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News and Updates – FAA, UAS Partners Complete Successful Demos

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NASA and their partners in a pilot program that is laying the groundwork for an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) traffic management system successfully demonstrated how such a system can work in the future.

The demonstrations, conducted at three separate test sites selected by the FAA for the UAS Traffic Management Pilot Program (UPP), showed that multiple, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations can be safely conducted at low altitudes (below 400 feet) in airspace where FAA air traffic services are not provided.

As demand for low altitude drone use increases, the FAA, NASA and the UPP partners are working together to accommodate these operations safely and efficiently.

In January, the FAA selected three UPP test sites: the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (VT MAAP), the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) in Grand Forks, N.D., and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) in Las Vegas, Nev.

  • The first demonstration, which involved the VT MAAP, took place at Virginia Tech on June 13.

    During the demonstration, separate drone flights delivered packages, studied wildlife, surveyed a corn field and covered a court case for TV. Because the flights were near an airport, all four flight plans were submitted through a service supplier and received approval to launch as planned.

    While these flights were being conducted, an emergency helicopter needed to quickly transport a car crash victim to a hospital. The helicopter pilot submitted a request for a UAS Volume Reservation (UVR)an alert used to notify nearby drone operators of the emergency.

    The deliveries were re-routed until the UVR was completed. The wildlife study, field survey and court coverage continued safely away from the helicopters path.

    Each operation was conducted without conflict.

  • The second demonstration, which involved the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), took place in Grand Forks on July 10.

    During the demonstration, which occurred near an airport, a photographer and Part 107 drone operator took photos of firefighter training. An aviation student at the University of North Dakota used a drone to scan for the best tailgating location. Another Part 107 operator, employed at the electric company, used a drone to assess power line damage after recent strong winds.

    The two Part 107 operators submitted flight plans due to their proximity to an airport, receiving proper approvals. During their flights, they received a UVR alert that a medevac helicopter was transporting a patient to the hospital from the firefighter training area. The operator taking photos of the training landed the drone before the UVR notice became active. The power line survey and the flight over the tailgate area continued at a safe distance.

  • The third, which involved the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), took place in Las Vegas on August 1.

    During the demonstration, separate UAS flights were conducted to survey a golf course before a tournament, get video footage of a property being sold, and scan a nearby lake for boating opportunities.

    All three operators accessed UAS Facility Maps and worked with a UAS Service Supplier (USS) to receive the proper approvals to conduct their flights.

    A fire erupted at one of the golf course clubhouses. First responders sent a helicopter to contain the fire. They submitted a request to a USS to create a UVR. The UVR information is also shared with the FAA. The FAA shares the information with public portals, notifying each of the UAS operators that the firefighting helicopter was on its way to their flying area.

    Each of the UAS operators, being properly notified, were able to either land or continue their operations at a safe distance.

The UPP was established in April 2017 as an important component for identifying the initial set of industry and FAA capabilities required to support UAS Traffic Management operations. The analysis of results from the demonstrations will provide an understanding of the level of investment required for each stakeholder’s implementation.

The results from the UPP will provide a proof of concept for UAS Traffic Management capabilities currently in research and development, and will provide the basis for initial deployment of UTM capabilities.

Ultimately, the FAA will define the UTM regulatory framework that third-party providers will operate within.

Check out our video about the UPP demonstrations.

News and Updates – FAA Update on Hurricane Dorian

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is monitoring Hurricane Dorian closely and preparing FAA facilities and equipment along the southeast coast of Florida to withstand potential damage so flights can quickly resume after the storm passes. Restoring air carrier service is critical to support disaster relief efforts.

Travelers

Airlines make decisions about their flight schedules. Flights can stop long before winds reach hurricane strength. Travelers should check with their airlines before heading to the airport for a flight to or from the southeast coast of Florida. The FAA does not direct or advise airlines about cancelling flights.

Airports in the area of potential impact make decisions about closing their facilities. In many cases, airports remain open and do not officially close even when flights have stopped. The FAA does not direct or advise airports to open or close.

The FAA maintains air traffic control radar coverage and provides service to flights for as long as possible. FAA control towers in hurricane-prone areas are designed and built to sustain hurricane force winds. Each control tower has a maximum wind sustainability, which can range from 55 to 75 miles per hour. When winds approach those speeds, controllers evacuate the tower cabs. At busy airports controllers remain in the building at a secure lower level, and are ready to go back to work as soon as the storm passes.

Ahead of the storm, FAA technicians protect communications equipment and navigational aids to the greatest extent possible to enable flights to resume quickly after the storm passes. FAA technicians test engine generators and ensure they are fully fueled so they can power equipment and facilities if commercial power fails. We switch to engine generator power before the storm in anticipation of commercial power failures.

After the storm, we assess damage to FAA facilities and navigational aids. We set priorities to quickly re-establish critical equipment. The FAA has equipment, supplies and people ready to move into the affected areas as soon as the storm passes to restore air traffic control facilities that may be damaged by Hurricane Dorian. Teams of technicians and engineers from other locations travel to the affected areas to assess damage and begin restoring equipment and facilities working closely with the local technical teams.

General Aviation Pilots

Standard checklists are even more important in and around severe weather. Be aware of weather conditions throughout the entire route of your planned flight. A pilots failure to recognize deteriorating weather conditions continues to cause or contribute to accidents. Be sure to check NOTAMs, Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), and Aircraft Safety Alerts before you go.

Check out the FAAs Hurricane Preparedness Guidance.

Drone Users

Drone users should check NOTAMs and TFRs and avoid flying in areas where drones are prohibited.

Drone pilots must comply with FAA rules and should:

  1. Avoid flying in the area unless conducting an active disaster response or recovery mission.
  2. Be aware that the FAA might issue a TFR in the affected area. Be sure to check for active TFRs if you plan to fly.
  3. Remember that you cannot fly inside a TFR without FAA approval.

Drone emergency operations and response:

  • During a natural disaster, do not fly your drone in or around emergency response efforts, unless you have special authorization to do so. There are low flying aircraft as part of the storm response mostly in low visibility areas. If you are flying, emergency response operations cannot.
  • You may be able to get expedited approval to operate in the TFR through the FAAs Special Governmental Interest(SGI) process as outlined inFAA Order JO 7200.23A. Submit an Emergency Operation Request Form with your existing Remote Pilot Certificate or existing Certification of Authorization (COA) and send to the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov.

Dont Be That Guy!

Be aware that significant penalties that may exceed $20,000 if drone operators interfere with emergency response operations. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may violate federal, state, or local laws and ordinances, even if aTFR is not in place. Allow first responders to save lives and property without interference.

If you are not certified as a remote pilot or do not already hold a COA, you cannot fly.

Follow the FAA on social media for the latest aviation news!

News and Updates – FAA Eases Restrictions on Drone Operations Over Some Federal Facilities

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is working with other federal agencies to minimize the impact of flight restrictions on drone operators flying near select federal facilities.

The FAA is working with the U.S. Department of Defense to establish intermittent restrictions on drone flights within the lateral boundaries of select federal facilities during specified times. Currently, drone operators are prohibited from flying at these locations at all times. The FAA is working to ensure that these restrictions are narrowly tailored and remain in effect only when necessary.

Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) will be issued in advance, indicating the sites where these intermittent restrictions will apply. Drone operators will be able to easily identify the status of the airspace at these locations using the FAAs Unmanned Aircraft System UAS Data Display Systems (UDDS) interactive map which will show the following:

  • The airspace shapes will appear gray when the 99.7 (special security instructions) airspace is inactive and no restrictions are placed on drone operators.
  • Approximately 24 hours before restrictions are activated, the designated airspace will change to yellow as a warning that restrictions will soon become active.
  • At the end of the 24-hour warning window, the designated airspace will change to red while the drone restrictions are in effect.
  • The specific activation times can also be viewed by clicking on the individual airspace shapes in UDDS. Operators are urged to check the UDDS website frequently before and during UAS flights, especially when operating near or within the defined airspace to which recurring transient special security instructions are applied.

These changes, which have been highlighted by FAA NOTAM FDC 9/7752, will become effective on Sept.1, 2019. This NOTAM replaces FAA NOTAM FDC 8/3277. Note that there are few exceptions that permit UAS operations within these restrictions, and those must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

Operators who violate the flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties, criminal charges, or the loss of their UAS from counter-UAS activities.

The FAA is continuing to consider additional requests by eligible federal security agencies for UAS-specific flight restrictions using the agencys existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 99.7 as they are received. Additional changes to these restrictions will be announced by the FAA as appropriate.

Information on the NOTAM, which defines these restrictions, and all of the currently covered locations, is available. To ensure the public is aware of these restricted locations, the UDDS also provides an interactive map, downloadable geospatial data, and other important details. A link to these restrictions is included in the FAAs B4UFLY mobile app.

Broader information regarding flying drones in the National Airspace System, including frequently asked questions, is available on the FAA’s UAS website.

News and Updates – Drones and Weapons, A Dangerous Mix

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is warning the general public that it is illegal to operate a drone with a dangerous weapon attached.

Perhaps youve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items. Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.

Operating a drone that has a dangerous weapon attached to it is a violation of Section 363 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act enacted Oct. 5, 2018. Operators are subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 for each violation, unless the operator has received specific authorization from the Administrator of the FAA to conduct the operation. Dangerous Weapon means any item that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury.

Operators should keep in mind that federal regulations and statutes that generally govern drone operations still apply. Some state and federal criminal laws regarding weapons and hazardous materials may also apply to drone operators or manufacturers involved in certain operations.

News and Updates – FAA Seeks Stakeholder Input on Drone Tests

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) this week seeking to work with stakeholders on the administration of a new aeronautical knowledge test for recreational drone operators.

Section 349 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires new conditions to operate recreational small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Many drones can be flown today with minimal training or knowledge of aviation rules or safety practices. The new statute is an opportunity to educate recreational flyers on UAS safety and to bring new flyers into the existing aviation safety culture.

The law requires that flyers of recreational drones pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. The test will demonstrate a recreational flyers understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating a UAS.

The FAA is developing the test content and the training in consultation with stakeholders. The test must be administered electronically by the FAA, community-based organizations, or other persons designated by the FAA. The FAAs objective is to work with third party entities to allow them to administer the knowledge training and test content on various platforms for the recreational flyer community.

The FAA is looking for entities who want to become testing designees, who will administer the training and testing to the widest audience possible, and who will develop a standard electronic record that will be issued to the potential operator upon completion of the test. The entity will provide the potential drone operator with documentation that they passed the test, which may be requested by the FAA or local law enforcement.

Interested parties should review the RFI and respond by September 12, 2019.