It is high time someone threw the beleaguered FAA a kudos or two. Wait a minute, have the body snatchers finally come for that Egan guy?!
Nope! I’ve been biding my time, gauging the reaction to the lifting of the near decades-long embargo on commercial drones.
Contrary to public accolades and gratitude being lavished on the FAA regarding Part 107, there has been grousing about what’s not in the rule. We can’t fly over 400’, at night, deliver Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman DVD box sets or candy bars on a string and my Grandma doesn’t like COW’s so these guys stink. Reminds me of the Monty Python Life of Brian skit, “What have the Romans ever done for us?!”
Well, we didn’t get an aqueduct, but we did get some clear guidance and a structure that facilitates operating a commercial drone business.
I don’t believe those folks deriding the 107 test and certificate process are in VLOS of the big picture. From what I see and hear, people are still failing to grasp the notion that they are in the commercial aviation business operating in the safest airspace system in the world. That does not mean your laptop, phone or tablet is the RPIC (Remote Pilot In Command), don’t buy into the big AI lie. The definition of Preprogrammed and Artificial Inelegance (AI) is a discussion that will be had another day, but for now, you’re primarily in the preprogrammed RPIC camp.
I believe that the Part 107 test questions are relevant and not really what any fair-minded person could call a barrier to entry. On the contrary, I’d call the process a minimum first step for entry into the National Airspace System (NAS). The points of 107, aeronautical chart reading, how the pattern works at airports you can fly close to and weather. The only way the FAA could have made this thing any easier would be to put the licenses in boxes of sugary breakfast cereal as prizes.
I’d offer further advice and say take a test prep class from someone who has experience in both manned and unmanned aviation. You would only stand to benefit learning about the culture of safety that has been built over the last several decades. Not only will it make you more aware of the why these rules exist but may prove beneficial for your commercial enterprise.
What we can do is fly in more areas than we thought we would be allowed. We can fly without a certificated Visual Observer, and in a VLOS envelope that is way beyond and not officially defined lateral distance, all without a second class medical. This revelation affords even the lowly Ag entrepreneur the chance at commercial success.
“But the FAA can’t keep up with the pace of innovation from Silicon Valley!” From my first-hand experience, I’m calling hogwash. The Silicon Valley crowd is starting to prove that they’ve got a looser grip on reality, virtual or otherwise than previously imagined. What is not part of the conversation is wringing the promise out of what TRL (Technology Readiness Level) we currently enjoy. Who can recall the promise of 4G, has it yet been realized? These facts aren’t even a speed bump in the conversation about the technology envisioned for ten plus years in the future.
The punch line, there is a very low order of probability that the Government or even VC folks could hope to keep up with just the relevance pivoting going on with the drone giants. If you are a drone giant with a boatload of money and talent to match, show the world. Best equipped best served should be less of a platitude and more of a goal. Conceptual efforts are fun but show us something substantial and if you want to impress, certifiable.
Sure, it has taken a long time and no the process hasn’t been perfect. However, the FAA has given us clear guidelines to work within and also set up a website to apply for Certificates of Waivers as well as authorization to fly in controlled airspace. Being King of the sceptics I was concerned that we may be subject to fits and starts but by-in-larger and to their credit the FAA was able to pull it all off in a timely manner and without major hiccups. At this point, the olive branch is extended and I am offering an apology to the Administrator (and staff) for doubting his commitment to sUAS NAS integration.
Have fun and fly safe droners!