UAS (Drone) Pilot Regulations

Kent S. Jackson | September 9, 2016
Tired of climbing into a cramped cockpit and contending with cumulonimbus and demanding passengers? Now you can make money piloting from the ground. Why not don a pair of fuzzy slippers, settle into a recliner and become a remote pilot in command (R-PIC)? Here is an overview of UAS Drone Pilot Regulations.

On June 28, 2016, the FAA officially published “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems; Final Rule,” which creates FAR Part 107 and amends numerous existing FARs. The new and amended FARs became effective on Aug. 29, 2016. The new rules govern UASs under 55 lb. employed in commercial applications. (The Academy of Model Aeronautics has protected the rights of the hobbyists to police themselves.)

Get the Rating

A current FAA-licensed pilot can become an R-PIC quickly (at least by government standards).
  • First, complete an online training course at //www.faasafety.gov
  • Fill out FAA Form 8710-13.
You can do those things without getting up from your recliner. However, after that you will have to leave the house to take your photo ID, completed Form 8710-13 and the online course completion certificate to an FSDO, CFI, Airman Certification Representative (ACR) or Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). Presumably only an FSDO will process your paperwork for free, but you will need to make an appointment. An FSDO, DPE or ACR can issue a temporary R-PIC certificate.

Aspiring UAS pilots without FAA credentials must take a longer aeronautical knowledge test and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) but otherwise will follow the same process as described above for current airplane pilots seeking R-PIC credentials.

UAS Drone Pilot Regulations – Operating Summary

Here is a summary of UAS operating limitations:
  • Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 kt.).
  • Maximum altitude of 400 ft. above ground level (AGL) or, if higher than 400 ft. AGL, remain within 400 ft. of a structure (bridge and tower inspections).
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 mi.
  • Daylight.
  • A small UAS can fly during civil twilight (except for Alaska, 30 min. before official sunrise and 30 min. after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission.
  • No operations from a moving aircraft.
  • No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.
  • A small UAS must yield the right of way to other aircraft.
  • No operations over non-participants.
  • Cloud clearance: 500 ft. below, and 2,000 ft. horizontally. (No distance to memorize for above the clouds-your drone is not supposed to be there.)
  • Visual line of sight
    • The FAA has established important visual line of sight guidelines. For a summary of those and other UAS Drone Pilot Regulations, click on the link below.
Click here for full article that originally appeared in Business and Commercial Aviation magazine