Today is a good day to go flying. The sky is blue, the winds are calm, and Part 107 is now in effect. Under the new system, commercial UAS operators can fly closer to people, closer to airports, and carry cargo. They no longer need visual observers, can hand off control of their UAS to a second pilot while in flight, and can train non-pilots to fly. They no longer need exemptions, COAs, or government review of the safety features of the make and model of aircraft. Of course, no one is actually doing any of this today.
Over the past two months, the FAA has been doing all of the “behind the scenes” work to get the new systems up and running. UAS pilot certificate tests and study materials had to be created. Knowledge centers had to be prepared to give the tests. The new waiver system had to be created, along with the entire infrastructure to handle the online submission of waiver petitions. Procedures had to be worked out to handle UAS flight in class B, C, D and E airspace and how UAS pilots will interface with air traffic control. The fact that any of this is ready to go on the first day is a major accomplishment.
Now that the FAA’s preparations are finished, the flying public can actually start making their own preparations to actually use the system. Pilots can start taking tests and getting their background checks. Operators can learn how to get authorizations from air traffic control. Businesses can start submitting waiver petitions for night flights or other, more advanced operations. No doubt there will be a learning curve for both regulators and the regulated as they adapt to the new system, but we are confident progress will come quickly.
So, while the future is looking bright, the great irony is that the only people actually able to go flying today will be those who have a Section 333 exemption.
Originally posted August 27, 2016