sUAS Regulations

Around the world aviation authorities are beginning to recognise the importance of civilian unmanned aircraft of all sizes. We shall attempt to outline the basic requirements of countries that have made rulings.


CASR Part 101 Unmanned aircraft and rocket operations

Part 101 consolidates the rules governing all unmanned aeronautical activities into one body of legislation. It prescribes the rules for the use of unmanned moored balloons and kites, unmanned free balloons, unmanned rockets, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), model aircraft, and pyrotechnic displays.

It provides new regulations for unmanned aircraft and firework displays but minimal change to existing regulations for balloons, rockets and model aircraft from existing Civil Aviation Orders (CAOs).

Advisory circular here


Section 602.41 of the CARs states, no person shall operate an unmanned air vehicle in flight except in accordance with a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC). Section 623.65 outlines information that should be submitted when making an application for a SFOC. Be sure to make your request as early as possible and provide as much information as possible. You must be able to demonstrate the predictability and reliability of the unmanned air vehicle, essentially that it has the ability to perform in the desired environment. The requirement for a SFOC is intended to ensure the safety of the public and protection of other users of the airspace during the operation of the unmanned air vehicle.

The following constitutes an application to conduct the flight of an unmanned air vehicle:

(a)  the name, address, and where applicable, the telephone number and facsimile number of the applicant;

(b)  the name, address, and where applicable the telephone number and facsimile number of the person designated by the applicant to have operational control over the operation (Operation Manager);

(c)  method by which the Operation Manager may be contacted directly during operation;

(d)  the type and purpose of the operation;

(e)  the dates, alternate dates and times of the proposed operation;

(f)  a complete description, including all pertinent flight data on the aircraft to be flown;

(g)  the security plan for the area(s) of operation and security plan for the
area(s) to be overflown to ensure no hazard is created to persons or property on the surface;

(h)  the emergency contingency plan to deal with any disaster resulting from the operation;

(i)  the name, address, telephone and facsimile numbers of the person designated to be responsible for supervision of the operation area (Ground Supervisor), if different from the Operation Manager during the operation;

(j)  a detailed plan describing how the operation shall be carried out. The plan shall include a clear, legible presentation of the area to be used during the operation. The presentation may be in the form of a scale diagram, aerial photograph or large scale topographical chart and must include at least the following information:

  1. the altitudes and routes to be used on the approach and departure to and from the area where the operation will be carried out;
  2. the location and height above ground of all obstacles in the approach and departure path to the areas where the operation will be carried out;
  3. the exact boundaries of the area where the actual operation will be carried out;
  4. the altitudes and routes to be used while carrying out the operation;
  5. any other information pertinent to the safe conduct of the operation requested by the Minister.


Pilot requirements:-

At the present time there are no RPA pilot licenses recognised in aviation law. However, it is essential that pilots of any aircraft have at least a basic understanding of the applicable regulations, in particular the Rules of the Air Regulations. Therefore, the CAA will require a potential RPA operator to demonstrate that the pilot is appropriately qualified before any operating permission is issued.

The British Model Flying Association (BMFA) offers a training scheme that provides pilots with the necessary skills and knowledge, and records the successful completion of training with the issue of a certificate. The CAA recognises the BMFA ‘B’ certificate as evidence of pilot competence.

Clearly some RPAs, in particular those that utilise forms of automated flight, require different skills to operate and may not require the pilot to manually operate the flying controls. In such circumstances the CAA will consider alternative evidence of pilot competence, perhaps through training or guidance provided by the aircraft manufacturer.

Permission to operate sUAS commercially is obtained by filling out the SRG 1320 form. As of December 2010 there are 70 licenced UAS operators in the UK.


What is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS)?
A UAS is the unmanned aircraft (UA) and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft.

The UA is the flying portion of the system, flown by a pilot via a ground control system, or autonomously through use of an on-board computer, communication links and any additional equipment that is necessary for the UA to operate safely. The FAA issues an experimental airworthiness certificate for the entire system, not just the flying portion of the system.

Do I need to get approval from the FAA to fly a model aircraft for recreation?
No. FAA guidance does not address size of the model aircraft. FAA guidance says that model aircraft flights should be kept below 400 feet above ground level (AGL), should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, and are not for business purposes. 1, 2

What is the difference between an Unmanned Aircraft (UA), a Remotely Operated Aircraft (ROA), a Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV), and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle?
Currently the FAA and most of the international community uses the term “UA” or “UAS” for UA System. Previously used terms to identify unmanned aircraft are ROA, RPV, and UAV.
If I fly a UAS for business purposes, such as new technology development, am I required to get approval from the FAA?
Yes. There are presently two methods of gaining FAA approval for flying UAS: Special Airworthiness Certificates – Experimental Category (SAC-EC) for civil aircraft, and Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for public aircraft. 1, 3

What’s the difference between public and civil aircraft?
A public aircraft is one that is only for the United States government or owned and operated by the government of a state, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the U. S. or a political subdivision. Operators of public aircraft include DOD, DOJ, DHS, NASA, NOAA, state/local agencies and qualifying universities. Civil aircraft means other than a public aircraft. 1, 4

If I want to operate a civil aircraft, how do I obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate?
The Aircraft Certification Service – Production and Airworthiness Division (AIR-200) at FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. holds this responsibility and can be reached via email or telephone (202) 385-6346. All questions regarding the process and procedures required to obtain an experimental certificate will be answered by AIR-200. 1, 3, 5

Can I fly a UAS under a COA or experimental certificate for commercial purposes?
No. Currently, there are no means to obtain an authorization for commercial UAS operations in the NAS. However, manufacturers may apply for an experimental certificate for the purposes of R&D, market survey and crew training.

If I want to operate a public UAS, how do I obtain a COA?
The UAS COA process is managed in Washington, DC, FAA Headquarters in the UAS Group (AJV-13). Contact AJV-13 via emailfor assistance. The process includes opening a COA website account, which has an application that can be populated on-line. Public aircraft are tied to government agencies, therefore credentials must be provided. 3

Are FAA issued pilot certificates required to operate civil UAS?
It depends on where you intend to operate, but in all cases you need to be additionally trained in all specific details of the UA being operated. 3

How long does the process take?
From our experience, depending on the complexity, from 2 months to 1 year.

Is a FAA issued pilot certificate required to operate civil UAS?
Yes. If the aircraft is issued an airworthiness certificate a pilot certificate is required. 3

How long does the process take to obtain an experimental certificate?
From our experience, depending on the system and operational complexity, the process may take from 60 to 90 days.
Is the FAA considering a special type of airspace for UAS?
Currently there are no actions being taken to establish a “special UAS airspace”. This “special UAS airspace” would be counter to the idea of integrating unmanned aircraft into the NAS because it would be segregating, not integrating.

What about commercial operations? What are the obstacles to standards, certification, and operating procedures?
All operations conducted in civil airspace must meet minimum levels of safety. Public UA operators have the ability to self-certify their equipment and personnel, but civil operators are certified by the FAA. We believe civil operators will benefit from the collaboration between the FAA and the public operators. Presently, the FAA is drafting a rule to address small UAS.

What do you think the FAA will have to do to address the UAS industry changes and growth?
The UAS industry has grown largely as a result of supporting the defense organizations and this is reflected in the type of systems that have been developed. However, operations in civil airspace have different priorities. Civil performance standards are often more stringent, especially in the areas of reliability. Public expectation for a safe aviation environment drives our very high standards.

Federal Register Notice – Clarification of FAA Policy (PDF), UAS Operations in the U.S. National Airspace System
Advisory Circular 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards
FAA Interim Operational Approval Guidance 08-01, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in the U. S. National Airspace System
Part A, Subtitle VII of title 49, United States Code, Section 40102, Definitions; and 14 CFR 1.1 General Definitions
FAA Order 8130.34, Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems


The SFAR 107 shades of things to come

Commercial UAS flight to be permitted in the USA by no later than September 2015

AMA Works to Amend Reauthorization Bill Providing Relief for Model Aviation from sUAS Rules