Wayne Woldt, Jacob Smith 2017-02-22 23:43:33
Many pilots and aviators may not be aware that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has created a brand new pilot certificate for individuals who fly unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes. The new certificate became available on August 29, 2016, and based on a quick review of the certificates issued so far, it looks like there is a fair amount of interest. The official name of the certificate is “Remote Pilot with Small Unmanned Aircraft System Rating.” This certificate authorizes pilots to operate under the new Part 107 rule, entitled “The Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rule,” for commercial business purposes. As with the remote pilot certificate, these new rules became fully operational on August 29, 2016, and were originally published in the Federal Register on June 21, 2016. The new Part 107 rule provides a regulatory framework for those who wish to fly small unmanned aircraft for business, profit, research, or education. Individuals who want to fly model aircraft, including remote-control aircraft, for fun or hobby do not need a remote pilot certificate. The FAA’s definition of small unmanned aircraft is based on a takeoff weight of less than 55 lbs (25 kg), including the payload and fuel (or batteries). The new rules require that pilots demonstrate aviation-related knowledge in twelve broad areas: the Part 107 rule, airspace classification and aviation maps (or sectionals), aviation weather sources and the impact of weather on safe flight, aircraft loading and performance, emergency procedures and crew resource management, aviation radio communication procedures, determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft, physiological effects of drugs and alcohol, aeronautical decision making, airport operations, and maintenance and preflight procedures. Individuals who do not have an existing pilot certificate, issued under Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, will need to pass a knowledge exam to earn a remote pilot certificate. This exam is administered in a manner similar to other pilot exams, using computers at authorized locations, with attention to security. Typical authorized locations include flight training centers at airports that have active flight training operations. Passing the knowledge exam demonstrates an understanding of aviation, with particular proficiency in the rules for safe and legal flight of unmanned aircraft. If this is your first pilot certificate, you will also need to complete an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA Form 8710-13) and submit it to the FAA. Although the IACRA can be completed at any time, it is generally considered more efficient to complete it after passing the exam. Once your IACRA is accepted by the FAA, and a background check is completed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), your remote pilot certificate will be mailed to your address. For those who already have a pilot certificate and current flight review, there is an optional route. Existing pilots can complete an FAA on-line review course to earn their remote pilot certificate. There are no requirements to demonstrate proficiency in flying unmanned aircraft, sometimes termed a “check ride,” to earn a remote pilot certificate. However, individuals who fly with a remote pilot certificate will be held to aviation standards, and any violations have the potential to jeopardize their certificate. As the old saying goes, “The only thing constant is change.” And the times sure are changing in agriculture, as innovative technologies continue to emerge. We are contacted on a regular basis by people with new ideas involving unmanned aircraft in agriculture. Our first reaction is usually along the lines of “Wow! That’s a really cool idea!”—followed quickly by “Hey, why didn’t we think of that?” But the reality is that the opportunities are too numerous to comprehend. To realize the tremendous opportunities for unmanned aircraft, we need to imagine the challenges that other people are seeking to solve—which can be quite difficult. What challenges are you trying to solve, and what opportunities for unmanned aircraft do you see from your perspective? In the meantime, a whole new cadre of pilots will be joining the world of aviation. By some estimates, the number of remote pilots will surpass the number of all other pilots combined. As we ponder this potential and its implications for both agriculture and aviation, we often wonder, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” Personally, we think the glass is overflowing. How about you? Additional information on the Part 107 rule for small unmanned aircraft can be found in Advisory Circular AC 107- 2 (www.faa.gov/uas/media/AC_107-2_AFS-1_Signed.pdf). Additional FAA information on small unmanned aircraft can be found at www.faa.gov/uas/. ASABE member Wayne Woldt, P.E., Associate Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the School of Natural Resources, and Director, Nebraska Unmanned Aircraft Innovation, Research and Education (NU-AIRE) Laboratory, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org. Jacob Smith, Flight Operations Coordinator, NU-AIRE Unmanned Aircraft Laboratory, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, email@example.com.
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