Dog — A Drone Blog 


No Fly Zones

If you buy a recent DJI model drone, or are keeping your firmware on your current drone updated, you will have noticed a reference to No Fly Zones.  These are areas where you are restricted from operating, or where you require authorization to operate.  Some areas of the country are completely blocked, other areas are wide open.

Yes, this is a pain, but after you rant about the government calm down and realize that this is a challenge to work through and learn to use.  We all knew there were No Fly Zones, but not so sure where they were.  Now it is easier to determine boundaries.

You will want to bookmark this page:  No Fly Zones

That is an interactive DJI page that lets you locate your flight area and plan your flight.  Leet’s look around.  For learning, enter Escondido, CA in the search box and when the map shows uncheck both Warning Zones at the bottom of the map.  It should look like this:

The red flag with a black dot at the center of the map is just the search location you entered to orient the map.

You can click on each flag to get more information on the area in question.

The red flag with a red shaded circle over McClellan-Palomar airport indicates a RESTRICTED Zone.  Your drone won’t operate in that area.  

The yellow flag with a yellow shaded circle over Ramona indicates the Ramona airport which is an AUTHORIZATION Zone.    Your drone won’t operate in that area without authorization.

Now check the box for Enhanced Warning Zones.  Green cirlces are now overlayed centered on the flag area, like this:

An ENHANCED WARNING ZONE is essentially like an authorization zone.  Your drone won’t operate in that area without authorization.

Now uncheck fhe box for Enhanced Warning Zones and check the box for Warning Zones.  You will now see many more areas covered by green shading:

You will get a pre-flight warning, which can be clicked through.  Your drone will operate in that area without authorization.

N.B. IF THE WARNING AREA OVERLAYS ONE OF THE OTHER AREAS, E.G., AUTHORIZATION, OR ENHANCED WARNING, YOU WILL STILL NEED AUTHORIZATION.

For a post on how to get authorization click here: (coming soon).


UAS Facility Maps

Starting tomorrow, the FAA will have UAS Facility Maps online which are to referenced when requesting waivers to fly in other than Class G airspace near airports.  The maps will be available starting tomorrow here.

This is explained here.

By referring to the facility maps when completing airspace authorization applications, remote pilots will be able to tailor their requests to align with locations and altitudes that the maps indicate are likely to be approved for small UAS operations. This will help simplify the process and increase the likelihood that the FAA will approve your requests.

The maps will be informational only. They will not automatically authorize flights. Remote pilots must still submit online airspace authorization applications here. The maps do not guarantee approval for requests within the guidelines indicated by the maps. 

Hold On, Part 107 Applies to What?

By any measure, the popularity and notoriety of unmanned aircraft has mushroomed within the last few years.  This is particularly true for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, popularly referred to as “small drones,” and are available to consumers and professionals at price points that rival DSLR cameras.  Their use for operations such as search and rescue, fire detection, construction management, building inspection, real estate marketing, and other endless commercial uses are becoming evident every day.  Because of their low price points they have also become popular for fun and recreation.  

Since 1981, the Federal Aviation Administration has tried to keep pace with the proliferation of small drones, and until recently has tried to maintain a policy that was “based on whether the unmanned aircraft is used as a public aircraft, civil aircraft or as a model aircraft.”   The FAA, and Congress, followed this trinity designation, and even adopted a statute giving substance to the definition of what is a model aircraft.

Upon reportedly lobbying by a special interest group, however, Congress included a section in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012  which removed authority from the agency to promulgate any regulation which governed model aircraft “operations” itself defined in the statute as model aircraft “operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.”  (emphasis added).  This carve out of agency authority, known as the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft” understandably has occasioned complexity and misunderstanding in the regulatory landscape, especially because while taking away authority from the FAA with one hand, Congress provided on the other hand that the Special Rule did not limit the ability of the FAA to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system. 

Recently, the FAA adopted a final rule contained in Part 107 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  Relying upon the statement of purpose in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Part 107 that this was to be a business rule, and widely anticipated as such, the FAA issued a surprise reinterpretation in an Advisory Circular asserting that Part 107 also applied to hobby or recreation model aircraft that are not flown in accordance with the Special Rule.   With this one sentence in an Advisory Circular, the FAA has thrown in question the entire scheme of regulation of small unmanned aircraft.

In short, what this means is that recreational flyers have only two options:  they either have to join the special interest group that lobbied for the carve-out in the Special Rule and fly pursuant to its programming, or they have to comply with the more rigorous provisions of Part 107, including licensing, higher age requirements, testing, and TSA vetting.  Indeed the FAA frequently asked questions webpage clearly identifies this Hobson’s choice for recreational flyers.  To make this point clear -- flying a model aircraft on your own for recreation, not within the programming of a “nationwide community-based organization,” is no longer legal unless you are in compliance with Part 107. 

These issues are discussed in more detail in the article you can get here.

Part 107

As has been all over the news since June, commercial operation of drones requires compliance with Part 107 of 14 C.F.R (the Code of Federal Regulations).  Finding a copy that is easy to read is rather difficult, however.  Here I am to the rescue.  I have a complete listing here of the complete Part 107 as of the date of posting in either Word docx or PDF format.

N-Numbers

If you intend to use your drone for commercial purposes, then in addition to a Section 333 exemption you will need to get an N-number for the drone.

To do that you will need to get a physical form 8050-1 from an FAA flight standards district office (FSDO).  Find one here.  You should call first to find out whether you need an appointment.  In San Diego they were kind enough to leave a few in the lobby.  It is a carbonless multipart form.  

You will need to attach a declaration and a copy of the bill of sale (the invoice for the drone if you bought it from a store).  The declaration must be notarized.  One I created is here, and you may use that as a template.  No guarantees, however, but it must include:  "The undersigned affirms the information and statements provided herein are correct, the described UA is not currently registered in another country, and the undersigned is the aircraft's rightful owner.”

You will get a registration card in the mail about 6-8 weeks later.  Then get some vinyl letters from Amazon or your favorite store, and put it on the drone.  I got Duro Gothic No. 3212/ 1/2” Grey    

Interim Rule 333 Exemptions?

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 forbids the commercial use of an sUAV in the national airspace, and currently the only way to gain approval for commercial use of an sUAV is to petition the FAA for an exemption (or wait another couple of years for the FAA to act on their proposed Part 107).  Such a petition must be filed with www.regulations.gov, and then it takes 30 days for regulations.gov to post the petition online and transmit it to the FAA.  Then you have to wait for the FAA to review the petition.  In December of last year the total wait was around 2 months.  See here.  But, currently the FAA has over 6,000 pending petitions for exemptions under Section 333, and their resources are focused on processing those petitions on a timely basis of 120 days or less.  So, while everyone at the FAA is working hard to be sure, potential commercial operators trying to follow the rules must abate their plans to start business for over 180 days.  That six month delay is devastating in today’s marketplace, giving scofflaws who are willing to operate outside of the law an unfair advantage.

I came up with an idea of interim Rule 333 exemptions.  This would permit business owners to enter the marketplace under any restrictions the FAA thought to impose and the business owner was willing to accept, while the FAA considered the petition on the merits.  The FAA told me that they didn’t offer interim exemptions, so I wrote to my congressman to suggest this.  See my letter here.  I also wrote to 3DRobotics to solicit their support for the idea.  If you agree I urge you to do the same.

The idea of interim exemptions or even web based petitions from federal agencies is hardly new.  The US Patent Office does this, and there is NO reason why the FAA couldn’t implement this immediately.  Just think; you could get an immediate exemption online with a blanket set of rules.  If the blanket rules weren’t sufficient then you could file a long form petition and wait your turn.  Of course, since most petitions would be obviated by the web based procedure the wait might not be that long.  The FAA staff could talk to the US Patent Office staff to find out how to get this done.  What a country!

H.R. 4441

Rep. Shuster (R-PA) (for himself and Mr. LoBiondo (R-NJ)) introduced H.R. 4441 in the House on February 3, 2016; which was then referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  Mr. Shuster is Chairman of that committee.  The Bill was referred to the subcommittee on Aviation on February 4, 2016.  Its primary goal is to transfer operation of air traffic services currently provided by the FAA to a separate not-for-profit corporate entity, and to reauthorize and streamline programs of the Federal Aviation Administration.  Short title is the "Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (or AIRR)"  It would create a new Chapter 455--Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which you can read here.

In this crazy election year don’t hold your breath waiting for it to pass Congress and be sent to the President.  Govtrack.us gives it an 11% chance of being enacted.  The privatization of ATC is being seen as a power grab by big airlines, and the Bill is opposed by the National Business Aviation Association.  You can read the testimony of Edward Bolin, the NBAA president and CEO, here.

As the FAA currently interprests Section 336(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (MRA),  it has no authorization to regulate model aircraft under certain circumstance, which the statue defines as when the model aircraft is being operated "in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.”  DOG calls this the AMA exception.  The Academy of Model Aeronautics safety code is here.  In other words, if you are operating according to AMA safety guidelines at an AMA event, (and you also follow the next two conditions), then the FAA can’t regulate your operation.   The other two conditions are that the aircraft "is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft,” and the airport 5 mile notice provision.

H.R. 4441 would not change the defintion of a model aircraft.  In fact as proposed new 49 U.S.C. §45501(4) is identical to existing FAA Sec. 336(c), and as proposed new 49 U.S.C. §45507(a) is identical to existing FAA Sec. 336(a).  So, HR 4441 is unlikely to change anything for recreational use of drones.

One thing it would do is task the FAA with preparing a report on the reliability, effectiveness, and efficiency of the registration system that it currently requires for small UAS.  The Interim FInal Rule for that system is here.  The FAA page for registering UAS used for hobby or recreational purposes is here.  Registering UAS used for other purposes currently requires a paper-based application described here.

The Bill was amended on February 11 and reported out to the House as a whole for consideration, but DOG has not yet found a copy of the amendment.  DJI has a press release (not a primary source of course) that tells us the amendment was made by Rep. Davis (R-Ill.) and proposes a new category of “micro drones” but even if so, this is a long way from being law.

If you would like to track this bill look here:


Smile, You are On Camera

This was bound to happen.  Screwballs (and bad actors) are flying near airports despite the FAA best practices. The FAA and the Department of Homeland Security have teamed up, with help from the University of Maryland and private contractor CACI International to develop a detection system so that airports can determine whether there is a drone flying in the area.  If this works, expect something similar to be installed at all sensitive locations  and airports.  Read the press release here.

CACI’s system employs radio frequency sensors at strategic locations around an airport in high, prominent locations. When the sensors detect frequencies unmanned aircraft typically use, it triangulates the signals and determines the location of both the UAS and the operator.

No more flights onto the White House lawn.


What’s Up Next

Since many people have entered the small unmanned aerial system (sUAS or drone) space in the last year, it is wothwhile to recap where we are, and what is cming soon, just over the horizon.

The FAA has been working on this since at least 2008, when it chartered the small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).  That committee issued its report in 2009.  In 2012 Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and gave the FAA the task (in Section 332) to integrate sUAS operations into the national airspace (NAS), in Section 333 gave the FAA the authority to establish requirements for the safe operation of these systems in the NAS.

For recreational users the FAA now has an on-line procedure for registration of sUAS owners, and a set of best practice safety guidelines.  DOG covered that here.  Just anecdotal, but while most recreational pilots are observing the safety guidelines, a few screwups resist and grab headlines when drones are used in contravention of the best practices.  If you follow the on-line boards it is not hard to find the “if it ain’t illegal I can do what I damn well please” mentality.  Not surprisingly, that leads to general public antagonism, which is leading to a patchwork quilt of local laws.  Despite an attempt by the FAA to inject some sense into this federalism dispute, it is not working.  Are you listening Congress and FAA?  Please adopt some laws or regulations beyond best practices!  This currently is being done for special zones through the issuance of Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), but we won’t get uniform respect from all honnyists until a law is passed.

The FAA issued a Notice of Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in June 2014.  You can read it here.  While it is slow going, it explains the issue.  Congress (in the 2012 Act) directed that the FAA may not “promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft,” while it is being operated in accord with five statutory conditions.  (see p.6 of the Notice).  So, the real wrench in the works has been thrown by Congress, not the FAA, and the FAA has to walk a political path to regulate recreational UAS.

Commercial, or “non-recreational use” is just forbidden by Section 333.  The FAA, however, has accommodated non-recreational small UAS use through various mechanisms, such as special airworthiness certificates, exemptions, and certificates of waiver or authorization (COA).  So, it you want to use an sUAS for business, you need to contact the FAA and get an exemption.  

This is all going to change, however.  In February 2015 (a year ago) the FAA published a Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), and received public comments through April 2015.  The guess at that time was that it would take at least a year, and possibly longer, for the Rule to become final.  So, we are all waiting.  Are you listening FAA?

To be clear, adoption of the final rule will primarily impact commercial use.  For many people it will no longer be necessary to obtain exemptions, or certificates of waiver or authorization (COA).  But, not everything will be covered, so some special cases will still need special handling.

An overview of the rule is here, but in particular note that the need for the pilot in charge to be licensed is to be replaced by a requirement that operators pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months, and be at least 17 years old.

Where Am I

Google Maps provides a nifty way to determine either the latitude/longitude of a location, or distances between two points.

Latitude/Longitude

This is easy.  Point to any place on a map, then right click.  Choose Whats Here?” from the pop up menu and you will get a small window with the latitude and longitude reported.

Distances

Right-click on your starting point.  Choose Measure distance.  Click anywhere on the map to create a path you want to measure.  

Convert Statute Miles to Nautical Miles

1 statute mile = 0.87 nautical miles.  There are lots of converters on line (here is one), or use a calculator.


`© Robert Rose 2015