UAS Operations Information

In spring of 2016, the FAA is expected to finalize and release new regulations with respect to the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems. The scope of these regulations is contained within the FAA’s Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

Currently, the FAA is not authorized to allow uncertificated pilots to operate any aircraft within the National Air Space (NAS), except where permission is granted to Public agencies and institutions under the provisions for a Certificate of Authorization (COA).

All aircraft operating under a Section 333 or COA within the national airspace must be certificated and registered.

Section 333

Operators operating under a Section 333 exemption, must have as their PIC, a pilot holding, at a minimum, a sport or recreational pilot’s license. Section 333 grants civil UAS operators permission to operate commercially. Once a Section 333 is obtained, the operator is granted a “blanket” Certificate of Authorization, restricted to 200 ft AGL, and is authorized to fly anywhere in the national airspace where other restrictions do not apply. These restrictions include areas near airports, other restricted airspace, and densely population areas. Operations within any restricted area requires a separate COA specific to the flight area.

Certificate of Authorization

Public agencies and institutes do not need to apply for a Section 333 exemption. Public agencies and institutions must apply for a Certificate of Authorization to operate a UAS in the National Air Space. For public agencies, the rating requirement for the PIC is dependent upon a variety of factors, including the size of the aircraft, the “mission profile,” the area of operations, and whether or not all operations are conducted within line-of-sight. The PIC must hold a private pilots license if , 1) operations exceed 400 ft. AGL, 2) operations are conducted in IFR conditions, 3) operations occur at night, 4) operations are within 5 NM of an airfield/airport, 5) operations require a chase aircraft, and/or 6) the FAA determines that the operations require a certified pilot. An uncertified pilot may be permitted to operate a UAS if, 1) the PIC has completed and passed the private pilot ground instruction and examination, 2) operations occur only during daylight hours, 3) operations occur in sparsely populated areas, 4) operations are performed form a privately-owned airfield, military installation, or off-airport location, 5) operations are approved by the FAA, occur only in Class G airspace, and are with-in line-of-sight, and 5) operations occur at or below 400 ft.

Model Aircraft Operators

Model aircraft operators are subject to specific regulations defined for RC operations. Model aircraft operators must, 1) not exceed 400 AGL, 2) remain within line-of-sight, 3) stay clear of and avoid manned aircraft, 4) not fly within 5 NM of an airport unless permission is given, 5) avoid people and stadiums, 6) not fly an aircraft exceeding 55 lbs, 7) not fly in a reckless manor, and 8) must not operate commercially.

This information was gathered from the FAA website: https://www.faa.gov