TBVLOS Messaging is Misleading
If you are a public safety UAS pilot and read all of the exciting headlines coming out that the FAA is now allowing Tactical Beyond Visual Line of Sight (TBVLOS) operations, you need to land for a moment.
The reality is the exciting news is really operations less than what you’ve been doing already.
Here are what I think are the critical details straight from the FAA.
- The UAS must remain within 1,500 feet of the PIC.
- BVLOS is only to be used in extreme emergency situations to safeguard human life.
- You have to apply for this TBVLOS waiver by email before you fly.
- You cannot fly TBVLOS until your signed waiver approval is received.
- You can only be a COA agency to receive a TBVLOS waiver.
Hopefully, you know me by now that I find out the facts and share them with you.
The “exciting” news about the TBVLOS waiver has one very important feature, it is only for COA agencies. And that’s a big problem.
I talked to people at the FAA and asked why Part 107 pilots were not eligible and the answer I got back was because under Part 107 UAS have not been determined to be safe for operation or airworthy.
Since COA agencies take on the role to self-certify their UAS are airworthy before they fly them, all that liability and responsibility lands on the agency when an issue develops.
Remember, if you fly under a COA your agency is agreeing to take on the responsibilities that the FAA would normally do, like determining the aircraft meets all the same safety requirements of an approved aircraft.
For Part 107 pilots, for the UAS to be determined to be ready for “sale operation” it must first go through the engineering, testing, and operational certification to receive a Type Certification.
If you really want to learn more about this, read Your Public Safety Drone May Not Be Safe for Flight and Attorneys Might Just Eat You for Lunch.
And with the new TBVLOS waiver, the FAA just proved my point, that current UAS have not been determined to be safe for flight and COA agencies are on the hook for determining the UAS they fly meet these requirements.
If you are a COA agency and want to bypass a Type Certification and instead make sure your UAS meets the standards for “safe operation” then the FAA says you must have an FAA inspector or authorized representative of the FAA Administrator “make an initial determination as to the overall condition of the aircraft. The aircraft items evaluated depend on information such as aircraft make, model, age, type, completeness of maintenance records of the aircraft, and the overall condition of the aircraft.”
The big question I have is why aren’t sites promoting drones in public safety not talking about this?