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You’re Not Alone with Your Drone

Building Safer Skies Through Education

FAA Safety Briefing
Apr 28 · 6 min read

By Paul Cianciolo, FAA Safety Briefing Associate Editor

Photo of a drone.

he FAA doesn’t want to stand in the way of progress, especially when it involves the fun side of flying. Everyone has a right to use our nation’s shared airspace within the confines of aviation regulations, and the FAA is there to make sure everyone shares it safely and efficiently. With so many new players in the airspace, it takes a team of dedicated citizens to build safer skies through education.

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Connecting to You

The Cross Organizational NetworkiNg, Education, and Communications Team for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) — or connectU for short — was formed in 2016 as an interdependent outreach group for both internal and external stakeholders, managed under the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) in the FAA’s Aviation Safety Organization. Its 12 members span the agency to include experts from compliance and enforcement, legal, communications, air traffic, and UAS integration.

ConnectU has helped pioneer new approaches to communication and outreach for the drone community, which generally has a younger demographic than general aviation. The rapid UAS growth in recent years, with more than a million registered drones in the U.S., challenged the FAA’s resources in providing public understanding of the operational rules for exempt recreational flyers and public operators, or for remote pilots flying under 14 CFR parts 91, 107, and 135. Those who want to fly outside the rules require a waiver, an exemption, or a certificate of authorization, and that process can be complicated — especially for remote pilots who are new to the regulatory landscape for aviation.

Conventional approaches used for traditional aviation did not produce improvement, so the agency needed a new direction. In 2018, connectU launched an advertising campaign for a series of webinars aimed at helping the UAS community understand the waiver application process. These webinars included a live question and answer session with a team of subject matter experts. The webinars, which were initially dedicated to waivers that enable specific operations, became so successful that topics expanded to include the small UAS (sUAS) operational rules and authorizations for drone operations at night, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), in certain airspace, from a moving vehicle or aircraft, with multiple sUAS, right of way, and flights over people.

ConnectU also created a social media campaign to zero in on the UAS community at large about the waiver application process. The campaign itself resulted in 167,353 video views and 218,970 clicks to more detailed content.

Aviation Safety Inspector Guido Hassig is the connectU group’s team lead. You can read more about him in the FAA Faces department in this issue. He stressed that creativity and passion for the work was critical to successful establishment of an effective training tool, one that earned internal FAA recognition as the most effective team in 2019. Innovative, outside-the-box thinking, combined with a passion for improving UAS safety in the National Airspace System (NAS), led to success.

ConnectU continues its outreach with regularly scheduled General Aviation Safety Assurance (GASA) training webinars, which recently included a “deep dive” into the rules and regulations. Interdependence with other FAA lines of business and critical thinking shape answers to stakeholder questions, and contribute to effective rulemaking and helpful guidance.

FAA’s UAS Support Center
“When in doubt, give us a shout.”
1–844-FLY-MY-UA

Proactive Pros

Understanding the differences between traditional and remote aviators has been one of the biggest challenges for the FAASTeam. Communicating with a new demographic requires new thinking, because UAS operators sometimes struggle to understand established aviation terminology and the need for a regulatory environment. Advisory Circulars (ACs) — well known to traditional pilots — have not always reached or been understood by the UAS community.

Photo of drone.
Photo of drone.

Consequently, the FAASTeam created a new category of FAASTeam Representatives called DronePros. DronePros are talented volunteers within the UAS community who possess expertise in UAS operations and share the FAASTeam’s passion for aviation safety education. They are selected based upon their expertise, professional network, and communication resources. DronePros are a force multiplier for the FAASTeam’s UAS safety outreach and communication efforts. Their personal and professional networks enable wide dissemination of UAS safety-related information, regulation, policy, and guidance.

DronePros play a vital role accomplishing the FAASTeam’s mission of lowering the nation’s aviation accident rate by conveying safety principles and practices through training, outreach, and education, while establishing partnerships and encouraging the continual growth of a positive safety culture within the aviation community. DronePros serve the UAS community by sharing their time, resources, and professional experience to create a positive safety culture.

FAASTeam volunteer logo.
FAASTeam volunteer logo.

Due to the fast-paced and dynamic environment of drone guidance, policies, and procedures, DronePros have a direct link to the FAA so they can keep their professional networks in the know. For example, DronePro quarterly webinars cover subjects contained in the newly published FAA regulations like remote identification, testing and recency, and operations over people and moving vehicles.

A key characteristic for a successful DronePro is the ability to influence members of the UAS community and effectively communicate safety information to a large number of operators. The FAA is seeking DronePros with any of the following characteristics:

  • Individuals with an established YouTube channel featuring best practices and procedures for safe recreational flyer operations with thousands of subscribers.
  • Owners of a successful online model aircraft and drone supply business who routinely interact with customers.
  • Instructors with a drone training academy that serves future remote pilots and public safety organizations.
  • Drone consultants who specialize in assisting remote pilots and companies in preparing applications for operational waivers, exemptions, or authorizations.

To become a DronePro, the first step is to contact a FAASTeam Program Manager (for operations) at your local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Go to
FAASafety.gov, click the Resources tab, and then FAASTeam Online Directory. Click on the applicable state and look for “program manager” in the list. FAASTeam Program Manages are a DronePro’s personal connection to the FAA.

To see if there are any other DronePros near you, type in “DronePro” in the keywords box.

Photo of a drone.

The FAASTeam, with their connectU group and DronePros, serve as a beacon of safety in the NAS. They are dedicated to building safer skies through education.

Paul Cianciolo is an associate editor and the social media lead for FAA Safety Briefing. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, and an auxiliary airman with Civil Air Patrol.

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This article was originally published in the May/June 2021 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine. https://www.faa.gov/news/safety_briefing
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Cleared for Takeoff

Voices, stories and news from the Federal Aviation Administration

Cleared for Takeoff

Voices, stories and news from the Federal Aviation Administration

FAA Safety Briefing

Written by

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).

Cleared for Takeoff

Voices, stories and news from the Federal Aviation Administration