- Best Practices for UAS Operations Responsibility of the UAS pilot. Just as is the case with a manned aircraft, the UAS remote pilot or recreational flyer is responsible for the safe operation of their unmanned aircraft. The remote pilot or recreational flyer must ensure that they are physically ready to fly and knowledgeable of the flight to be performed to include operational parameters, UAS limitations, local weather, and applicable flight rules; that the UAS itself is mechanically ready.
UAS Operations and Air Traffic Control (ATC) Coordination and/or communication of airspace authorizations between UAS pilots or operators and ATC are handled within the airspace access processes (e.g., LAANC, DroneZone, CAPS). They are not coordinated extemporaneously and verbally between the UAS operator and ATC. Any requirements for coordination and/or communication between UAS operator and ATC will be contained in individual s, which may include operational waivers, development of LOAs, and through other application processes which allow access to controlled airspace. Any air traffic services provided to sUAS operations shall be based upon the type of airspace authorization issued, along with the mitigations and limitations included in that authorization.
- Small UAS operators should not contact ATC directly by radio or telephone for purposes of airspace access. Also, the use of an aviation radio frequency by the of a sUAS may constitute a violation of Federal Communications Commission rules. Remote pilots of larger UAS—which are usually under positive control by ATC and flying under Instrument Flight Rules—are an exception to this guideline.
- Small UAS operators are encouraged to monitor local CTAF radio traffic when operating on or near an airport, for situational awareness.
Precautions: Flight Over or Near People, Vehicles, Manned Aircraft, and Night Operations
Flight over or near people or vehicles:
- Remote pilots and recreational flyers should carefully consider the hazards of flight operations over or near people. 14 CFR Part 107, Subpart D, operations over human beings, allows certain Operations Over People (OOP) and vehicles, based upon four different operational categories of UA weight and construction, and the likely severity of injury to people on the ground, in the case of contact. Part 107 operators may request a waiver to these restrictions.
- Part 91 remote pilots may refer to restrictions and permissions, regarding flight over people, in their respective s.
- Recreational flyers should consider the safety of other persons when flying. 49 USC 44809(a)(2), Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, requires recreational flyers to operate in accordance with the safety guidelines of an accepted CBO; these guidelines will usually include safety precautions for flight near people.
For further information on the rules for flying over people or vehicles, see ENR 8.4, paragraph 6., Airspace Restrictions to Flight.
14 CFR Part 107, Subpart D, Operations Over Human Beings.
49 USC 44809(a)(2), Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft.
Flight in the Vicinity of Manned Aircraft:
- The pilot of any unmanned aircraft operation retains the ultimate responsibility to avoid manned aircraft traffic. UAS operators should remember that manned aircraft may fly below 400 feet AGL; examples include helicopters, agricultural aircraft, light civil aircraft, and military aircraft. UAS pilots must ensure they have unblocked visual access to both their UAS and the airspace around it; not seeing a manned aircraft due to blocked line of sight does not absolve the UAS pilot from responsibility for avoidance.
- Should public safety or emergency responder aircraft (e.g., police, fire suppression, helicopter emergency medical services) operations be interfered with by UAS, substantial fines can be levied on the UAS operators involved. Enforcement actions can include revocation or suspension of a pilot certificate, and up to a $20,000 civil penalty per violation.
- Night operations are permitted under 14 CFR Parts 91, 14 CFR Part 107, and Section 44809. However, requirements for meteorological visibility, and for the operator or visual observer (VO) to maintain VLOS with the UAS at all times, should be considered; see ENR 8.5, subparagraph 1.9.
- 14 CFR Section 107.29, Operation at Night, requirements include initial pilot training and equipment such as an anti-collision light which is visible for at least three statute miles, with a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision.
Part 91 operators civil and PAO should refer to their specific s for any further instructions or limitations on night flight.
14 CFR Part 107.29, Operation at Night.
- Flight over or near people or vehicles:
Accidents and Incidents: UAS Operator Responsibilities
Reporting responsibility. A drone crash or malfunction, irrespective of which flight rules govern the flight, may trigger a reporting requirement to either the FAA, the NTSB, or both. The NTSB reporting requirements listed in 49 CFR 830.5, immediate notification, are separate and distinct from the FAA reporting requirements. All UAS flyers operating in the recreational, civil, and public are encouraged to read and follow NTSB reporting requirements should they experience a crash or malfunction that meets NTSB criteria and triggers NTSB reporting. See NTSB Reporting Requirements and ENR 8.8, subparagraph 4.2, below. A COA issued to Part 91 civil and public operators will contain specific incident/accident reporting requirements for the operator.
- Part 107 Operations. Part 107 operators have a reporting requirement described in 14 CFR Section 107.9, Accident Reporting. A remote pilot in command is required to report any sUAS crash that causes serious injury or loss of consciousness, or property damage other than to the UAS of over $500. Property damage refers to any property that is not part of the UA System or attached to the UAS.
- Recreational Flyer Operations. Recreational flyers fully complying with the exception listed in 49 USC 44809 are not required to report crashes to the FAA. However, this does not alleviate the recreational flyer from the requirement to report the crash to the NTSB if the crash meets the NTSB reporting requirements.
- Part 91 Operations. Part 91 operators typically flown by public aircraft operators, civil aircraft operators, or civil operators flying FAA type certificated UAS have unique reporting requirements delineated in the terms and conditions of their certificate of waiver/authorization and must comply with those specific requirements.
NTSB Reporting Requirements. The NTSB defines a UAS accident as an occurrence associated with the operations of any public or civil UAS that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or the UAS holds an airworthiness certificate and sustains substantial damage. In the case of a midair collision involving a UAS, any midair collision must be reported.
14 CFR 830.5, Immediate Notification.
14 CFR Section 107.9, Accident Reporting.
- Reporting responsibility. A drone crash or malfunction, irrespective of which flight rules govern the flight, may trigger a reporting requirement to either the FAA, the NTSB, or both. The NTSB reporting requirements listed in 49 CFR 830.5, immediate notification, are separate and distinct from the FAA reporting requirements. All UAS flyers operating in the recreational, civil, and public are encouraged to read and follow NTSB reporting requirements should they experience a crash or malfunction that meets NTSB criteria and triggers NTSB reporting. See NTSB Reporting Requirements and ENR 8.8, subparagraph 4.2, below. A COA issued to Part 91 civil and public operators will contain specific incident/accident reporting requirements for the operator.
Emergency UAS Authorizations Through Special Government Interest (SGI) Airspace Waivers
- Background. UAS are used by public safety agencies to respond to emergencies. The SGI process is for any Part 107 or Part 91 operator that either due to time limitations, airspace restrictions or emergency situations that requires expedited authorization by contacting the system operations support center (SOSC) at 9-ATOR-HQ-SOSC@faa.gov.
- The SGI process, depending on the nature of the operation, can be completed in a matter of minutes. This process enables response to an emergency with UAS in an expeditious manner.
Public Safety organizations may apply for expedited airspace authorizations through the SGI process. The SGI process is defined in FAA Order JO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration.
FAA Order JO 7210.3, Facility Operation And Administration,
Additional information regarding SGI authorizations can be located at the FAA's Emergency Situations webpage.
The FAA's Emergency Situations website may be reviewed at:
Environmental Best Practices
Unmanned aircraft operate in a similar environment to manned aircraft. Since most UAS operations are conducted at low altitude, hazards, risks and potential environment factors may be encountered on a more frequent basis. In addition to the Bird Hazards, Flight over National Refuges, Parks, and Forests, the following factors must also be considered:
- Flight Near Protected Conservation Areas. UAS, if misused, can have devastating impacts on protected wildlife. UAS operators may check for conservation area airspace restrictions on the B4UFLY mobile app.
Flight(s) Near Noise Sensitive Areas. Consider the following:
- UAS operations and flight paths should be planned to avoid prolonged or repetitive flight at low altitude near noise sensitive areas.
As described in FAA Order 1050.1, Environmental Impact: Policies and Procedures, an area is “noise sensitive” if noise interferes with any normal activities associated with the area's use.
FAA Order 1050.1, Environmental Impact: Policies and Procedures.
To the extent consistent with FAA safety requirements, operators should observe best practices developed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration when operating above areas administered by those agencies. The National Park Service provides additional guidance at their Unmanned Aircraft Systems website.
The National Park Service, Unmanned Aircraft Systems website may be viewed at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sound/uas.htm.
- Some bird species have shown the potential to attack UAS that approach their nesting and hunting areas too closely. The type of birds that are most likely to attack sUAS are raptors such as hawks, eagles, and falcons. However, gulls, geese, and crows have also been known to attack UAS. Aggressive bird attacks may damage UAS propellers or other critical equipment, and may result in sudden loss of power or engine failure. Remote pilots and recreational flyers should consider reviewing engine-out procedures, especially when operating near high bird concentrations.
- Unmanned aircraft operate in a similar environment to manned aircraft. Since most UAS operations are conducted at low altitude, hazards, risks and potential environment factors may be encountered on a more frequent basis. In addition to the Bird Hazards, Flight over National Refuges, Parks, and Forests, the following factors must also be considered:
Resources for UAS Operators
- FAA.GOV/UAS. The FAA UAS website, www.faa.gov/uas, is the central point for information about FAA UAS rules, regulations, and safety best practices.
- FAA DroneZone. The FAA DroneZone is the Agency's portal for registering drones, requesting Part 107 airspace authorizations and waivers, registering as a CBO, requesting fixed sites, and other tasks.
Local FAA Offices. Flight Standards District Offices (s), can be the best in-person source for UAS information. A list of s in the United States is at
- Aeronautical Information. The FAA provides aeronautical information to users, including UAS pilots, through a variety of methods including publications like this manual, other publications, Advisory Circulars (ACs), charts, website and mobile applications, etc. Check https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/ for these items.
- The UAS Support Center. For general question or comment about UAS or drones, the FAA's Support Center is available at 844-FLY-MY-UA or UASHelp@faa.gov.
- Clubs and Associations. Local UAS recreational clubs, CBO organizations, and business associations are excellent resources for information and updates on flying in the local region.
- LAANC. LAANC is the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, a collaboration between FAA and industry. It automates the application and approval process for airspace authorizations. Using applications developed by an FAA-approved UAS service supplier (USS) you can apply for an airspace authorization at over 600 airports. Download the free LAANC app at https://www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partnerships/data_exchange/.
- B4UFLY. The B4UFLY mobile application is a partnership between the FAA and Kittyhawk. The app helps recreational flyers know whether it is safe to fly their drone, as well as increases their situational awareness. Download the free B4UFly app at https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/where_can_i_fly/b4ufly/.
- Weather Sources. Aviation weather services (such as https://www.aviationweather.gov/) are generally targeted towards manned aviation, the FAA is currently working on UAS-specific weather applications.
- . The Notices to Air Missions () system, like aviation weather sources, remains primarily predicated on manned aviation needs. However, the system provides continual updates on all aviation activity to include UAS flight activities which have been input to the FAA, as well as airport status. The system will be of greatest use to larger UAS activities, UAS en route operations in controlled airspace, and those flying to or from airports. , temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), and aircraft safety alerts can be accessed at https://www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/notams_tfr/.