A New Public Safety Drone Waiver


CarolinaFireJournal - Chief Charles L. Werner (Ret.)
Chief Charles L. Werner (Ret.)
10/16/2020 -

This July at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Virtual UAS Symposium, the FAA announced a new waiver for public safety. This new waiver is called the First Responder Tactical Beyond Visual Line of Sight (TBVLOS) Waiver. 

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What is especially important to know about the TBVLOS waiver is that it allows public safety to fly beyond line of sight (BVLOS). Presently and before this waiver, all UAS (unmanned aircraft system) flights were required to remain within visual line of sight by either the remote pilot (RPIC) or the visual observer (VO). This TBVLOS waiver was approved for dangerous public safety missions. This means that in situations where the RPIC and/or VO may be in danger (such as an active shooter, hazmat release, search of dangerous area or similar incident), the flights can be flown beyond visual line of sight such as over or around buildings or obstacles.

This is a major achievement by the FAA done in support of public safety after nine months between DRONERESPONDERS, numerous public safety stakeholders and dedicated people at the FAA.

The specifics of the TBVLOS waiver are:

  • BVLOS ops during dangerous missions for the purpose of life saving activities
  • UAS can be flown within 50 ft above the building or highest obstacle
  • Flights can be flown 1500 feet laterally from the RPIC
  • Flights cannot exceed 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) or the highest grid ceiling
  • This includes the ability for ops over people (OOP) and night ops
  • Any parameters beyond these conditions require a Special Government Interest (SGI) waiver

NOTE: This waiver is only available to agencies with FAA Part 91 Certificate of Authorization (COA), as the COA provides OOP and night ops. Presently, this waiver is NOT available to agencies only flying under 14 CFR Part 107 (Part 107).

In order to receive this TBVLOS waiver, there is a two-step process. The first process is an e-mail request to the FAA 91.113 Waiver Team. Once this is approved (by e-mail), a separate COA must be filed through the COA Online Application System (CAPS).

To assist with the e-mail request to the FAA 91.113 Waiver Team, DRONERESPONDERS has published a customizable template. To access the FAA Guidance and the DRONERESPONDERS Template, join DRONERESPONDERS (FREE), then go to the DRONERESPONDERS.ORG website, select the members tab, select the Resource Center, then open the Waivers tab. The documents are in this folder. To date, all of the agencies that have used the template have received waiver approval. To date, these waivers have been approved within a week.

For those agencies working only under Part 107, it is suggested for the agency to apply for a blanket COA. It takes about 20 minutes and is usually issued in days. Once the COA is approved, then apply for the TBVLOS waiver. There is also COA guidance in the DRONERESPONDERS Resource Center.

In appreciation for this phenomenal effort by the FAA in support of public safety; DRONERESPONDERS presented the FAA with a Public Safety Commendation.

Become part of the conversation by joining DRONERESPONDERS at DRONERESPONDERS.ORG. Membership is free and DRONERESPONDERS is the fastest growing public safety UAS program focused on all aspects of the drone ecosystem — enabling drones for good, countering drones for bad and air traffic management.

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