FAA Request for input

The FAA is proposing new drone regulations. They are asking for comments from drone operators, particularly commercial and fleet operators. ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY APRIL 15th. Any thoughts on what suggestions we should submit? I am just a hobby operator, and don’t fly as much as I would like, because of all the restricted airspace close to me. I certainly don’t want more cumbersome restrictions, but I know that more regulation is necessary.

More details can be found here in the DJI newsroom:

I reviewed the proposed rules and summarized it into these main points:

  • Current FAA regulations do not permit Part 107 operators to fly at night without a waiver

  • Current FAA regulations do not permit Part 107 operators to fly over a person who is not directly participating in the operation without a waiver

  • This rule proposes to allow routine operations over people without a waiver or exemption if:

    • (1) The drone weights less than 0.55 pounds. The FAA determined that small unmanned aircraft weighing less than 0.55 pounds pose a low risk of injury when operating over people.

    • (2) For drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds, the FAA proposes a set of performance-based requirements that would allow operation over people if the manufacturer can demonstrate that the injury would be below a certain severity threshold if the drone crashed into a person. The manufacturer would be responsible for designing the drone to meet the following:

      • Not to result in an injury as severe as the injury that would result from a transfer of 11 ft-lbs of kinetic energy from a rigid object

      • Drone would not have exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin

      • No drone could be operated over people if it has an FAA-identified safety defect

      • The manufacturer would be required to prove to the FAA that the drone met these injury threshold requirements

    • (3) For drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds, a second higher injury threshold category requires:

      • Not to result in an injury as severe as the injury that would result from a transfer of 25 ft-lbs of kinetic energy from a rigid object

      • No drone could be operated over people if it has an FAA-identified safety defect

      • Prohibits operation over any open-air assembly of people

      • Operations would have to be within or over a closed or restricted-access site and anyone within that site would have to be notified that a drone may fly over them.

      • For operations not within or over a closed or restricted-access site, the drone may travel over people, but it may not hover in place over people.

  • Additional requirements for manufacturers

    • Each manufacturer, including anyone who assumes the role of manufacturer after making modifications, provides remote pilot operating instructions to anyone to whom it sells, transfers, or otherwise provides the drone for use. The operating instructions would address what types of payloads are permissible.

    • Any manufacturer holding an FAA-accepted Declaration of Compliance allow the FAA to inspect the manufacturer’s facilities, technical data, and small UAS covered by that Declaration of Compliance to determine compliance.

    • The manufacturer must allow the FAA to witness any tests required for compliance.

    • A manufacturer holding an FAA-accepted Declaration of Compliance must establish a process to notify the public and the FAA of safety defects or other issues that would render the small UAS ineligible for operations over people.

    • The FAA would consider not only the original person or company that designed or built a drone to be a manufacturer, but also anyone who modifies it after the FAA accepted its Declaration of Compliance. For example, if an individual bought a small unmanned and modified it in a way that would change its performance so that it would not meet the requirements stated above, that person would be considered a manufacturer and would be required either to requalify the drone or cease operations over people.

  • Additional requirements for operators

    • Part 107 operators will be prohibited from flying over people in moving vehicles without a waiver.

    • Part 107 operators will be required to present his or her remote pilot certificate and identification in response to a request from the Administrator; an authorized representative of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer; and any authorized representative of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

    • The recurrent Part 107 knowledge testing requirement will be replaced with a requirement to complete an online recurrent training, which the FAA may tailor to address any knowledge areas in which the remote pilot needs improvement.

If you’re not flying under Part 107 (and never plan to) and don’t want to stop the FAA from forcing manufacturers to make their drones safer for operations that involve flying over people, then there is likely no benefit to you commenting.

I submitted what I thought was a complete and thurough application for a night waiver and got this letter back from the FAA.

This was my response to the letter and to my excitement the waiver was approved!

  1. Description: The proposed operation would be for night photography and after gaining a large amount of night experience would eventually like to move into SAR Operations. This waiver would allow me and at least 1 visual observer to fly at night for the purpose of night photography.
  2. Safety: In Classed Airspace I would attempt to ensure the local tower is aware. I would provide my location and approximate distance from the Airport center and in which direction I am from center. In the event of a flyaway, I will have communications established with the VO via cell phone or walkie talkie and would immediately dispatch the VO and other assistants if available to keep eyes on the SUAS and if possible to follow on foot or in a vehicle. If in classed airspace I would notify the airport control tower of the flyaway and if necessary the local authorities. I will fly a preplanned path via GPS waypoints. Prior to the night flight, this preplanned path will be flown in the daytime to check for obstructions or hazards that we may not be able to see at night. I will not fly over people in the open and through the daytime flight I will establish a safe altitude to fly that will allow safe clearances from any and all obstacles along the path. To ensure VLOS can be maintained, I have my SUAS outfitted with 4 “ARC” Cree Professional Series Strobe lights. It features 4 Cree lights in one unit with 3 lighting modes, Strobe, Flash, and a fixed (solid) mode. I have 4 of these lights installed on the SUAS 2 White, 1 Red, and 1 Green. Green (fixed) on the right leg, red (fixed) on the left leg, and 2 white (strobe), 1 on each back leg for 360° visibility. This should be more than adequate to satisfy FAA 107.29 compliant lights for night flights. The CREE bulbs give it clear visibility well in excess of the FAA 107 requirement for night flights (3+ SM Miles) and greatly helps in maintaining VLOS while in flight for the RPIC or a nearby manned aircraft pilot. There will be no close calls as I will yield and if necessary land in a predetermined area to avoid any and all manned aircraft. It features a 250 mhr battery rechargeable battery which provides approx 6 hours of run time in strobe mode and at least 4 hours in fixed mode.
  3. Visual illusions: I am an active private pilot and have studied how to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision. Although I have studied this previously, I have signed up for an online course on this topic and have passed the course with 100% score just to be on the side of safety. I am working on creating a 20 question test from the Pilots Handbook Of Aeronautical knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25B) similar to the online test I took. I will give this test to the VO as well as discuss and deficiencies once the test is completed. I will administer, grade, and retain a copy of the test for the duration of the operation / night waiver.

Maybe this will help someone trying to apply for a waiver.

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