Introduction:

Commercial operation of unmanned aerial vehicles in the USA is subject to legislation and regulation from various institutions at local, state and federal level.

Properly understanding and abiding by all of these can be a confusing and convoluted process, so we made this checklist to help you cover all the bases and rest assured you're not risking your operation with non-compliance.

This checklist will cover all commercial compliance scenarios, including but not limited to pilot and UAV certification, special operations, and airspace authorization.

You should be running a checklist like this as a pilot or operations coordinator to ensure you and your team are properly certified before a flight. Best practice for operations coordination will incorporate compliance checks into the project management process, and this template will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Let's get dive right in.

Preparation:

Record basic details

Before we begin with the main compliance check, note down some basic details about the pilot and UAV by completing the form fields below.

Acquire copies of local jurisdiction

The first step towards full compliance is educating yourself on the specific jurisdictions which apply to your flight operations.

There are over 133 localities which have enacted specific UAV-related laws, and not all of these are exactly in standing with the regulation covered by the FAA's Small UAS rule part 107 license.

Be sure to check with a local representative and be considerate of the full scope of operation. 

Remember to be clear as to whether or not regulation is inclusive of commercial UAV operation.

  • 1
    Local representative briefed on flight operations plan
  • 2
    Local regulations reviewed
  • 3
    Hard copies printed of local jurisdiction

Acquire copies of state jurisdiction

Whilst most state law is currently aimed at regulating non-commercial UAV usage, some commercial operations will still fall within their scope, and you should be fully educated with relevant and up-to-date information on state-level regulation.

UAV compliance can be confusing - and potentially contradictory. At least 7 states have enacted legislation which stops local authorities from being able to regulate the use of UAVs within those jurisdictions. Do your research so you're not at risk of non-compliance.

  • 1
    State representative briefed on flight operations plan
  • 2
    State regulation reviewed
  • 3
    Hard copies printed of state jurisdiction

Acquire copies of FAA jurisdiction

The FAA has its own specific jurisdiction for regulation of commercial UAV operation in the USA.

Be sure that you are fully FAA compliant and that your flight scope abides by the rules currently in place. If you're uncertain as to the scope of your operations, it's advisable to get in touch with an FAA representative to make sure everything has the go-ahead.

Always be sure that you are fully compliant with all of FAA, state, and local jurisdiction. 

  • 1
    FAA representative briefed
  • 2
    FAA guidelines and regulation reviewed
  • 3
    Hard copies printed of FAA jurisdiction

Pilot certification:

Upload part 107 remote pilot license

As per FAA regulation, commercial UAVs must be operated under part 107 of the Small UAV Rule.

Obtaining a Remote Pilot License requires passing an aeronautical knowledge test and a TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) screening.

UAV certification:

Upload UAV insurance policy

It's inevitable that something unexpected will happen to your UAV at some point, no matter how diligently you stack the odds against it. 

If you haven't already, it's worth checking the specific aviation policy of your current insurance plan - or if you've got UAV-specific insurance, be sure to revise the terms carefully and understand what is and what isn't covered.

Ultimately, you'll want to make sure that your coverage isn't close to expiring, and that any scheduled flights will still be covered.

  • 1
    Check aviation policy of your insurance plan
  • 2
    Ensure coverage includes any set dates of operation

Reconsider your insurance plan

If you've discovered that your current insurance package is not inclusive of the commercial operation of UAV systems, then you may want to consider investigating alternative options for UAV insurance.

Upload UAV special airworthiness certification

An airworthiness certification is a document which basically confirms that the UAV fits into one of the FAA's categorizations that determine what kind of aircraft can be legally operated.

These certificates consist of two classifications: standard and special, but UAVs fall under the special classification.

Check that your certification is valid for your UAV and upload the document before proceeding to the next task.

  • 1
    Review FAA's special airworthiness classification
  • 2
    Confirm special airworthiness certification is valid for your UAV

Determine what special permissions are required

You may not need to seek special permission before a flight. However, if you do, you'll need to provide the relevant documents and ensure they are all valid.

Complete the form fields below to determine what access is needed.

Upload part 107 waiver

Part 107 waivers are authorizations for flight during special conditions such as night flying, flying directly above a pedestrian or crowds of people, operating multiple UAVs with just one pilot, and flying higher than 400 feet.

If the FAA believes the applicant has shown the operations are safe enough, they will be given a waiver from a particular regulation and they instead operate under the certificate of waiver’s restrictions in addition to the rest of the regulations.

Ensure your part 107 waiver covers the scope of the next operation. Whilst you're at it, double check that it's all in-date as well.

  • 1
    Part 107 waiver is inclusive of full scope of operation
  • 2
    Part 107 waiver is valid for the date of operation

Upload airspace authorization

In certain cases where you require an airspace authorization document granting permission to operate in restricted airspaces in the United States, you will need to make sure this document is relevant and in-date.

Specifically, when flying in controlled airspaces (Class B, C, D, or surface area E) in the United States, you will need to apply for an airspace authorization or airspace waiver.

An airspace authorization can be for a specific location or for wider areas governed by a single ATC jurisdiction.

  • 1
    Airspace authorization is valid for date of operation
  • 2
    Airspace authorization is inclusive of the site location

Training:

Assess whether training or re-training is necessary

Where necessary, relevant training and re-training will need to be performed to ensure pilots and technicians are in-practice and fully qualified.

After reviewing all certifications and considering the full scope of operations, consider whether or not any additional training or re-training is necessary and inform those concerned of their responsibilities. 

It may be that you conduct internal programs alongside proficiency assessments, or perhaps training is done through a 3rd party organization like the FAA.

Whatever the case, state your verdict in the form field below.

Specify what training or re-training is necessary

In the form field below, clarify what training is required, in the context of the scope of operation.

Advanced operations training can incorporate various skills such as night-flying, telemetry, first-person control, extended line-of-site and adverse weather control require extensive specialized training and many more.

This kind of training will generally require some kind of upkeep, so check that everyone involved with the operation is adequately certified before going ahead with an operation.

Sources:

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