Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS“) operations are here to stay. And with that realization, the FAA continues to implement, revise and clarify its enforcement and compliance program to address UAS operations. Its latest guidance, Order 8900.529, FAA is requiring increased surveillance of UAS based upon analyses reflecting an increase in

UAS sightings that pose potential risks to air transport due to UAS sightings in communities bordering airport approach and departure paths [and] potential risks identified from noncompliant operations and potential risk to firefighting, law enforcement, and emergency response efforts.

In order to address these risks, FAA determined that it needed to update its strategy and expand the UAS surveillance opportunities.

What does this mean for FAA aviation safety inspectors (“ASIs“) and UAS operators?  It means each Flight Standards District Office (“FSDO“) will add the following surveillance work activities to its work program guidelines:

  1. Conduct one UAS site visit for each 5 UAS actionable investigations that occur within Class B, C, or D airspace, or for each 10 UAS actionable investigations that occur in any airspace. “Actionable investigations” include occurrences, complaints, incidents, NMACs, accidents, C&E actions, and Mandatory Occurrence Reports (MOR), but exclude non-actionable sightings. To be “actionable”, the investigation needs to contain information such as locations and times that show a pattern, and/or includes key information such as registration number, operator identity, etc., which would enable additional actions such as interviews, site visits, or compliance actions. Conversely, and logically, “non-actionable” sightings do not contain sufficient information to permit an ASI to identify a UAS or UAS operator;
  2. Conduct a UAS site visit as assigned by the FSDO manager based upon the quarterly UAS sighting report issued by FAA’s Safety Analysis and Promotion Division. This means the UAS surveillance will usually occur near identified airports including along approach or departure corridors just outside of the airport; and
  3. Conduct a UAS site visit in connection with an enforcement action against any UAS operations that interfere with wildfire, law enforcement, or emergency response.

This surveillance is in addition to the surveillance of Part 135 UAS operators I discussed in my November 8, 2019 post.

ASIs are required to document the results of this surveillance in the FAA’s Program Tracking and Reporting System (“PTRS“). PTRS entries should include the applicable 14 CFR parts, the name of the individuals involved (including airmen), related certificates, waivers, or exemptions held, the action taken by the ASI, and any related enforcement investigative report number (if an investigation is actually initiated).

More information regarding this increased surveillance is contained in Order 8900.52.

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