When is Part 107 Insufficient?
Part 107 was always intended as a starting point, designed to allow as much as possible without compromising safety. In the longer term, the plan is to expand what is possible through full integration of UAS into the NAS. In the short term, though, the FAA established a part 107 waiver team to receive applications from operators to allow safe operations under specific conditions when a part 107 regulation is waived. When evaluating a waiver application, the FAA considers the specific operation, operator, and circumstances. This approach makes it possible to allow operations that would otherwise contravene the regulations. Here are the sections of part 107 that may be waived:
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft (§ 107.25)*
- Daylight operation (§ 107.29)
- Visual line of sight aircraft operation (§ 107.31)*
- Visual observer (§ 107.33)
- Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems (§ 107.35)
- Yielding the right of way (§ 107.37(a))
- Operation over people (§ 107.39)
- Operation in certain airspace (§ 107.41)
- Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft (§ 107.51)
*No waiver of this provision will be issued to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
As long as the FAA determines that the operations listed above can be conducted safely, the agency can issue a Certificate of Waiver for that operation. As an example, let’s say you have a client who wants aerial photos of a property at night. Section 107.29 does not permit this operation, but it may be possible to accommodate the operation under specific conditions (i.e., conduct some training on nighttime illusions, have an anticollision light installed, etc.).
When you are considering applying for a waiver, you need to remember that some sections of part 107 are not waivable. It is possible that there may be other solutions to allow your operation such as an authorization. But you need to ask, not guess.
When Does It Apply to Me?
Even if you are not receiving compensation, a hobbyist may still find it useful to have a remote pilot certificate. If a friend offers a few bucks for you to take some pictures of his house, you don’t have to worry about it. Or if another friend wants to compensate your drone-facilitated inspection of her home’s roof with a nice dinner out, you won’t have to decline. If you decide you want to use your UAS in your business, no problem.
It’s never a bad idea to expand your knowledge and your aviation repertoire, and the remote pilot certificate is a pretty easy way to do that and perhaps enjoy the bragging rights that come with any new certificate or rating.
Or, you could just follow the lead of famous mountaineer George Mallory, who chose to climb Mount Everest “because it’s there.”
James Williams is FAA Safety Briefing’s associate editor and photo editor. He is also a pilot and ground instructor.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.