Regulation - Permits, Certificates for Drones and Testing?

Talking to innovators in the field… many solutions are likely to involve drones, considering FAA regulations for UAVs.

What would be the best way to go about permits for testing? What certificates will competing teams need? And how long does it take to obtain these?

Please share below any links, thoughts, examples, or comments you may have!

@akb @Almog @marz62 @eaguilam @cedwards @mgollner @camcarboncapture @Utobou @andracretu @Terence @pzazzday - any thoughts on this topic? (Thank you all for so much great feedback on the design these past couple of months!)

There should be a different set of regulations for drones. If they are used to supply much needed medical supplies to a war zone, the use should be unlimited. All other drones should be fitted with a tracking device to deter illegal flying over sensitive areas, such as airports.

I don’t know specifics about drone regulation, but in another challenge where I submitted a drone solution to replace portable weather balloons for the military, where the drones traverse upwards of 10,000 feet–well beyond the typical allowed drone ceiling, I suggested working with regulators to identify how and where the use case was no more safety risk than using the balloon carried sensor packages. In other words, considering the use of drones for fighting wildland fire, their use may need to go beyond existing regulations, and working with regulators early may be prudent to identify how, where and when it makes more sense from a safety perspective to use drones, than existing approaches to fighting wildfire. For example, their use may need to be safely managed in conjunction with manned firefighting aircraft, and yet their use may significantly reduce risk and increase safety for aircraft pilots and crews by not needing to fly low and slow above the fire, and for firefighters on the ground.

One side note about drones: They may be untypical designs such as unpowered cargo drones deployed from aircraft to glide in and deploy into or near the fire (e.g. I’m not sure how a company such as this is approaching regulation but you can bet they are working with regulators to iron out their permissible deployment scenarios (and they are considering fire fighting). Would be worth reaching out to them to ask some questions.

@NickAzer @DanSelz Drones are going to be a sore spot for this competition but not without reason so let’s talk about them. First off, I think the X-Prize competition should stray away from the use of, what would be classified in the USA, as Part 107 drones. CalFire on in the area North East of SAC has a standing order that if they see a drone in the sky, to cease and desist their fire operations and clear the area. Teams need to be using larger drones that are able to be seen and monitored by air traffic control and are able to be reached electronically so existing suppression technologies are not endangered. We are trying to solve a problem that would be significantly aggravated by a Part 107 Drone colliding with a manned vehicle and coating the forest, during a fire with AV Gas. Dan, based on our previous conversation, this would not add significant time to any team’s ability to prepare for this competition. In reference to Terence’s @Terence comment, All US civilian authorities are subject to standard FAA regulation of UAS. The only exception to FAA regulation currently is military or test craft. Test craft are normally used within controlled airspace under a government facilitated COA (Certificate of Authority).

Some of us may already have FAA contacts, but some of us will not. It would be nice if you all can provide teams with an FAA resource so that everyone can get in spec with FAA guidelines for larger UAS so that when we put our UAS in the air, all teams are fully within guidelines for flight and control. Regardless of the cost of this problem, we should approach the issue from the standpoint of not creating any more hazard, or doing more harm.