Kevin Morris was recently interviewed by the good folks at DroneU www.thedroneu.com. The drone lawyers at DLP have analyzed the interview and are providing the following thoughts and analysis. You can listen to the full interview at “Ask Drone You” here.
[Transcript & Legal Commentary provided by DLP].
Paul: Hey everyone. Welcome to another awesome episode of ‘Ask Drone U’. My name is Paul and today we the pleasure and honor of welcoming the FAA. Today, straight from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mr. Kevin Morris, who is the Director of Operations for the FAASTeam, but also a FSDO inspector? Kevin, welcome to the show and thank you so much for coming on.
Kevin: Oh, thanks for having me on. Pleasure to be here.
Paul: ….. You are answering questions and so many people want to know are you kind of an advocate within the FAA for Drone operators?
Kevin: So, it’s interesting. “Advocate”, I am not sure I’d use that word to describe me. Although I am very supportive of Part 107 and Unmanned Aircraft System Operations moving forward. I do not think that anybody should have the misunderstanding that Drones are something that are going to go away. They are really the future right now of aviation as we look at it.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: Kevin has been a leading voice in UAS integration, and providing real information to drone pilots about Part 107. The FAA has sometimes done a poor job providing real, practical information to the drone community so that drone service business and pilots can become operational, sell drone services and understand time frames.
One of my jobs is a FAASTeam Manager is to do education and outreach. I have done that through in-person seminars, jumped on this Pod cast with you, or Facebook groups like you mentioned. One of the key things, and I always bring this up, is that the FAA finally did their part. We got Part 107 released. It gives you the framework for you to go ahead and start operating commercially in the United States. Now the responsibilities is one the Drone community. How this works whether we need more regulations or we loosen some of the regulations is really on the Drone community shoulders.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: Creating industry standards beyond Part 107 will be key. However, the FAA needs to be much more transparent about how and when the FAA’s UAS regulations will be implemented. For instance, we are hearing that the FAA may not be done with implementing ‘real time’ airspace authorizations for some time.
Individual ATC facilities have been instructed to no longer authorize call in approvals, rather direct Part 107 operators to submit a waiver. The FAA is currently designing an automated web portal that will grant/deny operations based upon a UAS facilities map provided by each tower manager. THAT WON’T BE IMPLEMENTED EARLIER THAN 4TH QUARTER OF 2017!
…. We get the rules out there and we follow the rules to operate so that people can operate successful businesses. Part 107 will only get better. Unfortunately, you will probably go the other way, if we have a lot of rogue operators and we end up having a lot incidences with UAS.
Paul: … There is a lot of confusion around Part 107. I think that a lot of people expected that Part 107 would come out and squash the confusion, but it seems that even in some of the terminology that we see, even on the FAA website can sometimes confuse people. You’ve said, “Hey, I am going to come on this show and squash some of the confusion.” Some of those things that we are going to talk about is a term that is used interchangeably the COA (Certificates of Waiver or Authorization) vs CoW (Certificate of Waiver). As I like to say it, “Don’t have a cow just yet.” I want to talk about those nighttime waivers and those airspace authorizations. Can you help us to understand what the difference between an authorization and a waiver is?
Kevin: There are a few definitions that are out there floating out there and a lot of people use them interchangeably. The first ones that I want to get clear is the exemption. We have waivers and authorizations on our Web Portal, but we also have Exemptions. Exemptions is different than a Waiver. A Waiver is different than an ATC Authorization. An ATC Authorization is different than a COA. We have all of these terms that are being tossed around out there. We have folks on our side that use them a little interchangeably. Unfortunately, our website design through the Waiver Authorization Portal sort of is the same form – one big form – for really two very different requests. One Waiver. One Authorization. I wanted to clear that up a little bit. Under Part 107, the FAA has come forward and given a list of rules which are subject to Waiver. I do not recall the specific Part 107 rule, but it’s like Part 107.2? Something of that nature. At any rate, we list 9-10 different parts of Part 107 that can be waived and you touched on one of them which is Daylight Operations. If you want to operate your Drone at night you will need a Waiver from the Daylight Operation rule. So, I’ll explain Waiver first. A Waiver is a request from a user to not comply with a particular rule which the FAA has identified maybe subject to Waiver. Now, when you go to request a Waiver, the only method we have available right now is our online portal. Again, it is the same portal that people are going to use for their authorization requests. There are instructions on how to fill out that Request Form and there is also Performance Based Standards, which addresses every single one of those rules that the FAA has said it is open to Waiver and how somebody might submit a request in that. So example, if you go in there and you look at the Performance Based Standard document, it is a PDF document on that page. It will tell you the operator needs to address these issues when they submit their Waiver Request. On that same form, though, there is also an Authorization Request. An Authorization Request is not a Waiver. When somebody wants to operate in Class Echo to the Surface or Class Delta or in the future Class Charlie or Class Bravo Airspace, you are mostly likely not going to request a Waiver for that, you are going to request an Authorization. This is actually designed to be no different than a manned aircraft pilot radioing the tower, requesting permission to enter their airspace. So, what’s confusing for a lot of people is the one form, but it is two separate requests in there.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: Understanding how to strategically fill out the waiver form, and/or airspace authorization form is critical. The drone attorneys at Drone Law Pro offer free training here.
You have the Waiver and the Authorization. You can request an Airspace Waiver and what that means is that you are requesting relief from the rule that requires you to notify the ATC that you are going to operating in their airspace. As a rule of thumb, you probably won’t get that Waiver. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of too many very valid reasons why you should be able to fly in Class Delta Airspace and not everyone lets air traffic know that you are there. So when people want ATC authorization, they want it through the same portal, but it is an Authorization.
Finally, COA (or the Certificate of Operation) is a document issued by Air Traffic Control primarily for public use operations. In the UAS community, COAs were issued for both public use and 333 Exemption holders at the time. If you remember, 333 Exemptions came out and with that they got that blanket COA where you could request a specific COA to operate outside of that. I think they limited it to 200 feet initially. That is not what you are requesting when you submit your ATC Authorization Request. So, the Waiver, which I just explained, and the Authorization which is your request for ATC to operate in their airspace, the COA which is something you use for public and Triple 3 Exemption Holders, are all different. And on top of all of that is Exemption. What is an Exemption? That is a request or a petition to the FAA to not comply with their rule that the FAA has not deemed wave-able. So, if you look at Part 107.2?? Or what it might be. If you see all of those rules and if you want to, for example, get relief from having your Remote Pilot in Command. Having your Remote Pilot in command is not a waiver-able rule under Part 107. You need to file for an Exemption. All Exemptions are handled through Headquarters in Washington, D.C. folks. They are much more complicated than Waivers. I am glad that you asked that question, because there is a lot of confusion between Exemption, Waiver, Authorization and COA.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: Some drone pilots and consultant have theorized that the 333 Exemption is dead. It is not. There are still instances where you need to file an exemption with the FAA, as opposed to flying under Part 107, or obtaining a Part 107 Waiver.
Paul: There definitely is. I know a lot of people are trying to get blanket authorization, as you mentioned. The other day you put out this handy dandy form which says, “If you are looking to fly and get ATC Authorization in Class Delta or Class Echo Airspace that you have these Rules of Thumbs or a good Rule of Thumb to follow.” Do you want to go over this really quick? I know that you may not have it in front of you, but you were talking about in 0-2 miles currently not granting any sUAS Authorizations. Correct?
Kevin: To expand on this a little bit, one of the biggest frustrations that I hear from the UAS community, across the board. Probably the number one frustration that people have is the ATC Authorization process. Nobody likes it. It takes too long. There is no way you know that you are doing it 90 days in advance. So, weekly I get on internal briefings. One of our internal briefings had an Air Traffic individual who was involved in the process of, I am not sure if he was directly involved in approving or denying the ATC requests, but certainly was involved in the process of how the system is designed. One of the things he said was we have this airspace grid. Every airport has this airspace grid. The grid is to find out different altitudes and locations. Since, we do not have any of those published, a good rule of thumb is… that’s where I took down those notes.
So right now, the rule of thumb is if you are requesting an ATC Authorization in Class Echo to the surface airspace or Class Delta for 0-2 miles, you will most likely be denied at this time.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: This is new and important information. Drone lawyers are trying to determine what the FAA will, and will not, allow. Because of a lack of transparency by the FAA, it has been difficult to understand where the edges of waiver and authorization may be. If you are within two miles of the airport, you do not appear to be in good shape to receive airspace authorization especially at higher altitudes. The closer you are to the airport, the lower altitude (AGL) you should be requesting from the FAA.
Paul: Got you. But 2-3 miles on the average operations could be granted say up to about 100 feet?
Paul: Now let me ask you about timeframe. I have been hearing a lot of issues as well concerning timeframe and not trying to jump around. You said there are concerns in the community and I am aware of those as well. Someone said, “Do you really have to put an Authorization Request in 90 days prior to the operation itself?”
Kevin: Well, let me give you the good government answer on this one. I’ll try to explain the best I can too so everybody can start screaming at their screens or their iPhones when they start hearing this Pod cast as this point. We have to have some sort of guidance for us when we process Waivers or Authorizations to say that, “We will get it done, no matter what, within this time frame.” Waivers have always been 90 days. In so, what happened in the manned aircraft world worked well for a long, long time and now we are switching to the immediacy of the UAS operations – US operations while circling your aircraft operated by pilots in the National Airspace System. They are not similar to manned aircraft in terms of missions nor flight time. There are some serious differences.
So yes, the only authorized way for you to receive an ATC Authorization for Class Delta or Class Echo to the surface at this time. Keep in mind Class Charlie and Class Bravo Airspace are not up and running yet for Authorizations.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: THE FAA has already missed its deadline for granting Class C airspace authorizations. Here is what the FAA has said “he agency is currently processing requests to operate in Class D and Class E airport surfaces. We will begin to consider requests for Class C drone flights after October 31 and for Class B airspace after December 5. Applications to fly in those areas before the indicated dates won’t be approved.” Of course, the process remains slow and uncertain making it very difficult for drone operators to run successful business operations.
You must submit your request through the online portal. We request that you do that with at least 90 days lead time to give us to go through that. So, here’s where everybody is shaking their head, fist, yelling at their screen. Let me just say this, we realize that’s not working as we were hoping it would. In talking with the air traffic individual, on the last briefing, I brought this up. I specifically brought up the point of these 90 days lead times are not working out. They are not practical for UAS. So here is the answer. Love it or hate it, but this where we are at right now. The system is not working as well as we have wanted it to. The goal has always been for ATC Authorizations to be as near real time as we could possibly get. Meaning, you submit your request and within minutes you get a response back authorizing or denying or requesting further information for your request. Obviously, we are nowhere that right now.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: Again. We are hearing that it could be late 2017 before the FAA integrates its ATC maps into the ATC authorization process. This is unacceptable. No business scan operate without much better lead times, than 90 days.
Kevin: Let me stop you and ask you a question real quick. Do you think that the lead time issue and the current implementation time issue is because Washington, D.C. or Headquarters has taken over these Airspace Authorization Request, whereas, they would normally going through your local ATC officer?
Paul: I think you could make arguments on both sides and here I would present that. For one particular tower, they might get one Part 107 Authorization Request every couple of weeks, maybe. Not such a big deal. You have other air traffic facilities that would probably 15 a day. The air traffic facilities at those airports are not designed to handle those types of requests. Obviously, they cater to manned aircraft first, because they are flying the sky. They got to get them on the ground. They have to keep the manned aircraft people separated, because when two manned aircraft bump into each other its considerably worse than two unmanned aircraft bumping into each other, in terms of potential lives lost. You have a risk. You have priorities in air traffic group and organization and they are designed and built and procedures driven to handle real time requests that way. UAS presents a different type of a request. In generally speaking, as you know Paul, most UAS requests are probably not anywhere near interfering with manned aircraft. But on the one side of the coin, if you have a facility that is getting 15-20 requests a day by people calling in on the telephone or trying to radio with a hand held mic that would really have negative impact on safety. Their job it to keep airplanes apart.
Paul: Well it would probably have a negative impact if you have people talking on the radio who haven’t really been real versed on how to communicate with the tower. The worse thing that could happen is you’ve got a radio operator trying to explain to someone over the radio how to operate the radio and that could be a significantly troublesome. So, alright, the light at the end of the tunnel here. You guys are trying to make this an instantaneous process. You are trying to make it so I can hop on my iPhone. I can say instead of calling you about, Kevin, I need some airspace authorization right now. I doubt you would answer the phone, ha-ha, but you are trying to make it so that in time, I do not know when that time is, we will be able to go on our phone, we will be able to say where we want to fly and get permission to fly almost instantaneously. Is that correct?
Kevin: That is correct. That has always been the goal. Honestly, has to be the goal that we reach. The one thing that we are working on now is the update I got. We are reaching out to contractors and vendors to get bids on developing an App for your mobile device or tablet, so that you could open up the App and it would be an automated process. So the grid maps will be developed. They will be put into a system and coordinated against GPS reference point where you will open up your App and you are standing in the location where you want to operate in. Let’s say it is 3.7 miles away from the airport center of a Class D airport and you need to go up to 100 – 200 feet and you put that information into the App, it goes to the server, it compares it against that grid map and kicks you back, and for a lack of better description, a green light, and you are good to go.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: This is great news, but only if it get’s implemented in the near term. THE FAA made a big deal about implementing Part 107. But the truth is that the FAA misrepresented the Part 107 implementation by failing to tell people that they would not be in a position to timely grant airspace authorizations in controlled airspace any time soon. Even worse, the FAA has provided virtually no information about how many airspace requests are backlogged in the system.
It gives you a timeframe for the next 30 minutes or something of that nature. Or it may give you a red light. Nope. They have an arrival or approaching aircraft. You cannot go on that particular spot at that particular time or may need more customer information. We are aware of the issue. Believe me, I here and I feel for everyone out there in the UAS community right now. Trying to do this the right way. I appreciate it. I cannot thank you guys enough for using the portal and doing this the right way. We are still playing catch up in some areas and this being one of them. Unfortunately, this gives people the most heartburn, but definitely our goal and again we have to reach this goal is to make this as near to instantaneous as we can.
Paul: Well, we definitely appreciate that. There are a lot of people that are frustrated, but there is one thing I would love to see the FAA do and if you had a magic wand you would probably make this happen. I would love to see the FAA work more closely with just general UAV operators instead of these big lobbying groups that really represent different intentions then just regular UAS operations and I am saying because I am sure some of your colleagues are going to end up watching this. Dear FAA Colleagues, I would really love to see a nice a little group of UAS operators small time guys helping provide feedback, because I think that that could be really beneficial to have a nice open line of communication from our operators to you guys.
As far as everything that you have said about getting authorizations, it’s going to be almost difficult to impossible to get really a blanket authorization. I know that you had mentioned that, but I just wanted to make this very clear to everyone. So pretty much, if we want to try a get a blanket authorization, say 2-5 miles out, it’s not going to happen correct?
Kevin: Yes, it is really tough. There are two types of blanket authorization that we see come in. First, they want an authorization for most of a chunk of controlled airspace. I want to offer my UAS from 2-4 miles out. Anywhere around the airport up to 400 feet. Probably you will not get that approved as a blanket authorization.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: This is really important. The online system allows you to ask for blanket authorization within a 3 mile radius for a period of years. However, the FAA is apparently not willing to grant those requests. Instead, they want you to identify the flight operation dates and times, along with the location.
The other ones you are going to see come in will be they will put a reference point, but then they will draw out a 50 mile radius encompassing three different Class Deltas and eight different Class Echoes to the surface and say here is my point and her is my radius and I want to go up to 400 feet in all of these areas. That’s the other type of authorization that’s not going to be approved. Keep in mind that when you are submitting your authorization request, air traffic wants to handle you as close as they can to manned aircraft. Meaning, they want to know where you are, how high you are, how long you will be there and when you will be on the ground? So if you get to broad of a request, like a blanket area, it makes it awful difficult for them to know when you are flying and when you flying at and how high you are at when they have manned aircraft traffic coming in and out.
Paul: …. how does the FAA feel about local ATC authority giving official or unofficial permission for a UAS operator to operate in that immediate airspace.
Kevin: Let me jump back to my government answer. Sorry to do this twice on Pod Cast. The only recognized method to request an ATC authorization is our online portal. This is the combined Waiver and Authorization portal that you are going to on FAA.gov.
Drone Lawyer Enrico Schaefer’s Comment: Part 107 only requires ATC permission, and does not preclude direct contact with ATC. The FAA is trying to get the ATC towers to cooperate with their internal preference that drone pilots use the website.
Kevin: …. But here is the problem. Air Traffic has been instructed through their own guidance and their own procedures not to approve it. So, the official answer is we do not want Part 107 operators calling the tower directly via the phone or via a 2-way hand held radio. Now if you look at the rule in Part 107 it talks about receiving an authorization by ATC, it doesn’t specify how.
Paul: That is where I was going.
Kevin: The rule itself wouldn’t necessarily prevent you from picking up the phone, calling your local tower and saying, “Hey Dianna I would like to operate in Class Delta airspace.” We have guidance and we have procedures on the air traffic FAA side, which instructs controllers to redirect you to the Authorization Portal. So, if you were going to try to do that and try to circumvent the process, and you picked up the phone and called the tower. That particular tower operator was feeling a little bit savvy today and they were going to say, “You know what Paul I do not care, go ahead. It doesn’t matter to me. Go fly your UAS in my Class Delta airspace that I really do not really care.”
Paul: Which has happened, as you know, you have heard it from other stories. It has happened.
Kevin: Yes, this is definitely happening. Now the chance of the Flight Standards District Office Inspector finding out about that and running out there and dealing with it is probably pretty low. But if something were to happen, let’s say you had a lost link procedure, you had a fly away with your small unmanned aircraft and it hit something else and it somehow made it in the news and somehow got the attention. One of things that the FAA does, in addition to how’s it best getting the event itself with the operator, would be to look at the air traffic. It is in their airspace and their responsibility and if they find that there is a particular air traffic controller who has stepped outside the bounds of guidance, has not followed direct procedure, they really put themselves out there kind of on a their own pedestal all by themselves because they are not following our guidance. It is not unique to Air Traffic Control. The same with FAA Inspectors doing a ramp check. If we stop pulling well outside our guidance on a ramp check, then we are really sticking our own necks out there. So, while there is nothing to prevent you from trying to circumvent the rules, as a professional I request that you do not do that. Air Traffic has been instructed to redirect you to the portal, so you should not be getting authorizations from them for trying to circumvent that process.
Paul: A problem with the current airspace authorizations is the fact that a lot of the guys who, let’s just say, without generalizing, they are unhappy for whatever reason. They decide to operate illegally whether they say, “Screw the whole Part 107 process or screw the whole ATC thing.” A lot of people are wondering what is being done about that. The perception, in our Drone U community and the perception in some of the communities that you are part of online. These illegal operations are only growing where we thought after Part 107 they would retract. What is being done, Kevin, and what is the best route if someone sees an illegal operator? What’s the best thing to do?
Kevin: Another good question. When we look at illegal UAS operations, we look at it in terms of that what that air traffic controller might have told you. We look at it as risks to the National Airspace System. We also need to look at it in terms of personal resources. How many people do we have to go out there? The odds of us happening to be in the field and see an UAS operation and then go up and find that it is an illegal operation, conduct an enforcement investigation, process it, and prosecute it in court. It is probably slim for us going out there to catch it. We just do not have the man power to just be standing out there. Unlike manned aircraft, UAS flight times are 15 minutes on average, maybe, before you’ve got to start coming back down. It is a short, short duration of legal activity. Where we get a lot of complaints are the continued short durations of legal activity. No, it’s not just one time. Is this individual doing this again and again and again? He might even have a website and they are advertising prices and uploaded their videos, so they are running an entire business outside of Part 107. We want to know about those guys. Contrary or maybe there are some rumors out there or maybe what you feel or believe, we do want to know. Illegal UAS operations need to be investigated and they need to be dealt with. We do not look at it in terms of because it is going to save your business or it will get rid of your competition because they are out there doing it for half the cost because they do not carry insurance for example. We look in terms of endangering the NAS. You know what it took to get a Remote Pilot Certificate. You know the studying it took. You probably cursed a few times at the FAA. Why do I need to know that? You took that written exam. You are look this is the most ridiculous questionnaire and doesn’t even make sense for UAS. There is a reason that every question is in there.
Paul: I feel “metarded”. That’s all I have to say.
Kevin: So, those folks going out there who are not Remote Pilot certified and are not operating a registered UAS are not safe. They are endangering the NAS. We need to know about it. So what do you do? Every state has a Flight Standards District Office. My recommendations would be to gather the evidence, gather the information, and supply that to the Office. I would say and I would legitimately speak for the Minneapolis FSDO, but I believe that every other FSDO’s are doing the same. We investigate very report we get. So, every time we get a report of an illegal UAS activity it doesn’t go into some circular file or in the junk email on our email servers. We have to investigate it. Not everyone is going to be a huge multi-million dollar fine or we do not kick doors in and compensate drones. Many people probably wish we could.
Paul: I don’t.
Kevin: We do investigate every single one. It is very, very difficult for the investigating inspector if you call up the FSDO and you say, “Hey, this guy was flying a drone doing a photo shoot of an event.” Let’s say it is a concert. “I saw him do it.” It is really tough for us to follow up and prove all sorts of evidentiary items to submit to court. Items of proof. Things like that. We need as much information as you can, which is why, a lot of times we recommend that you contact law enforcement. Two reasons. One, they will get there far quicker than any FAA Inspector could every dream of getting there. By the time you call us and tell us that there is an illegal UAS activity going on, to we jot down the notes, until we check our government car and we get into the parking lot to drive. I mean, it’s like 20 minutes probably before we even get out of the parking lot. By then the things down, in the case, in the trunk, and gone. Law enforcement can get there much quicker. We ask law enforcement, and we have guidance for them, to get information about the operator. Where it happened? When it happened? The type of UAS. If it was registered or not registered? Submit a police report. Then we can use that as our primary item of proof in a case against an illegal UAS operation. We do not ask the law enforcement to confiscate the UAS. We do not have the authority to do that. So that is what we need from the community. It has to be a much more community policed event, because we just do not have 20,000 FAA Inspectors. I think the last time I check we had around 3,600 totals for the entire country. We cover everything from airline operations all the way to UAS and amateur rockets. We are stretched thin on personnel. But rest assured when you call in or when you report potential illegal UAS activity, we investigate it every single time.
Paul: Good to know. Very good to know. Let’s move into some happier, not so intense subjects. One of the questions I had is on AC 107-2. I think it was in Appendix Bravo or Charlie, cannot really remember. One of the questions I have for you is in there it talks about records keeping, log books, and maintenance logs. I understand the importance of maintenance logs. If I do not know how many hours I have in on a particular propeller, I could literally lose that propeller from tracking too much. For those of you who are listening that do not know what “tracking” on a propeller is, then Google that. If my propeller tracks too much and I could have a failure, I could lose the whole drone. I think the argument on line is, is it actually law to keep a log and maintenance books? If it is, what type of log and maintenance books are going to be acceptable? Where am I going with this – analog vs digital?
Kevin: Sure, there is no rule under Part 107 which requires you to maintain a log book. We do not require you to log your flight time. We do not require you to log components service time, directly. Now, we obviously have rules about pre-flighting your UAS prior to flight. Assuring that it is in a safe condition for flight. As you pointed out Paul, one of the things we like to see in aviation – manned aviation, everything is logged. We have some laws under Part 61 which requires some amount of flight time, so many hours and so many days and things like that. Even though we do not have for Part 107, it would absolutely be considered best practice to continue that tradition so to speak. If I were running a UAS business, I would wanna be able to tell my potential customers that I have got so many thousands of hours of UAS operation to build up my business model. Say you want to hire me, because I have more experience than anybody else around. From the safety and risk management stand point, when you unpack that UAS out of its case and you get ready to go, how do you know how many hours you may have on that particular propeller, bearing, or the serve ball, or the battery life? Does the battery have a useful life? So those types of things to me would necessitate having a log book. The short answer is ‘no’. We do not require you track flight hours, but I tell you from a risk management stand point, Paul like you mentioned, it’s a great idea. If you have a component that has an effective life for 50 hours. Let’s say you have been flying for 4 months straight. It’s been a busy summer and you have a lot of UAS activity going on. You are flying your last flight and that propeller comes off. Snaps! It loses its composure to land. Whatever happens? You lose control of the UAS and it crashes. You are probably going to get a visit from a FAA Inspector.
Paul: From you.
Kevin: Could be from me. One of the questions they would ask or I would ask is simply, how many hours did you have on that propeller? You’ve got a manufacturer maintenance practice manual that says you are going to replace every 50 hours and if your answer is, “I do not know”. I have been flying a lot all summer long and I have no idea how many hours I have on that propeller. Do you think that that is a good safety procedure? Do you think you did an adequate pre-fly on the device? Do you really think it was safe for flight? If you have no idea how many hours you have on a particular component and the manufacturer of that component is saying time out, we need to fix it and every 50 hours you need to replace it. Whether you think it is broken or not. For safety purposes. So, absolutely keeping a log book is a fantastic idea. Highly recommend you do it. But know that it is not regulatory required.
Paul: Good to know. Thank you for clarifying that. Last question, I promise the bloody match will be over soon. Flying on a Section 333 UAS exemption vs a Part 107, there are still some companies out there who still have their Section 333’s. I’ve seen the fact they have expiration dates on them. We could run into an instance where if you have a big enough UAS business and you have one team operating under Section 333, because they have an actual Part 61 pilot out there. They are doing their own thing. Another guy in the business got his Part 107 and he is out working in the field. The question is how does the FAA look upon businesses that operate dually under the Section 333 exemption and 14 CFR Part 107? The reason why I ask that is because if I understand it correctly, the Section 333 Exemption is actually saying that your UAS is exempt from the Part 91 and Part 61 operating rules of the National Airspace System. Could you clarify that for us?
Kevin: Sure, another really good question. That has to do with a lot of confusion out there. If you hold a Section 333 Exemption right now and it is still valid. Like you pointed out Paul there are expiration dates on them. Just as a side note, when they expire if it is a standard Section 333 Exemption, meaning you didn’t have anything fancy in there, it will probably drop dead on that date. As most people realize, Part 107 was far more permissive than most of the Section 333 Exemptions ever were. Just look at the pilot and command requirements between them.
Paul: The distance requirements make a difference.
Kevin: Absolutely. So, if you have a Section 333 Exemption and its valid now it’s still valid. If you also hold a Remote Pilot Certificate, you could operate under Part 107. The way the FAA looks at the UAS flights is on a flight-by-flight basis. That is no different than saying you are a hobbyist or whether you a Part 107 or Section 333, prior to flight, you have to decide what category you are going to operate under. You may have a UAS and its Saturday and you want to fly it for fun, you do not have to comply with Part 107. My mission for today is that I am just going for fun. I am going to a field and I am just going to drive it around because I enjoy flying my UAS. That is perfectly. You could say, “You know what my Section 333 Exemption gives me permission because let’s say I have a COA a specific COA attached to my Section 333. I could get into this area where, boy the FAA has been drafting their feet on their airspace authorizations and it is taking forever. Therefore, I am going to use my COA or my Section 333.” Prior to flight you say, “I am going to use my Section 333 Exemption”. When you do that, you must comply with every condition and limitation in your Section 333 Exemption. Part 107 does not apply to that flight. Now that is same thing for the UAS you just flew for fun and as a hobby on the weekend, but now you are flying the same UAS under your Section 333 Exemption. Obviously, meaning the fact that it was listed under your Section 333 Exemption and registered and all of that good stuff. Finally, if you held a Remote Pilot Certificate as well, you could say, “You know what; my Section 333 Exemption has too many conditions and limitations on it. Where it will prevent me from doing this flight, but under Part 107, I have a Remote Pilot I can operate my UAS under Part 107 and fly this mission here. So I am going to take off and fly under Part 107. Every one of those scenarios, let’s say, involve the same legally registered UAS and everyone one of them would be ok. The only thing you cannot do is combine the two (Section 333 Exemption and Part 107). I am going to operate this mission under Part 107 because I do not want to have to go and find a Part 61 Certified Pilot to fly it and I am going to use my COA from my Section 333 Exemption to get me into this particular restricted air space. That is where you cannot do it. They have to be individual categories that you are operating under. It is under mission-by-mission or flight-by-flight basis.
Paul: Wow, you couldn’t have answered that question any better my friend. I think that really help set the stage for what is expected. Are there any points that you would like to hit while you are on this show? You have a big audience to talk to. Any particular things that you would like to get across right now? Any statements of the current state of affairs?
Kevin: I think that we are at a unique turning point in aviation and in history of aviation. Unmanned aircraft have been around for a very long time. It’s the unmanned portion of flying devices isn’t really new. I think you could go back towards the end of WWII and they had unmanned aircraft flying around.
Paul: 1955, Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Kevin Somebody knows his UAS history. That is impressive. What we are seeing with the advancement of technology that UAS has grown with leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. What I like to tell people is know everything you can about the air space you are operating in and the rules you are operating under. Because, while you may not think it is a big deal. If you are flying your UAS here and it ends up crashing on a road or hitting a car, I can all but promise you that the local news media will think it is a hug deal. “Drone Crashes into Car on Highway”. It will be their lead story most likely. It is a hot topic right now. Go back to my very point that I made. One of the first thing I said to you in the Pod Cast is that it is really up to the UAS community to make sure that their members are educated, operating correctly, doing things safe, and mitigating as much risk as they can. If we do that as a community and as a regulating body, like the FAA and we work together on this, the future looks really, really bright. It is quite exciting. It is just kind of like; I cannot imagine what is happening in the next 10 years with UAS. But again, the other side of that coin, if it is a bad deal and we are crashing them. We have a lot of bad operators out there, or we have a lot people saying, “You know it just forget the rules and I am going to do it my way.” It could really go the other way and we could see a lot more regulation. So, yeah, it’s a big growing industry and I am excited for it. I love doing the education piece of it. I do a lot of webinars. Obviously jumping on this Pod Cast was huge. I really appreciate the time to be able to come on the air and talk UAS.
Paul: We appreciate it to. When you said education, community, self-policing. For a second I thought was it and endorsement for Drone U?! Excuse me. Ha! Ha!
Kevin: I am going to get called out on the carpet for that one. As a FAA guy.
Paul: I know. That is why I am just giving you a hard time. Kevin, thank you so much for coming on this show. Thank you for trying to clarify these positions, these issues. I know you guys are doing a lot to make it right. I know we really appreciate that. I know that the FAA’s new App. How long do you think it will take for that to be implemented?
Kevin: That’s a million dollar question there. I was told they were shooting for 6 months to have the prototype developed and then 6 months after that to be released for use. Within the next 12 months? I can imagine people shaking their heads at this Pod Cast saying it’s the government right?! Twelve months you have to multiple it by the government factor of four, so four years from now. I would like to think that we are doing better than that. We are certainly trying, but my hope is that within the next 12 months that that App would be live and functional for the UAS community.
Paul: Well, you know what I want from Christmas is an App from the FAA. I am kidding. Kevin, thank you so much for coming on this show. If you would like to know more about Kevin, again he is part of the FAASTeam on the FAA website. I actually recommend that you become a member of the FAASTeam. They send you information about upcoming TFRs, potential anti-GPS testing. For example here in the Southwest, I get those emails all the time which really help me plan out when I need to go out and fly. I recommend that you become part of the FAASTeam and you may even get some emails from Kevin yourself. Kevin, thank you so much for coming on the show. We do greatly appreciate it.
Kevin: I appreciate it Paul. Thanks for having me on.
Paul: Thanks. That’s going to do it for us today. You heard Kevin. Education is key. Make sure you share this Pod Cast with someone and could clarify a lot of the issues that are going on in the community as a whole. Thank you always for listening. If you have a question, go to askdroneu.com and upload it right away. That’s going to do it for us today, my Paul and this is Ask Drone U.
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