The Most Important Question You Need to Ask About New BVLOS Waivers

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?

2 thoughts on “The Most Important Question You Need to Ask About New BVLOS Waivers”

  1. I would like to express my dismay with this message. After 9 months of work by many people, the dissent that you offer is unfortunate and not productive. This waiver does provide every Part 91 COA holder to take advantage of BVLOS tactical flights. A very important capability that allows for limited safe flight with authorized BVLOS, allows for responders to operate out of harm’s way. The reason that Part 91 or Public Aircraft Operations is given this waiver has multiple aspects. First, Public Aircraft Operations are provided different provisions under that statute which allows more flexibility for both manned and unmanned aircraft. Second, the COA does allow for a transfer of liability from the FAA to the COA holder (that is true with any of the public aircraft operations). In addition, Part 91 COA holders automatically receive ops over people and night operations…Part 107 operators do not automatically have these waivers. Additionally, it is strongly believed that the intent will be to do the same with Public Safety Part 107 remote pilots in the future. Sometimes we have to work incrementally, understand each others positions and come to middle ground. That is what has happened here. While its not ideal, it is a step in the right direction and the FAA should be and has been commended for their action.

    And for those Part 107 public safety operators…if you are a public entity (town, city, state, tribe or federal agency), you can easily get a Blanket COA within days and with little effort. Or you can wait patiently as this is likely to change.

    • What part of my post is inaccurate?

      Let me quote directly from the advice I received from the FAA, When it comes to Part 107 drones and TBVLOS and why Part 107 pilots are not eligible for TVBLOS, “that is where a certified aircraft and/or technical means of compliance for safety will be necessary.”

      When it comes to COA agencies “The Public Agency is declaring that their aircraft meets standards for safe operation.” In my post, I described how Safe Operation must be determined. How many agencies are you working with have had their UAS follow the safe operation determination process?

      It’s just my opinion but suggesting people can go out and get a COA in days might be possible, but it is reckless unless the agency understands the liabilities they are taking on.

      If we want to talk about dismay, I’m very disappointed in public safety drone associations that are not openly and aggressively talking about the number of drone accidents and safety issues with the currently flying aircraft that aren’t type certified or proven to be airworthy.


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