On June 29 the FAA published order JO 7200.23A which provides information and guidance on the continued implementation of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 101, Special Rule for Model Aircraft, and 14 CFR, Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS). The order makes special emphasis that from August 1st on it is the single source document for Air Traffic Organization (ATO) personnel, in any class of airspace.
It is important to point out that automation being develop to process the large number of requests for authorization under 14 CFR Part 107 is not expected to be operational until 2018. In order to mitigate the impact of processing numerous requests on individual Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities, the FAA has developed a new procedure to authorize Part 107 operations. Using parameters provided by the ATC facilities, the FAA is approving authorization on the facilities’ behalf. Because there are no control towers at full-time Class E airports, a safety panel was established to determine the criteria to be used by the FAA to approve operations.
Any operations that cannot be authorized within these parameters will be coordinated directly with the facility. This order adds procedures for authorizations in Class E surface areas and extensions. Additionally, a new chapter was created dedicated to Special Governmental Interest (SGI) incorporating content originally found at FAA Order JO 7200.23.
Notes emphasizing Letters of Authorization (LOA) cannot be used as a replacement for Part 107 and Part 91 airspace authorizations, waivers and SGIs. The current guidance for operators of model aircraft and hobbyists under Part 101 will not change. The FAA insists the regardless or certain specific guidelines and rulings no person may operate model aircraft in a manner that would potentially endanger the safety of the national airspace system.
Also, on July 3rd the FAA announced updated information regarding the Small UAS Registration and Marking interim final rule as a result of the Taylor v FAA ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the small UAS registration program. The court’s decision invalidated the registration requirement as it applies to certain model aircraft that meet the definitional and operational requirements provided in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act.
Owners of model aircraft which are operated in compliance with section 336 are not required to register. It is important to point out that owners of all other small unmanned aircraft, including newly-purchased unmanned aircraft not operated exclusively in compliance with section 336, remain subject to the registration requirement. This applies particularly to all those using small UAVs commercially.
In this announcement that FAA appeals all drone owners to voluntarily register their small unmanned aircraft as a way to regularize and add safety to the national airspace system. The FAA also announced it is working on a final rule with respect to registration and marking that will include the court’s decision.
In the meantime, if you are an owner operating exclusively in compliance with section 336 and you wish to delete your registration and receive a refund of your registration fee, you may do so by accessing a Registration Deletion and Self-Certification Form and mailing it to the FAA at the address designated on the form. Owners and operators who already received a refund during the initial grace period are not eligible to receive a refund.
At the end of the announcement the FAA provides a statement that’s a bit confusing: “The form has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval of the information collection.” Which might mean that the form for de-registration has not been completely approved by the FAA’s OMB.
Whatever you decide to do, use common sense and definitely register if you are a commercial user. The final ruling regarding hobbyists and modelers will probably not change the responsibilities for commercial users.