Many Colleges and Universities with an UAS education program have been calling us and telling us that they no longer need the Section 333 any more because they were “Good to fly Drones”, based upon the FAA Administrators comments at the AUVSI trade show in New Orleans earlier this month.
Acting as Chief Pilot for Gowdy Brothers Aerospace, LLC, I was at the event and heard the FAA administrator, Michael Huerta, in person. Based upon the announcement it really did sound like the College and Universities were given a “free pass” on the Section 333 exemption requirements. But after reading the “Education Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems” by Reginald Govan, Chief Counsel, FAA, dated May 4, 2016, it is clear that Colleges and Universities will need to read the fine print.
The Memorandum states and clarifies students operating the UAS for hobby and recreation use only according to part 336 is permissible as long as direct or indirect compensation is not given. Secondly this new interpretation gives students the rights to conduct UAS activity in accordance to Section 336 in furtherance of the students aviation related education at an accredited educational institution.
The Memorandum states that facility members teaching at aviation related courses at an accredited educational institutions may assist students who are operating the UAS, the facility member is not intended to be the direct operator of the controls, but is secondary and only there to take change and immediately land in case of loss of control (Sorry … No demonstration flights by the Professor).
The FAA restates the four ways UAS flights are permitted:
(1) Under Part 336 operating as a hobby or recreation with no economic benefit;
(2) as a Public Aircraft owned by the Public entity and operating under a Certificate of Authorization/Wavier (COA);
(3) Under a UAS Aircraft Certification Type Rating with a COA (costs the Mfgr over $2 million per Model);
(4) Under the Section 333 exemption grant process and a COA.
Today, if a professor wants to fly an UAV/UAS/Drone during a college or university class as a demonstration or as part of the course curriculum the professor would need to: (1) operate under a Section 333 exemption grant or (2) use one of the very, very few drones that have received a UAS Aircraft Certification Type Rating with a COA; (3) be certified as a Public entity and own or lease their own public drones and apply for and receive a Public COA.
Bottom line: Students are given a pass to fly drones as hobbyists for their own educational activities as long as the student does not gets paid, professors can help land the drone in case of a problem, but are still under the old rules.
To see a copy of the FAA Memorandum please go HERE