Perhaps, the most discussed aspect of Part 107 is their flying over people rule. Torn between the need to get the ultimate footage and the need to abide with Part 107 laws, pilots often come to us with their queries.
In this blog post, I provide answers to some commonly asked questions. Knowing the Do’s and Dont’s will ensure that you do not pass some lucrative opportunities to ramp up your drone business. We discuss the following topics:
- Who are the Participants in a Drone Operation?
- Whether or not you can fly over moving vehicles
- If you can fly over people when inside
- How to shoot events
- How to deal with Pesky Intruders
- What does the future hold?
Definition — “Flying over People”
Let us look at the FAA’s official terminology. Please refer to this excerpt from Section 5, Part 11.
“Part 107 prohibits a person from flying a small UA directly over a person who is not under a safe cover, such as a protective structure or a stationary vehicle. However, a small UA may be flown over a person who is directly Participating in the operation of the sUAS, such as the remote PIC, other person manipulating the controls, a VO, or crew members necessary for the safety of the sUAS operation, as assigned and briefed by the remote PIC”.
So, Who Exactly Are the “Participants” of a Drone Operation?
So, as per the above excerpt you can only fly over people who are “directly participating in the operation”. Who exactly are these direct participants? Recently a question caller on the ADU podcast asked this same question. He wondered if getting written consent from the entire crowd meant that they could be treated as “participants”. Alas, no. In November 2016 FAA got rid of MPTOM’s. After this you cannot fly over people in spite of written consent.
By direct participants, the FAA just means you and your VO.
Can I Fly Over Moving Vehicles?
Another clarification that drone pilots often seek is whether they can fly over moving vehicles. Again, this is not possible. Check out this clarification from the FAA -
“The FAA believes that a person should be allowed to fly over a person who is inside a stationary covered vehicle that can provided reasonable protection from a falling unmanned aircraft. The FAA has modified this rule accordingly. This rule will not, however, allow operation of a small unmanned aircraft over a moving vehicle because the moving vehicle-operating environment is dynamic and the potential impact forces when an unmanned aircraft impacts a moving vehicle pose unacceptable risks due to head-on closure speeds. Additionally, impact of a small unmanned aircraft may distract the driver of a moving vehicle and result in an accident.”
FAA’ stance is not really surprising. In the event of a crash, if you ram into a car, the car could spiral out of control.
Can I fly over people if I am inside?
Yes — you can. If there is a ceiling and you are flying in this enclosed space, it is not navigable airspace. And hence, not under FAA’s jurisdiction. But, before you attempt to do so, remember that flying inside is incredibly difficult. And you might end up losing control over your drone. Click here for some great Tips and Tricks on how to fly inside.
In fact, when Drone U Chief Pilot, Paul Aitkens attended the last AUVSI conference, there were drone pilots flying indoors — right over FAA officials.
How Can I Shoot an Event like a Football Game or a Wedding If I Cannot Fly over People?
Drone pilots often come to us with this question. Fearful of breaking the law, drone pilots often pass up on good opportunities. But, you can, in fact, film an event without flying over people. The first way to do so is by flying over empty stands.
If there are no empty spaces in close vicinity, you will have to invest in a drone camera with good zoom capabilities. We recommend the Inspire 2 with Z3 camera. Click here to read all about different zoom cameras and their varying capabilities.
How to Deal with Pesky Intruders
This is another really popular question. There are some folks who just hate drone pilots. And to make matters worse they are aware of Part 107 rules. So, to get you into trouble, these folks might just purposefully walk beneath your drone…and pick up a fight with you. So, how do you deal with such folks?
We recommend setting up a camera to record your operating site. Filming your drone operations will prove the intruders intent to the FAA — and show that you were indeed, not at fault.
Will Flight over People Be Possible in Future?
It shall be interesting to see how and when flying over people becomes a reality. This could be made possible by a change in drone laws. Recently on an ADU podcast, we discussed a senate proposal titled “Proposed Micro System Unmanned Aircraft Operational Rules”. If this micro UAS proposal goes through, it will negate the Part 107 requirement for drones lighter than 4.4 pounds — or smaller than the Phantom 4 Pro.
Parachute safety systems are another option which could make flying over people possible. Nexus, a ballistic solution devised by Indemnis has been developed in conjunction with the FAA and other industry majors. This system is backed with extensive research and is said to be 100% reliable. Such safety systems might make the approval of flight over people waivers a norm rather than an exception.
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