Aug. 29, 2016

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Business aviation stakeholders will soon see the results from years of collaboration between regulators and industry representatives, including NBAA, to establish rules for the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for a variety of commercial missions. On Aug. 29, Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 14 CFR Part 107, which governs commercial use of any UAS weighing less than 55 pounds, will take effect.

“The implementation of Part 107 is a milestone toward the sensible introduction of small UAS into the national airspace system,” said Bob Lamond, NBAA director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “Collectively, these regulations provide the formal and sophisticated regulatory structure that many NBAA members have been waiting on to implement their own UAS operations.”

Initially, Part 107 allows sUAS operators to fly without ATC authorization in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. For flights near airports and other controlled airspace, the agency has published JO 7200.23, which provides direction to ATC facilities on how to classify their respective airspace for sUAS operations.

Due to the anticipated large volume of requests to operate sUAS in controlled airspace around airports, the FAA will phase in approvals for such operations over the next few months. Processing of authorization requests to fly in Class D (and E Surface) airspace will begin on Oct. 3, followed by requests to fly in Class C airspace on Oct. 31 and Class B airspace on Dec. 5.

Commercial sUAS operators must submit requests to operate in the various classes of controlled airspace via the FAA’s UAS web resource, starting Aug. 29. Responses will come from FAA officials at first, but the agency hopes to streamline the process through an automated system in 2018.

“ATC facilities have already started mapping airport distance and altitude clearances for sUAS operations, and feedback from FAA officials indicates that they’re on track to meet those implementation dates,” said Lamond. “The agency has also added dedicated manpower [to handle operator requests]. With experience, the turnaround time for approvals should decrease.”

In addition to establishing remote-pilot certification requirements, Part 107 restricts sUAS operations to a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level, in daytime VFR conditions, and within visual line-of-sight of the operator or observers. Those and other restrictions can be waived, however, following review by the FAA.

JO 7200.23 also includes provisions for operation of larger unmanned aircraft systems flown at higher altitudes, as well as Part 91 UAS operations.

Review NBAA’s UAS resources.