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Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)


Please click here to read more about the Small UAS Rule, the major provisions, and the impact to air traffic control.

More on the Part 107 Rule, from the FAA website: Please click here.

QUESTIONS? Please send your questions to [email protected].


July 18, 2016

Steve Weidner (ZMP) is the NATCA Article 48 Representative for UAS. Jeff Richards (ZAU) is assisting Mr. Weidner on this project due to the workload and activity associated with it. Below is the update for the membership:

UAS En route Contingency Operations

The NextGen organization is engaged in a study of UAS contingency operations in the en route environment. As a part of this study, the NextGen organization is visiting several en route facilities around the country. During these visits the team interviews controllers, management personnel, airspace and procedures specialists, and other personnel in each facility.

The purposes of these interviews is to gain information on current UAS procedures and to identify areas where improvements can be made to the overall en route UAS operation. The research being conducted by this group will help inform overall lost link procedures development. Ultimately, the agency is moving toward a set of standardized lost link procedures. In May this group visited ZLA and JCF. This week the group is visiting ZMP and ZAU. Mr. Weidner has been participating in the activities of this work group.

Small UAS Rule

On June 28th, the FAA published the small UAS rule, creating FAR Part 107 and codifying hobbyist/model operations into FAR Part 101, Subpart E. The rule will become effective on August 29th. Expect additional information and training on this rule in the coming weeks and months. Mr. Weidner and Mr. Richards are working with the agency on a daily basis to develop training and procedures for operations under the small rule.

Part 107

Regular commercial operations can now occur in the NAS for small UAS under Part 107 without the need for a Section 333 exemption and a Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA). In order to fly under Part 107, the following conditions must be met:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only
  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
  • Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL) or, if higher than 400 feet AGL, remain within 400 feet of a structure.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D, and E surface area airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission. 

The change to air traffic vs. how operations occur today is not substantial, but there are a few items that are noteworthy:

There will be far fewer COA’s for small UAS operations.

NOTAMs will not be required for UAS operations under Part 107.

Class G operations no longer require ATC permission to operate.

Operations in Class B, C, D, and E surface areas are allowed WITH air traffic authorization (look for an mandatory briefing item on this process).

Part 101, Subpart E

Hobbyist/Modeler operations have now been codified in this section of the FARs. Guidance on these operations is now much clearer. Part 101/Model/Hobbyist operations may be authorized in Class B, C, or D airspace given the following conditions:

  • Operation will take place at a fixed location.
  • When there is a LOA between the controlling facility and a community–based organization.

Any other Part 101/Model/Hobbyist requests in B, C, or D airspace will be denied.


NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert accepted an invitation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to serve on the newly established RTCA Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) and join a wide array of key aviation stakeholders. The DAC is tasked with a very important mission: safely integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). For more information, please click here.


NATCA is committed to actively and consciously supporting the mission of this campaign to provide consumers and prospective business operators of UAS the tools to know how to fly safely and responsibly before taking to the skies. Read our letter of commitment.


Dear Colleagues,

This week President Obama and Administrator Huerta announced the publication of the FAA’s first rule regulating the routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). I want to thank the many ATO employees whose years of hard work and dedication have brought us to this point.

The new rule will become effective 60 calendar days after publication to the Federal Register. It will allow small unmanned aircraft to conduct routine operations in controlled and uncontrolled airspaces for a variety of purposes such as crop, pipeline, power line and bridge inspections, aerial photography, certain rescue operations, educational/academic uses, and research and development. For more information, check out the attached Small UAS flyer.

In the coming months and years, the FAA expects to publish several more rules to provide UAS operators with greater access to our National Airspace System. We expect there to be as many as 7 million drones sold by 2020.

The ATO must now build upon this regulatory framework with a safety systems framework that will ensure the safety of the flying public. We will also continue our efforts to develop a technology to detect rogue drones around airports. As we move ahead, we will work with the agency’s other lines of business and with industry and labor as part of the FAA’s new Drone Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group that will help us address these important integration issues.

Thanks everyone!

Teri L. Bristol
ATO Chief Operating Officer


UAS Update 2015

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