and airspace authorizations to drone operators starting Aug. 29, 2016, the effective date of the new rule.
As of Oct. 24, 2016, the agency has approved 81 authorizations for flights in Class D and E airspace, and has issued 36 waivers of Part 107 provisions to drone operators who applied after the rule’s effective date.
However, agency officials say they have found that many applications have incorrect or incomplete information.
Many applicants request too many waivers or request waivers for flights in types of airspace for which the FAA is not yet granting approvals. As a result, the agency has had to reject 71 waiver requests and 854 airspace applications.
It’s important for applicants to understand the information needed to make a successful safety case for granting a waiver, FAA officials said, noting the performance-based standards are available.
“For example, we clearly spell out the information required for a waiver to fly at night — one of the most common requests,” FAA officials said in a prepared release.
That information includes:
- Applicant must provide a method for the remote pilot to maintain visual line of sight during darkness.
- Applicant must provide a method for the remote pilot to see and avoid other aircraft, people on the ground, and ground-based structures and obstacles during darkness.
- Applicant must provide a method by which the remote pilot will be able to continuously know and determine the position, altitude, attitude, and movement of their small unmanned aircraft (sUA).
- Applicant must assure all required persons participating in the sUAS operation have knowledge to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness, and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision.
- Applicant must provide a method to increase conspicuity of the sUAS to be seen at a distance of 3 statute miles unless a system is in place that can avoid all non-participating aircraft.
The other performance-based standards also list exactly what the FAA needs to consider a waiver.
Without a detailed description of how the applicant intends to meet these standards, the FAA can’t determine if a waiver is possible, officials noted.
Operators should select only the Part 107 regulations that need to be waived for the proposed operation.
“Applicants also should respond promptly to any request we make for additional information,” officials said. “If the agency does not receive a response after 30 days, it will withdraw the request.”
Operators must apply for airspace authorizations on the same web page. The required information is spelled out in the waiver/airspace authorization instructions document.
Operators who want to fly in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace don’t need FAA authorization. The agency is currently processing requests to operate in Class D and Class E airport surfaces.
“We will begin to consider requests for Class C drone flights after Oct. 31 and for Class A airspace after Dec. 5,” FAA officials noted. “Applications to fly in those areas before the indicated dates won’t be approved.”
The Part 107 regulations provide a framework for unmanned aircraft operations.
“Waivers and airspace authorizations are an important part of making the new rule work as intended,” FAA officials said. “Applicants can help speed the process by making sure they make a solid, detailed safety case for any flights not covered under the small drone rule.”