The sUAS Rule Rundown

logoFAAPart 107: The NPRM That Changed the Rules

Drone enthusiasts, operators, educators, regulators, and business people got what they asked for in the proposed rules to Part 107. The NPRM as proposed by the FAA is a huge step forward in codifying the regulations necessary for success in the drone industry. While most of the changes were expected and leaked by sources late last year, there were some pleasant surprises in this publication. Among these are the changes to visual observer requirements, operator requirements, and speed requirements.

This NPRM is a well written, well thought through rule that brings Small UAS flights into a more protected, less uncertain operational landscape. This will remove the need for any ATC or FAA operational involvement (CoA) for any Class G airspace environment while also removing many airworthiness standards currently necessary for flight. This is the biggest win for the drone industry, in that the only way to operate a small UAS commercially is to receive a Section 333 Exemption for airworthiness of an aircraft and then also receive a Certificate of Authorization or Waiver. Any operation of a 55 Lbs or lighter aircraft, below 500 Feet AGL, within Visual Line-Of-Sight, less than 100 MPH, in Class G airspace can take place without those items. This is the biggest win for the drone pilots in the US and should be lauded as a huge step forward.FAA-AIRSPACE-CLASS2

I am listing below the major accomplishments of this NPRM in an easy to read lineup. Hopefully it will shed light on how to approach the proposed rule. Further, anyone interested should make sure to add a reply to the proposed rule during the 60 day comment period as the FAA takes into account all comments and recommendations carefully. For example, I will be looking at how risk mitigation can be proven in a variety of ways, and how Safety Management Systems for Remotely Piloted Aircraft should be considered a necessary safety contribution for larger organizations using Unmanned Systems in their operations.

Operational Requirements

  • sUAS qualifies as any unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 Lbs
  • Visual Line of Sight only (VLOS)
  • Operator must be able to see the aircraft
  • Cannot operate over those without knowledge of the operation
  • Day-light only (sun up to sun down)
  • Yield Right-of-Away to manned aircraft or large unmanned aircraft
  • Visual Observer is not required
  • 100 Miles per Hour Max speed
  • Operations must remain below 500 Ft. AGL
  • Weather visibility of 3 miles or better
  • Class A airspace is off-limits
  • Class B,C,D, and E airspace require ATC permission
  • Class G Airspace is open game
  • No Careless or reckless operations (Pirker Case option for Civil Penalty)
  • Pre-flight inspection is mandatory (This is Great!)
  • microUAS option may be possible to enable flight over people not involved in the operation

DraganFly GCS

Operator Requirements

Pilots are now called “Operators”

  • Must pass aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved testing center (This is a big deal folks!)
  • TSA must vet the operator (This will require a new process)
  • Operators must pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months
  • Be at least 17 Years old
  • Make available documents/records/airframe
  • Report an Accident within 10 days of an operation resulting in injury or damage
  • Conduct preflight inspection of all system components


  • No Airworthiness Certificate is required
  • Aircraft must be in safe flying condition
  • Aircraft marking are required, largest practicable manner. (This means non-anonymity!)
  • Model Aircraft are not part of these rules

Well, that is about it for the most generic overview that everyone will be able to provide. For more in-depth analysis please feel free to contact me directly and I’ll be happy to answer questions. These regulations, when all is said and done, are a great step forward to full integration as the industry develops better technology for things like sense-and-avoid, battery life, etc. all leading to great risk mitigation.

I plan on running through the document periodically, so please stay tuned as we explore the ramifications, unintended consequences, and positive reinforcements that this NRPM (and eventual rule) provides.

As for me? I am off to Tunisia to teach Human Factors for Unmanned Aircraft. Bon Voyage!


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