Back in August 2016, when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its final small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) rule (or Part 107) FAA administrator, Michael Huerta said, “Our focus is to make this as streamlined as possible [. . .] We do not envision this being a very burdensome process.” However, Part 107 limits flights that take place at night, beyond visual line of sight and above people—some of the most commonly sought after operations for drones. But, since August, the FAA has issued over 300 Part 107 Waivers for just those types of operations.
An industry news outlet, Unmanned Aerial Online, surveyed a few companies that received waivers to operate at night—one in particular, Uplift Data Partners (of Chicago) said that “The FAA wanted to see our standard operating procedures and how we modified them to account for night operations.” Notably, considering that the waiver that Uplift got grants the entire Uplift Pilot Network the approval to fly at night, the company also had to prove its “night-certification protocol.”
Chuck Ferrell, founder of Pennsylvania drone company SkOps, told Unmanned Aerial Online that after he applied for his waiver, the FAA requested more information regarding a “method for the remote pilot to see and avoid other aircraft, people on the ground, and ground-based structures and obstacles during darkness,” as well as a “method to increase conspicuity of the UAS to be seen at a distance of three statute miles, unless a system is in place that can avoid all non-participating aircraft.” However, Ferrell pointed out that he filed his initial Part 107 Waiver application in mid-December of last year, received the FAA’s request for more information on January 5, and got approval from the FAA on January 19. Considering that the holidays were sprinkled within that timeframe, the FAA’s turnaround on this was considerably fast.
Although the FAA has not reported any new Part 107 waivers since January 23 (as of this week), night operations are clearly on the forefront in the commercial drone industry, and the FAA seems to be living up to its promise of a more streamlined approval process. To see more information on the Part 107 Waivers granted thus far, click here.