[Federal Register Volume 72, Number 29 (Tuesday, February 13, 2007)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 6689-6690]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E7-2402]

Rules and Regulations
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Federal Register / Vol. 72, No. 29 / Tuesday, February 13, 2007 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 6689]]



Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 91

[Docket No. FAA-2006-25714; Notice No. 07-01]

Unmanned Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of policy; opportunity for feedback.


SUMMARY: This document clarifies the FAA's current policy concerning 
operations of unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kenneth D. Davis, Manager, Unmanned 
Aircraft Program Office, Aircraft Certification Service, Federal 
Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 
20591, (202) 385-4636, e-mail: [email protected].


    Simply stated, an unmanned aircraft is a device that is used, or is 
intended to be used, for flight in the air with no onboard pilot. These 
devices may be as simple as a remotely controlled model aircraft used 
for recreational purposes or as complex as surveillance aircraft flying 
over hostile areas in warfare. They may be controlled either manually 
or through an autopilot using a data link to connect the pilot to their 
aircraft. They may perform a variety of public services: Surveillance, 
collection of air samples to determine levels of pollution, or rescue 
and recovery missions in crisis situations. They range in size from 
wingspans of six inches to 246 feet; and can weigh from approximately 
four ounces to over 25,600 pounds. The one thing they have in common is 
that their numbers and uses are growing dramatically. In the United 
States alone, approximately 50 companies, universities, and government 
organizations are developing and producing some 155 unmanned aircraft 
designs. Regulatory standards need to be developed to enable current 
technology for unmanned aircraft to comply with Title 14 Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR).
    The Federal Aviation Administration's current policy is based on 
whether the unmanned aircraft is used as a public aircraft, civil 
aircraft or as a model aircraft.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operating as Public Aircraft

    The most common public use of unmanned aircraft today in the United 
States is by the Department of Defense. U.S. operations in Iraq, 
Afghanistan and elsewhere have fueled a huge increase in unmanned 
aircraft demand. In Iraq alone, more than 700 unmanned aircraft are in 
use for surveillance and weapons delivery.
    Other agencies have also found public uses for unmanned aircraft. 
For example, the Customs and Border Protection uses them to patrol 
along the US/Mexican border. In the future, unmanned aircraft could be 
used to provide first responder reports of damage due to weather or 
other catastrophic causes.
    In response to this growing demand for public use unmanned aircraft 
operations, the FAA developed guidance in a Memorandum titled 
``Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in the U.S. National Airspace 
System--Interim Operational Approval Guidance'' (UAS Policy 05-01). In 
this document, the FAA set out guidance for public use of unmanned 
aircraft by defining a process for evaluating applications for 
Certificate(s) of Waiver or Authorization (COA's) for unmanned aircraft 
to operate in the National Airspace System. The concern was not only 
that unmanned aircraft operations might interfere with commercial and 
general aviation aircraft operations, but that they could also pose a 
safety problem for other airborne vehicles, and persons or property on 
the ground. The FAA guidance supports unmanned aircraft flight activity 
that can be conducted at an acceptable level of safety. In order to 
ensure this level of safety, the operator is required to establish the 
Unmanned Aircraft System's (UAS) airworthiness either from FAA 
certification, a DOD airworthiness statement, or by other approved 
means. Applicants also have to demonstrate that a collision with 
another aircraft or other airspace user is extremely improbable as well 
as complying with appropriate cloud and terrain clearances as required. 
Key to the concept are the roles of pilot-in-command (PIC) and 
observer. The PIC concept is essential to the safe operation of manned 
aircraft. The FAA's UAS guidance applies this PIC concept to unmanned 
aircraft and includes minimum qualifications and currency requirements. 
The PIC is simply the person in control of, and responsible for, the 
UAS. The role of the observer is to observe the activity of the 
unmanned aircraft and surrounding airspace, either through line-of-
sight on the ground or in the air by means of a chase aircraft. In 
general, this means the pilot or observer must be, in most cases, 
within 1 mile laterally and 3,000 feet vertically of the unmanned 
aircraft. Direct communication between the PIC and the observer must be 
maintained at all times. Unmanned aircraft flight above 18,000 feet 
must be conducted under Instrument Flight Rules, on an IFR flight plan, 
must obtain ATC clearance, be equipped with at least a Mode C 
transponder (preferably Mode S), operating navigation lights and / or 
collision avoidance lights and maintain communication between the PIC 
and Air Traffic Control (ATC). Unmanned aircraft flights below 18,000 
feet have similar requirements, except that if operators choose to 
operate on other than an IFR flight plan, they may be required to pre-
coordinate with ATC.
    The FAA has issued more than 50 COA's over the past 2 years and 
anticipates issuing a record number of COA's this year.
    For more information, Memorandum on UAS Policy (05-01) and other 
policy guidance is available at the FAA Web site: http://www.faa.gov/uas.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operating as Civil Aircraft

    Just as unmanned aircraft have a variety of uses in the public 
sector, their application in commercial or civil use is equally 
diverse. This is a quickly growing and important industry. Under FAA 
policy, operators who wish to fly an unmanned aircraft for civil use 

[[Page 6690]]

obtain an FAA airworthiness certificate the same as any other type 
aircraft. The FAA is currently only issuing special airworthiness 
certificates in the experimental category. Experimental certificates 
are issued with accompanying operational limitations (14 CFR 91.319) 
that are appropriate to the applicant's operation. The FAA has issued 
five experimental certificates for unmanned aircraft systems for the 
purposes of research and development, marketing surveys, or crew 
training. UAS issued experimental certificates may not be used for 
compensation or hire.
    The applicable regulations for an experimental certificate are 
found in 14 CFR 21.191, 21.193, and 21.195. In general, the applicant 
must state the intended use for the UAS and provide sufficient 
information to satisfy the FAA that the aircraft can be operated 
safely. The time or number of flights must be specified along with a 
description of the areas over which the aircraft would operate. The 
application must also include drawings or detailed photographs of the 
aircraft. An on-site review of the system and demonstration of the area 
of operation may be required. Additional information on how to apply 
for an experimental airworthiness certificate is available from Richard 
Posey, AIR-200, (202) 267-9538; e-mail: [email protected].

Recreational/Sport Use of Model Airplanes

    In 1981, in recognition of the safety issues raised by the 
operation of model aircraft, the FAA published Advisory Circular (AC) 
91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards for the purpose of providing 
guidance to persons interested in flying model aircraft as a hobby or 
for recreational use. This guidance encourages good judgment on the 
part of operators so that persons on the ground or other aircraft in 
flight will not be endangered. The AC contains among other things, 
guidance for site selection. Users are advised to avoid noise sensitive 
areas such as parks, schools, hospitals, and churches. Hobbyists are 
advised not to fly in the vicinity of spectators until they are 
confident that the model aircraft has been flight tested and proven 
airworthy. Model aircraft should be flown below 400 feet above the 
surface to avoid other aircraft in flight. The FAA expects that 
hobbyists will operate these recreational model aircraft within visual 
line-of-sight. While the AC 91-57 was developed for model aircraft, 
some operators have used the AC as the basis for commercial flight 

Policy Statement

    The current FAA policy for UAS operations is that no person may 
operate a UAS in the National Airspace System without specific 
authority. For UAS operating as public aircraft the authority is the 
COA, for UAS operating as civil aircraft the authority is special 
airworthiness certificates, and for model aircraft the authority is AC 
    The FAA recognizes that people and companies other than modelers 
might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are 
legally operating under the authority of AC 91-57. AC 91-57 only 
applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes its use by persons 
or companies for business purposes.
    The FAA has undertaken a safety review that will examine the 
feasibility of creating a different category of unmanned ``vehicles'' 
that may be defined by the operator's visual line of sight and are also 
small and slow enough to adequately mitigate hazards to other aircraft 
and persons on the ground. The end product of this analysis may be a 
new flight authorization instrument similar to AC 91-57, but focused on 
operations which do not qualify as sport and recreation, but also may 
not require a certificate of airworthiness. They will, however, require 
compliance with applicable FAA regulations and guidance developed for 
this category.
    Feedback regarding current FAA policy for Unmanned Aircraft Systems 
can be submitted at http://www.faa.gov/uas. (Scroll down to the bottom 
of the page and find Contact UAPO. Click into this link.)

    Issued in Washington, DC, on February 6, 2007.
Nicholas Sabatini,
Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety.
 [FR Doc. E7-2402 Filed 2-12-07; 8:45 am]