If you don’t want to be
responsible for hurting
or killing another human
being, please take the
safety culture seriously.
What I Believe Was Missing
From what I saw and learned, I have some concerns with
the process. First, we still have little idea what preferences
the FAA may have in evaluating various risk mitigations.
For example, is there a preference for special equipage
(like a parachute) over operational conditions (like agreeing not to hover over people and, instead, just briefly
pass over them) or vice versa? I had hoped for a little
more insight from the FAA in this respect. Without FAA
guidance, each operator is left to speculate and perhaps
experiment with waiver petitions using one equipage and
then another, and one condition and then another. Each
attempt at a Part 107 waiver is expensive in expenditures,
time, and opportunity cost. ;is uncertainty and waste
of time lends itself to the United States growing further
and further behind other countries’ UAS industries.
Companies that can a;ord to go through this process
once might go out of business before they can finally
achieve an approved waiver. Or they might abandon their
UAS e;orts entirely and focus on something else that
brings greater return on investment.
Second, if you need to show research data to demonstrate you have e;ective beyond-line-of-sight risk
mitigations, how the heck can you do so without having
approval to do the very kind of flights you need to do the
research? It is a classic Catch- 22. My understanding of
the FAA’s answer to this conundrum is to either work with
someone who has already obtained approval or to do the
research abroad. ;ese options seem unsatisfactory. My
firm is currently working with a client on their beyond
line of sight waiver aspirations with an FAA test site.
We are lucky. From our experience several months ago,
contacting the FAA test sites across the country to find
out what the costs were, what needed to be proven, and
what activities would be necessary while there was a
frustrating and opaque process. I was not surprised to
hear from one industry leader that a number of test sites
are losing money and actually have little activity. ;is
must be very disappointing to states who worked so hard
and spent so much money to become an approved site.
Doing Your Own Work May Save a Life
(and the UAS Industry)
Finally, there is one more takeaway from the UAS
Symposium that I would like to share. ;e FAA seems to be
aware that an incident involving a drone will create public
pressure on politicians to “do something about it.” If you
don’t want to be responsible for hurting or killing another
human being, please take the safety culture seriously. It
not only will help you on working toward a successful Part
107 waiver but also might save lives. ;ink about this:
Just one serious incident may result in Congress and the
Administration clamping down on our nascent industry
before it develops into common use. ;at would stop our
progress saving the lives of workers doing dangerous jobs
and saving companies money by using drones instead.
Copying and pasting someone else’s work won’t cut it. Do
your own work, and prevent harming the life of another as
well as the life of our UAS industry. K
Disclaimer: None of the author’s accounts or impressions of the FAA UAS Symposium has
been reviewed by the FAA, and they are, therefore, just the author’s opinion. And as always,
none of this article constitutes legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you have legal
questions. Associate attorney Amelia Niemi assisted Je;rey Antonelli with this article.
Perhaps the ultimate safety
device, the Mars Parachute can
be activated remotely but will
deploy on its own if needed.