LE Drones - Pre-Flight Checklist

These five steps offer essential guidance for executing successful UAS missions in today’s intricate environment:

  1. Preparation for Flight:

    • Assess flying conditions and the site.
    • Check weather conditions, ensuring suitability for flight.
    • Utilize the global UTM platform, such as Aloft, for safe and efficient drone operations.
    • Define clear objectives and review the complete flight plan, identifying key areas of interest.
    • Select open take-off and landing locations, away from obstructions and bystanders, with consideration for emergency landing zones.
  2. Identifying Hazards:

    • Recognize potential obstacles like powerlines, terrain variations, bodies of water, wildlife, and manmade or natural structures.
    • Mitigate risks associated with broadcasting equipment, power lines, and Wi-Fi signals that may interfere with UAV operations.
    • Adhere to altitude restrictions and avoid flying over stadiums, crowds, or emergency response areas.
  3. Documentation and Compliance:

    • Obtain necessary licenses and permits for commercial drone operations, including the remote pilot certificate.
    • Secure operational waivers for specific flights not permitted under Part 107 regulations.
    • Adhere to local drone operation laws and regulations.
  4. Drone Fitness Check:

    • Conduct a comprehensive preflight inspection, ensuring the drone is free of damage or obstruction.
    • Verify battery charge levels and camera settings, ensuring adequate storage space on the memory card.
  5. Firmware Updates:

    • Regularly update drone firmware to maintain connectivity, navigation, and operational standards.

Under Part 107 FAA regulations, commercial drone operations require adherence to specific guidelines:

  • Ensure drones meet weight and lighting requirements and are registered with the FAA.
  • Obtain a remote pilot certificate, demonstrating knowledge and proficiency in drone operation.
  • Follow Part 107 rules regarding preflight inspections, visual line-of-sight requirements, operational limitations, and reporting of accidents.

    Under Part 107 FAA regulations, commercial operations can fly a drone that is less than 55 pounds for work or business by following three main steps.

    1. The Drone – Drones are defined as “aircraft” under federal law, but unlike other aircraft, drones are not subject to any FAA airworthiness certification requirements. Instead, drone operators must verify the physical drone themselves. The drone and all attachments – which may not include hazardous material – must not exceed 55 pounds, and drones must have appropriate anti-collision lighting. The drone must be registered with the FAA, which costs $5 and is valid for 3 years. Once registered, the FAA registration number must be clearly visible10 on an outside surface of the drone by engraving or permanent marker.
    2. Drone Pilot – To legally operate a drone commercially, the operator/pilot needs to obtain a drone pilot license, formerly referred to as a “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.” To be eligible to get a Remote Pilot Certificate, a candidate must be at least 16 years old, be able to read, write, speak, and understand English, and be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone. The candidate must take and pass a knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.

    After passing the test a candidate must complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system and pass a Transportation Security Administration security background check. Upon completion, a remote pilot certificate will be issued from the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system. The pilot must have this certificate on their person while operating a drone commercially.

    1. Drone Operations: A preflight inspection by the remote pilot in command is required. Other Part 107 rules require that commercial drone flights must remain in the visual line-of-sight of the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the drone, or alternatively, within VLOS of an observer. Commercial drone flights may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation or under a covered structure or inside a
      covered stationary vehicle. Additionally, commercial drone flights under Part 107:
    • Must be daylight-only operations, or civil twilight, 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time.
    • Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
    • Cannot exceed groundspeed of 100 mph, or 87 knots, or an altitude of 400 feet above ground level or, if higher than 400 feet, must remain within 400 feet of a structure.
    • May operate in Class G airspace11 without Air Traffic Control permission, and in Class B, C, D and E airspace with Air Traffic Control permission.
    • Cannot operate from a moving aircraft or vehicle.

    Drones can and do crash, and some accidents need to be reported to the FAA. If the drone accident results in a serious injury to a person or damage to property more than $500, the remote pilot in command is required under § 107.9 to report the incident to the FAA within 10 calendar days.

    Operational Waivers – Drone operators may request to fly specific drone operations not allowed under part 107 by requesting an operational waiver. A waiver is an official document issued by the FAA that approves certain operations of aircraft outside the limitations of a regulation. These waivers allow drone pilots to deviate from certain rules under part 107 by demonstrating they can still fly safely using alternative methods. Applying for a waiver requires a description of the proposed operation, and of the possible operational risks and methods proposed to lessen/mitigate those risks.

Questions? We’re always happy to help.
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