Excerpts from: Fact Sheet – Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
January 6, 2014
Contact: Les Dorr or Alison Duquette
Phone: (202) 267-3883
“The FAA’s Role: Safety
Safety is the FAA’s top mission, and the agency maintains the world’s safest aviation system. As a provider of air traffic control services, the FAA also must ensure the safety and efficiency of the nation’s entire airspace.
The FAA first authorized use of unmanned aircraft in the NAS in 1990. Since then, the agency has authorized limited use of UAS for important missions in the public interest, such as firefighting, disaster relief, search and rescue, law enforcement, border patrol, military training and testing and evaluation. Today, UAS perform border and port surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security, help with scientific research and environmental monitoring by NASA and NOAA, support public safety by law enforcement agencies, help state universities conduct research, and support various other missions for public (government) entities.
Unmanned aircraft are flying now in the national airspace system under very controlled conditions. Operations potentially range from ground level to above 50,000 feet, depending on the specific type of aircraft. However, UAS operations are currently not authorized in Class B airspace, which exists over major urban areas and contains the highest density of manned aircraft in the National Airspace System.
There are currently two ways to get FAA approval to operate a UAS. The first is to obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate for private sector (civil) aircraft to do research and development, training and flight demonstrations. The second is to obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for public aircraft. Routine operation of UAS over densely-populated areas is prohibited.”
“Because UAS technology cannot currently comply with “see and avoid” rules that apply to all aircraft, a visual observer or an accompanying “chase plane” must maintain visual contact with the UAS and serve as its “eyes” when operating outside airspace restricted from other users.”
Recreational use of airspace by model aircraft is covered by FAA Advisory Circular 91-57, which generally limits operations to below 400 feet above ground level and away from airports and air traffic. In 2007, the FAA clarified that AC 91-57 only applies to modelers, and specifically excludes individuals or companies flying model aircraft for business purposes.
The FAA guidance is available at: http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/91-57.pdf”
READ the Full Fact Sheet Here: http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=14153