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There have been recent marketing efforts and press releases from vendors praising the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight operations that will allow public safety pilots to fly further.
Before anyone gets excited about purchasing such technology, I invite you to ask more questions and get more facts.
At present such highly regulated flight may be available under a COA but a COA increases department liability and makes you a dream target to sue in case of any issues. For more on the COA myths, read this.
Clearly, flight operations are better to conduct as a Part 107 pilot with all the major COA landmines out there. Don’t believe me, do the research.
While you are doing your own research, also search and look at the the few dozen BVLOS Part 107.31 waivers here.
If you are curious what kind of BVLOS flight is available today, even with a COA, here is an example of those restrictions that are public with 107.31 waivers.
Take a look at the BVLOS requirements below and then apply that to your average public safety incident scene. I think you’ll find it is not a practical or possible solution at the moment.
On top of that add in the inability to fly over people, even if momentarily authorized in a COA. Flight over people regulations are in the works at the FAA and it is early days.
Keep in mind a COA does not give you a special waiver from what the FAA considers to be safe. It just shifts the supervision of activities onto the shoulders of the COA agency.
The FAA’s Flight Standards Service has reviewed your application to ensure compliance with the requirements of 14 CFR § 107.200. The Administrator finds that the proposed sUAS operation can be conducted safely under the provisions of this Certificate of Waiver (Waiver) as listed below because you have established adequate mitigations for risks involved with operating your sUAS in the manner you described. Adherence to the provisions of this Waiver establishes the required level of safety within the national airspace system.
This Waiver may be canceled at any time by the Administrator, the person authorized to grant the Waiver, or a representative designated to monitor a specific operation. As a general rule, this Waiver may be canceled when it is no longer required, there is an abuse of its provisions, or when unforeseen safety factors develop. Failure to comply with any provision listed below is a violation of the terms of this Waiver and may serve as justification for cancellation.
List of Regulations Waived by Section and Title. The following regulations are waived:
14 CFR § 107.31, Visual line of sight aircraft operation, is waived to the extent necessary to allow the remotely sited remote pilot in command (PIC) to operate a small unmanned aircraft (sUA) without the ability to see the sUA throughout the entire flight. In lieu of the ability to see the sUA throughout the entire flight, another remote pilot who holds a valid remote pilot certificate under part 107 must act as a Visual Observer (VO)1 /Safety Pilot (VO/SP) and exercise the ability to see the sUA throughout the entire flight on behalf of the remote PIC who is directly responsible for operation of the sUAS in accordance with § 107.19.
No part of this waiver will function as an airspace authorization under 14 CFR § 107.41. The FAA’s Air Traffic Organization responds directly to requests for such authorizations.
Common Special Provisions. The Responsible Person is directly responsible for safety of operations conducted under this Waiver and will ensure the remote PIC, manipulator of the controls, and Visual Observer(s) comply with all provisions of this Waiver.
1. The Responsible Person listed on the Waiver is responsible to the FAA for the safe conduct of the operations. Prior to conducting operations that are the subject of this Waiver, the responsible person:
a. Must ensure the remote PIC, manipulators of the controls, and VO/SP are informed of the terms and provisions of this Waiver and strictly observe the terms and provisions herein;
b. Must ensure the remote PIC, manipulators of the controls, and VO/SP are informed and familiar with part 107 regulations; and
c. Evidence of the above (a and b) must be documented and must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative;
2. This Waiver may not be combined with any other waiver(s), authorizations(s), or exemption(s) without specific authorization from the FAA;
3. The FAA has the authority to cancel or delay any or all flight operations if the safety of persons or property on the ground or in the air are in jeopardy or there is a violation of the terms of this Waiver;
4. A copy of this Waiver must be accessible and available to the remote PIC at the ground control station during sUAS operations that are the subject of this Waiver;
5. The Responsible Person listed on this Waiver must maintain a current list of pilots by name and remote pilot certificate number used in operations under this Waiver. This list must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative;
6. The Responsible Person listed on this Waiver must maintain a current list of sUA by registration number(s) used in the Waiver holder’s operations. This list must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative;
7. For the purposes of this Waiver, Direct Participants are the remote PICs, persons manipulating the controls, VO/SPs, VOs and any persons whose involvement is necessary for safety of the sUAS operation;
8. The Responsible Person must ensure a remote PIC who holds a valid remote pilot certificate under part 107, is designated at all times during any operation that will occur in accordance with this Waiver. See § 107.19 for a description of the responsibilities and duties of the remote PIC. The Responsible Person must have a procedure for positive, unequivocal designation of the person who is acting as the remote PIC. This procedure must include a three-step positive transfer of controls. Upon such transfer, the responsibilities and duties of the remote PIC under § 107.19 will transfer, accordingly.
Waiver Specific Special Provisions. sUAS operations beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the remote PIC may be conducted under this waiver when the operation complies with the following provisions:
9. Operations under this Waiver must utilize at least one VO/SP;
10. The remote PIC must ensure sufficient VO(s) are used to observe the airspace to detect and track all air traffic or hazards;
11. Individuals directly participating in the operation of the sUAS must be easily identifiable visually (e.g., apparel, safety vests);
12. The Responsible Person must ensure all operations conducted under this Waiver follow the procedures outlined in the operations manual. If a discrepancy exists between the provisions in this Waiver and the procedures outlined in the operations manual, the provisions of this Waiver take precedence and must be followed;
13. The operations manual contains at least the following items:
a. Operator name, address, and telephone number,
b. Method of manual distribution and revision,
c. Certificate of Waiver. The operations manual must include a copy of the current Waiver(s),
d. Aircraft description and limitations list by aircraft type and model,
e. Method to ensure safety of non-participating persons and aircraft,
f. Safety briefing of Direct Participants,
g. Direct Participant minimum requirements,
h. Method of communications,
i. Normal operating procedures,
j. Abnormal operating procedures,
k. Emergency procedures,
l. Crew Resource Management,
m. Risk management, and
n. Accident Notification. The operations manual must contain procedures for notification and reporting of accidents in accordance with 14 CFR § 107.9;
14. The Responsible Person may update or revise its operations manual. The Responsible Person must track such revisions and present revised documents to the Administrator or an authorized representative upon request. The Responsible Person must also present revised documents when applying for extension of or amendment to this Waiver. If any revision to the manual would be contrary to the information provided in the waiver application or obviate a condition or limitation of this waiver, then the Responsible Person must apply for an amendment to this Waiver;
15. The Responsible Person must ensure a copy of the operations manual is available to the remote PIC and all other direct participants prior to and during sUAS operations that are the subject of this Waiver;
16. The Responsible Person listed on this Waiver must ensure each remote PIC who will conduct operations under this Waiver is trained in a manner that addresses the items listed in § 107.49(a)-(e) and in a manner that is consistent with how the sUAS will be operated under this Waiver. All training and demonstration for all remote PICs and YOs must be documented and made available upon request by the Administrator or an authorized representative. Training operations may only be conducted under the standard requirements of part 107 (without waiver). The training must include:
a. sUA limitations,
b. sUA programming,
c. sUA operational procedures,
d. Abnormal procedures,
e. Air traffic avoidance procedures,
f. Crew Resource Management,
g. sUA flight training, and
h. Demonstration of sUA ground and flight skills;
17. Prior to operations under this Waiver, all direct participants must attend a safety briefing that addresses at minimum, the following items:
a. Designated positions, physical locations, responsibilities, and Crew Resource Management,
b. Planned flight operating area,
c. Designated launch and recovery areas,
d. Verification of geo-fence boundaries,
e. Verification of return to launch and land flight profile, and course,
f. Procedures for avoidance of other aircraft,
g. Procedures for operating under this Waiver;
18. Communication between the remote PIC, VO/SP and VO must occur to facilitate, when necessary, the remote PIC or VO/SP taking action to maneuver the sUA with sufficient time to:
a. Give way to all other aircraft in accordance with § 107.37,
b. React to any unforeseen operational or mechanical failure without creating a hazard to other people, other aircraft, or property in the event of a loss of control of the sUA, and
c. Maintain compliance with this Waiver and the requirements of part 107;
19. Operations subject to this waiver must cease if, at any time:
a. Safety of human beings or property on the ground or in the air is in jeopardy,
b. Any failure to comply with the provisions of this Waiver exists,
c. Full-duplex communications cannot be maintained between the remote PIC, VO/SP and any VO participating in the operation,
d. sUA control link is lost,
e. A non-participating aircraft enters the designated flight operating area,
f. GPS signal is lost, or
g. sUA GPS location information is degraded;
20. No sUA flight that occurs under this waiver may carry the property of another for compensation or hire;
21. The Responsible Person must establish and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS) appropriate for the size, scope, and complexity of operations that occur under this Waiver. Guidance on establishing and maintaining an SMS is available in FAA Advisory Circular 120-92B (or current revision). This program must be made available upon request by the Administrator;
22. The Responsible Person shall keep at its principal business office or at other places approved by the Administrator, and email the Administrator at 9-afs-820-Partl07Reports@faa.gov monthly, the information listed below. The Responsible Person must retain all such records for a period of 90 days after the expiration date of the Waiver.
a. For each sUAS flight operation conducted under the terms of this waiver:
i. Date and location of operation
ii. Registration number of the sUA,
iii. Make and model of the sUA,
iv. Name, certificate number, and location of each remote PIC,
v. Name, certificate number, and location of the YO/SP for the sUAS operation,
vi. The name and location of any additional persons who acted as VO(s),
vii. Location of the remote PIC during the sUA flight, and
viii. Duration of the sUA operation;
b. For each sUAS flight conducted under this Waiver that includes any equipment degradation, malfunction, or failure, the Responsible Person must make a record of the degradation, malfunction, or failure by recording the date, time, and a description of the degradation, malfunction or failure. sUAS equipment degradations, malfunctions, or failures include, but are not limited to, the following:
i. Onboard flight control system,
ii. Any portion of the navigation system to include Global Positioning System (GPS) functionality,
iii. Power plant malfunction or failure,
iv. Battery malfunction or failure,
v. Electrical power system malfunction,
vi. Control station malfunction or failure, and
vii. Loss of control link within the sUAS.
23. Operations conducted under this Waiver may only occur with the make and model sUAS described in the waiver application. Proposed operations of any other manufacturer, make or model of sUAS will require a new waiver application or an request to amend this Waiver;
24. All sUAS operations conducted in accordance with this Waiver must comply with all manufacturer recommendations and limitations for the sUAS;
25. The Responsible Person must maintain each sUAS and its components in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. sUAS maintenance includes scheduled and unscheduled overhaul, repair, inspection, modification, replacement, and system software upgrades of the sUAS and its components necessary for flight. A log of all maintenance performed must be kept for each aircraft operated under this waiver. This log must be available to the remote PIC for review prior to conducting operations that are the subject of this waiver. Each sUAS maintenance log must be presented to the Administrator when requested. The log must contain the following information for each maintenance activity:
a. A description (or reference data acceptable to the Administrator) of work performed,
b. The date of completion of the work performed,
c. The name of the person who performed the work, and
d. The signature of the person who performed the work;
26. Any sUAS that has undergone maintenance must undergo a functional test flight prior to conducting operations under this Waiver. A log entry must be made for each functional test flight. The log entry must contain at minimum the:
a. Calendar date,
b. sUA registration number,
c. Remote PIC who performed the functional test flight,
d. Duration of the flight, and
e. The result of the functional flight test;
27. A functional test flight may only be conducted under the standard requirements of part 107 (without waiver);
28. The sUA must be equipped with high visibility markings and lighting to increase the conspicuity of the sUA;
29. As described in the waiver application, sUAS ground control station must display in real time the following information:
a. sUA altitude,
b. sUA position,
c. sUA direction of flight, and
d. sUAS flight mode.
This information must be available at all times to the remote PIC and VO/SP;
30. The sUAS must audibly or visually alert the remote PIC and VO/SP of degraded system performance, sUAS malfunction, or loss of Command and Control (C2) link between the ground control station and the sUA;
31. Launch or recovery areas must be pre-designated and monitored to keep any human being who is not directly participating in the operation out of the areas prior to, during, and immediately following flight operations;
32. Prior to conducting operations under this Waiver, the remote PIC must determine all control links the used in the sUAS, will work properly at the maximum planned distance for the proposed operation. At all times during operations that are the subject of this Waiver, the remote PIC or VO/SP must maintain the ability to direct the sUA to ensure compliance with the applicable provisions of this chapter;
33. If the remotely located remote PIC loses command or control link with the sUA, as described in the waiver application, the VO/SP must immediately be able to assume command and control of the sAU. In the event this procedure fails, sUA must follow a predetermined route to either reestablish link or immediately recover/land at a predesignated location;
34. If communication between the VO/SP, VO and the remote PIC will occur by electronic device:
a. The device must be continuous full-duplex,
b. The remote PIC must be able to use the device hands-free, and
c. There must be a reliable back-up communication method;
35. Automatic dependent surveillance—broadcast (ADS-B) Out (1090/978 MHz) may not be transmitted from the sUAS when operating pursuant to this Waiver;
36. All emitters used in sUAS must be in compliance with all applicable Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations and all provisions of the FCC authorization granted for the emitter. A FCC experimental authorization may not be used for sUAS operations under this Waiver; and
37. Operations conducted under this Waiver are limited to Tiger Field, Femley, Nevada.
Title 14 CFR § 107.3 defines the term “visual observer.” Any VO participating in operations conducted under this Waiver must meet the requirements listed in § 107.33 throughout the duration of flight operations.