NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS

July 16th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA filed comments with the FAA in support of petitions from a number of aerial photo and video production companies seeking exemptions to commercially operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS – 55lbs or less) for motion picture and television industry use. The NPPA also joined in the analysis submitted as part of the News Media Coalition’s Comments in Support of Video-Production Companies’ Petitions to the FAA for Section 333 Exemption. That Media Coalition includes: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; Gray Television, Inc.; NBCUniversal, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and WP Company LLC (d/b/a The Washington Post), represented by Charles D. Tobin and Christie N. Waltz of the Washington, DC law firm Holland & Knight, LLP. The additional comments by NPPA were submitted to reflect the specific concerns of our members and were drafted by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and Advocacy Chair Alicia Wagner Calzada, who is also an  attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP.

As noted, the NPPA has an acute interest in helping the FAA properly expedite the integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (“NAS”).  We also support exemptions by the FAA that would permit journalists, and in particular visual journalists, to use sUAS for newsgathering purposes. The NPPA reviewed the voluntary and self-imposed “limitations and conditions” proposed in the production companies’ petitions. And while they may be acceptable to those groups, we urged the FAA to decline to adopt or extend them as prerequisites for future exemptions or as future standards in its rulemaking. The NPPA acknowledged that some of those limitations and conditions might be acceptable, but expressed our concerns about others that we deemed to be impractical and which would impose an undue burden on sUAS use for newsgathering.

The NPPA continues to assert that sUAS use for newsgathering is not a “commercial use” and we expect to see tangible benefits if the current exemption requests are granted. Specifically, we would hope that NPPA will also be allowed to “facilitate” exemption petitions on behalf our membership in a similar manner to what has been achieved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The NPPA also referenced in its comments and filed a copy of our paper written in support of sUAS for use in newsgathering, which also included results from a study we conducted on that subject.


Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, rulemaking, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS | 1 Comment »

One Response to “NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS”

  1.   CLAY S. KROSCHEL Says:

    Flight and Operation Guidelines for
    Very Low Altitude Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    July 2014 
    Current and pre-existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations do not accurately represent the capabilities and limitations of modern Very Low Altitude Unmanned Aircraft Systems (VLAUAS), regardless of hobby or corporate aerospace design and manufacture. An interim set of regulations and training guidelines needs to be adopted to recognize and encompass current technologies (at all levels of manufacture and operation), as well as to establish a safe and effective flight environment. These guidelines, when properly incorporated and utilized, will provide for safe and coordinated access to the National Airspace (NAS). These regulations also need to recognize the inherent limitations in the range and flight duration of VLAUAS. By doing so, safe exceptions can be made to some current Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) that are not compliance achievable for VLAUAS. The following guidelines are both are proposed and currently in use. They are intended to mitigate any conflict with full-scale aviation, personnel, or structures on the ground during VLAUAS operations.
    VLAUAS are:
    • Designed for hobbyists or professional use
    • Limited to a maximum gross takeoff weight (GTOW) of 55 lbs (24.95 kg) or less
    • Typically generate flight times of 2 hours or less
    • Primarily use batteries as an electrical propulsion power source
    • Controlled using hand-held, radio-control transmitters and/or small base stations
    • Flown at distances of 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) or less from the point of takeoff
    • Configured as fixed wing, rotary wing, or multi-rotor aircraft
    1. All personnel, structures, and manned aircraft, as defined by FAA regulations, have priority at all times over VLAUAS equipment and flight operations.
    2. VLAUAS operators will take any and all steps necessary, up to and including deliberate grounding of the VLAUAS to avoid conflict with manned aircraft and assure the safety of persons and structures.
    1. No VLAUAS flight operations shall be made directly over a person, crowd or gathering at any time.
    2. No VLAUAS flight operations shall be made within 50 vertical and horizontal feet (15.24 vertical and horizontal meters) of any structure at any time.
    3. No VLAUAS flight operations shall be made within 75 horizontal feet (22.86 horizontal meters) of a person, crowd, or gathering.
    1. All VLAUAS commercial operations shall be conducted only by personnel that have passed, at minimum, an FAA private pilot written examination and received training with the type of aircraft and aircraft systems to be operated.
    2. All VLAUAS commercial operators shall possess a current Class III or Class II aviation medical certificate.
    1. Flight areas of operation – All VLAUAS flight locations will be inspected along the entire anticipated route of flight to note any obstacles, persons, or structures that might otherwise be obscured from the takeoff/launch point prior to commencing flight operations.
    2. Flight control systems – All VLAUAS will be equipped with flight control systems that provide an automated/pre-programmed landing in the event of a flight control or propulsion system failure, or loss of communications with the aircraft.
    3. Batteries – All VLAUAS using batteries as the primary source of flight systems and propulsion shall be pre-programmed to automatically land should the battery state of charge decrease to less than 20% of the rated capacity of the flight battery (as measured in milli-amperes).
    a. A record log will be maintained for each battery showing:
    i. Battery serial number
    ii. Number of cells
    iii. State of charge, in volts, prior to the start of flight
    iv. Post charge battery voltage
    v. Amount of capacity replaced during the next charge cycle
    vi. Numbers of charge cycles to date
    b. The useful capacity of a battery will be determined during flight-testing of each battery size, type, and manufacturer prior to being accepted for VLAUAS use.
    c. A fully serviced battery unable to maintain at or above 85% of its original rated capacity before use shall be considered unfit for VLAUAS operations.
    d. Record logs of battery tests will be maintained by the VLAUAS operator for a period of two calendar years.
    e. A certified copy of the battery test log will be submitted to the VLAUAS Administrator or National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) upon demand.
    Minimum Flight Conditions
    1. All VLAUAS operations will be conducted only during VFR conditions as defined by the FAR and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
    2. VLAUAS operations are permissible during meteorological conditions that define special visual flight rules (SVFR) as long as the requirement of 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) visibility and remaining clear of clouds can be maintained during any period of time the aircraft is in flight.
    3. Flight is not permitted during SVFR conditions after legal sunset or before legal sunrise.
    4. Flight is not permitted during periods defined as meeting instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions.
    5. All VLAUAS flights will remain within 0.5 statute miles (0.80 kilometers) or less from the point of takeoff or launch, or a lessor distance should the VLAUAS be of such size that it would not be visually discernable unless closer to the operator.
    6. All VLAUAS flight operations will be conducted with a minimum of one flight operator and one observer. 
    Beyond Line of Sight Flight Operations
    1. Visual line of sight of VLAUAS need not be maintained if the flight is equipped with a first-person view (FPV) camera broadcasting video of flight conditions to a secondary flight operator.
    2. Properly equipped VLAUAS using Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) equipment are restricted to a maximum distance of 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) from the operator and observers.
    3. FPV equipment used for BLOS flight operations must have the ability to be independently aimed in a manner that permits the secondary flight operator the ability to scan for air traffic or other obstacles to flight.
    4. All VLAUAS BLOS flight operations will be conducted with a minimum of one flight operator, one FPV operator, and one observer.
    5. All VLAUAS BLOS aircraft will be equipped with functioning telemetry devices that will provide real time information regarding distance from takeoff/launch location, altitude, airspeed, compass navigation data, and status of power system.
    6. During BLOS flight operations all received telemetry must be visible at all times to FPV operator.
    7. All VLAUAS flight operations will have in immediate possession, the current VFR navigational charts depicting airport locations and communications frequencies, including the contact information of the airport manager and control tower covering the areas of intended flight operations.
    8. At such airport locations where a precision or non-precision instrument approach or departure procedure is published, operators of VLAUAS will possess a current chart showing such published procedures/altitudes and air traffic control contact information
    9. VLAUAS flight operations are limited to a maximum of 400 feet (121.92 meters) above ground level (AGL) at any time unless equipped with an operating Mode C altitude encoding transponder and operating navigation lights that can be seen from all sides.
    10. All VLAUAS flight operations will remain clear of all airspace under any published precision or non-precision approach or departure within 3.00 statute miles (4.83 kilometers) of an airport/heliport, or where airspace is depicted on navigational charts as extending from the surface upwards.
    11. All VLAUAS flight operations will remain 500 feet (152.40 meters) below the minimum descent altitude of any published precision or non-precision approach and departure profile within 5.00 statute miles (8.05 kilometers) of an airport/heliport, or where airspace is depicted on navigational charts as extending from the surface upwards.
    12. No flight operations are permitted more than 250 feet (76.20 meters) AGL within 3.00 statute miles (4.83 kilometers) of a civil or military airport without express approval of the airport management.
    13. During operations within 3.00 statute miles (4.83 kilometers) of an active airport/heliport the airport management will be made aware of, and provide advance approval of, the exact geographical locations of VLAUAS activity, and the hours in which such operations will be conducted.
    14. When operating with the approval of airport management within 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) of a civil airport all VLAUAS flight operations are required to maintain the ability to communicate with the airport using two-way radio communications and air traffic frequencies.
    15. For flights during the hours of darkness (after legal sunset or before legal sunrise) all FPV flights are restricted to an altitude of 250 feet (76.20 meters) AGL or less.
    16. No flights are permitted between the hours of official darkness within 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) of a civil airport at any altitude unless permitted under an officially released Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).
    17. When operating under a published NOTAM within 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) of a civil airport or heliport, FPV operations are to be required to establish and maintain communications with civil airport air traffic control officials, of a type suitable to the airport management, at all times FPV aircraft are airborne.
    18. When operating within 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) of a civil airport or heliport, VLAUAS will be equipped with functioning navigation lights that can be seen from all sides of the VLAUAS.
    19. When operating within 1.00 statue miles (1.61 kilometers) of a civil airport or heliport VLAUAS flight operations will be conducted with a minimum of two observers.
    20. Strobe lights are a known source of strong electrical signal interference for lightly shielded electronics systems. The use of strobe lighting for VLAUAS is not mandated.

    Flight Observers Qualification Criteria
    1. Flight observers for VLAUAS that weigh less than 22.05 lbs (10 kg) do not have to be flight operator qualified, however, each flight observer must:
    a. Possess at minimum a valid FAA third class medical certificate
    b. Have passed the FAA private pilot written exam
    c. Have demonstrated proficiency in reading VFR sectional charts
    d. Understand the flight capabilities and limitations of the aircraft and systems in use for the flight being observed.
    e. Communicate effectively with the flight operator at all times.
    2. VLAUAS flight observers for aircraft that weight more than 22.05 lbs (10 kg) must also be flight operator qualified.
    Flight Operators Qualification Criteria
    1. Flight operators must meet the following qualifications prior to operating any VLAUAS for any commercial operation:
    a. Must possess at least an FAA second class medical certificate
    b. Must have passed at minimum the FAA private pilot written examination
    c. Must be able to demonstrate ability to read and understand aviation sectional and IFR approach/departure charts.
    d. Must be able to effectively communicate in civil aviation terminology.
    e. Must have received training in all applicable VLAUAS flight systems and demonstrate proficiency of use.
    f. Must have received flight training for each VLAUAS variant to be operated.
    g. Must have demonstrated proficiency in recognizing emergency conditions and effective use of emergency procedures and equipment functions.
    h. Must understand VLAUAS power systems, autopilots, and limitations of each.

Leave a Reply