The FAA is moving closer to delivering on it promise to “provide a framework for integrating new technology safely into our airspace.” The FAA Modernization Act of 2012, mandates a standardized and permanent system for governing commercial sUAS (small unmanned aerial vehicle system) in the national airspace. The FAA Part 107 rules will be a new option other than the 333 Exemption which is the only current system for commercial sUAS compliance. There are plenty of rumors about what Part 107 compliance will entail and all we have to go on are the proposed rules from the FAA.
Let’s first identify some key differences between proposed Part 107 and the 333 Exemption based on the FAA publication; Overview of Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
What’s different about Part 107?
No need for previously licensed FAA pilot as operator. The Part 107 aeronautical knowledge test contains only segments from the Private Pilot test that are relevant to sUAS operations and nothing more.
An extra VO (Visual Observer) is not required for flights. One operator is the only individual responsible for the flight and the location of the sUAS. This relieves the burden of having to employ a two man team but it does require a much more observant operator who is both watching the computer and the sUAS at all times.
No need for Air Traffic Control clearance in class G airspace. This is a big deal. In summary it means that uncontrolled airspace up to 500 feet is available to you. This would negate the need for a COA (certificate of authorization) unless you intend to fly near airports (A,B,C,D airspace) or in otherwise restricted spaces.
Proposed Part 107 Operator requirements
- Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. This would likely be your local flight school location
- Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
- Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
- Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
- Be at least 17 years old.
- Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
- Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
- Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.
When to expect Part 107 available and how to prepare; The estimates range from Spring of 2016 to Late 2016 but of the five FSDO’s (Flight Standards District Offices) we’ve spoken too, four of them expect to see the roll out in June of 2016.
The FAA has not yet released curriculum or study material for the Part 107 knowledge test. Meanwhile it would be a good idea to look into Private Pilot training literature from sources like your local student pilot program or online sources like AOPA.com, flight school sites, and Wikipedia. Get to know the airspace classifications (A,B,C,D,E,G), basic meteorology, air traffic control communications, and basic center of gravity calculations. RDOIC will keep you up to date as the FAA releases more details about Part 107 training opportunities.