The Short Changing Of Public Safety Drone Pilots And How You Got Screwed Over

Now This is a Giant COA Agency Drone Problem

If you are flying under a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), you should go and look at your COA approval document and see if it has the following statement in it. Most do.

All aircraft flying in the NAS must be airworthy. Under Part 107.15, the Remote Pilot in Command is responsible for ensuring the UAS is airworthy. Under the Public Statutes, the Public Aircraft Operator is responsible for certifying that their UAS is airworthy. An airworthiness statement will be required when a Public Aircraft Operator applies for a COA.”

I’m not sure most agencies are aware they can’t just claim their drones are airworthy. There is an official multi-year process for that.

The process to obtain an Airworthiness Certificate is detailed here.

My best guess is the intent for the section of the COA statement was an intent to comply with FAR 107.15 that is actually about safe operation. That is different.

To actually know if the aircraft is in a condition for safe operation, it would require “an initial determination by an FAA inspector or authorized Representative of the Administrator that the overall condition of an aircraft is conducive to safe operations. This refers to the condition of the aircraft relative to wear and deterioration, e.g., skin corrosion, window delamination/crazing, fluid leaks, tire wear, etc.” – Source

Once a UAS is determined it is in a condition for safe operation, a Part 107 pilot should comply with that determination checklist and guidance to keep the aircraft in a condition for safe operation.

However, that is the process to determine “Safe Operation” and not airworthiness.

No drone manufacturer I’m aware of has obtained a safe operation determination. If you know of one, please send me the statement.

We can have the discussion all day long about if that airworthiness clause should or should not be in COAs granted.

If it is in yours and you are flying any drone, a good plaintiff attorney will make the point that your aircraft did not meet the requirements of your COA, so who knows what happens then.

But then again, maybe that same smart attorney will catch the 107.15 issue as well for Part 107 pilots.

Just thought you’d what to know what to watch out for.

About Steve Rhode

The Public Safety Flight website is dedicated to news, honest information, tips, and stories about the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), UAVs, aircraft, and drones in the fire service and other public safety niches. The site was founded by Steve Rhode, an FAA-certificated airplane commercial and instrument certificated pilot and a very experienced Part 107 UAS commercial pilot. Steve is the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and the North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy. He also provides expert advice to drone pilots through Homeland Security Information Network and he is an FAA Safety Team drone expert. Steve loves to work closely with public safety pilots to answer questions and share information, real-world truth, and drone operation advice. You can contact Steve here, learn more about Steve here, or join his public safety pilot private email list here.

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