Gain a Better Understanding of the FAA Waiver Process | FAA Summer Drone Webinar Series
BY Isabella Lee1 August 2018
Have you participated in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) drone webinar series this summer? The series is intended to help drone operators submit better waiver requests when applying for an operational waiver. So far, they’ve already covered topics including how to apply for a FAA waiver, how to conduct a risk assessment for your operation, and how to successfully apply for a nighttime waiver. With these webinars, the FAA has been able to answer some of the most commonly asked questions by drone pilots and provide answers with clarity that you seldom find elsewhere.
If you missed out on the first few webinars, don’t worry — the series isn’t over yet, and there’s still time to register for the four remaining webinars. Through August and September, FAA experts will continue to host live online webinars to discuss the waiver process, provide examples of successful waiver applications, and answer your most pressing questions.
What You Can Learn From the FAA Summer Webinar Series
The most important takeaway from the FAA summer webinar series will be information on how to apply for a waiver and best practices for increasing the chance of approval. Drone pilots can request waivers for flights typically prohibited by FAA regulations such as flying a drone at night, flying beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), flying above 400 feet, or flying over crowds of people.
During the webinar series, you will learn:
- The waiver application process
- When to apply for a waiver
- Common waiver requests
- Common waiver application mistakes
- Risk management, hazard recognition, risk analysis and assessment
The upcoming schedule includes discussion on waivers for operations BVLOS, over people, and above an altitude of 400 feet. Nighttime waivers were covered previously in a two-part webinar earlier this summer, but you can still check out our article, “How to Fly Your Drone at Night: Applying for a Part 107 Daylight Operations Waiver” for guidance.
FAA Summer Webinar Series Schedule, Aug. – Sept.
Here are the upcoming FAA summer webinars for August and September:
August 7, 2018 – “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”
Using real examples, this session reviews what a successful and unsuccessful waiver application looks like.
August 21, 2018 – “Beyond Visual Line of Sight”
Why is a BVLOS waiver so difficult to obtain? This session focuses on the “holy grail” of waivers. Is it impossible? No. Will it take more effort than applying for a night waiver? Definitely.
September 4, 2018 – “Operating Limitations: Altitude”
Learn how to fly above the 400 feet altitude ceiling with an operation limitation (altitude) waiver.
September 18, 2018 – “Operations over People”
Why are there so few approvals for this waiver? In this session, FAA experts address the mitigation necessary to ensure your operation doesn’t endanger people on the ground.
Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, and caps at 1,000 attendees.
Why Bother with Waivers?
The Small UAS Part 107 rule is designed to minimize risks to other aircraft, people, and property on the ground. The rule includes the option to apply for a certificate of waiver, which allows for a small UAS operation to deviate from certain operating rules if the FAA finds that the proposed operation can be performed safely.
Waivers expand the possibilities of what you can do with your drone, whether it be gathering aerial footage of a crowd at an event, inspecting utility infrastructures from a high elevation, or another innovate use of drones. Understanding how to obtain a waiver will increase your potential as a drone pilot, open up more drone job opportunities, and widen the possibilities of what you can accomplish with your drone.
Part 107 waivers are commonly requested for:
- Flying at night
- Flying directly over a person or people
- Flying from a moving vehicle or aircraft, not in a sparsely populated area
- Flying multiple aircraft with only one pilot
- Flying beyond the pilot’s visual line-of-sight
- Flying above 400 feet
- Flying near airports / in controlled airspace
The FAA makes public who has received a waiver. Reviewing this list can give you an idea of the types of waivers submitted and approved. It also enables employers, law enforcement, and other interested parties to validate that a drone operator posses the waiver they claim to have.
The penalty for unauthorized UAS flights can involve a heavy fine. In a 2015 case of multiple violations, the FAA proposed a $1.9 million penalty on SkyPan for conducting 65 unauthorized operations, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules. The FAA and Skypan reached a settlement agreement of $200,000, reducing the fine significantly but still proving the importance of gaining proper authorization for all UAS operations.
Additionally, technology and science media outlet Motherboard acquired and shared a list of every drone pilot ever fined by the FAA. The list revealed fines ranging from $400 to $5,500.
The lesson to be reaped from all this is that it’s better to do your paperwork for the proper waiver than to risk a fine. A fact sheet covering the FAA drone rules under Part 107 is available here.
FAA Webinars Year Round
With a heavy focus on safety, the FAA offers multiple opportunities for UAS education. Beyond the FAA Summer Webinar series, the FAA hosts webinars year round.
The FAASTeam sponsors thousands of aviation safety seminars and webinars throughout the country. These informative courses include a variety of topics designed to reduce risk and increase safety in aviation operations. You can search the seminar and webinar database to locate a seminar near you or to register for an online webinar. A huge bonus is that most courses are free.
If you’ve attended a FAA webinar, tell us about your experience on the UAV Coach community forum.