FAA has taken measures to strengthen enforcement against drones pilots by formulating protocols with regard to investigation and surveillance.In order to reduce risks associated with drone pilots and to curb risky drone flights, new rules have been introduced for FAA investigators.The document delineates that subsequent to identification of potential risks from drone pilots who refused to abide by the prevalent rules and laws, it was observed that firefighting, law enforcement and emergency response efforts were at severe risk. In this context, the agency came up with particular conditions and targeting strategies to be the most appropriate risk-based approach to broadening UAS surveillance opportunities as part of the expanded UAS monitoring framework.
Furthermore, the FAA has also developed the requirements of reconnaisance activities by law enforcement personnel and guidelines to researchers to keep an eye at particular areas and also monitor those areas which are prone to risky drone flight operations. Investigators have been directed to carry out one UAS site inspection visit, either Avionics, Maintenance or Operations where 5 or more UAS investigations take place within class B, C or D airspace or 10 or more total investigations occur in airspace.
While this may be a cause for concern for a number of drone pilots, seasoned pilots are well aware of FAA’s “Compliance Philosophy” when it comes to investigations related to drone flights. This philosophy was envisioned long before drone pilots and has been developed to cater to all the benefits and drawbacks associated with drone operators. One important advantage of this strategy is that if you are breaking the law inadventently, the pilot will be given an opportunity to rectify his or her actions by the FSDO pilots and continue with their business as usual without any repercussions. It is only if a drone pilot is reckless and belligerent when you will be targeted by the FAA investigators.
There was a podcast on the enforcement actions taken against drone pilots to portray whether the FAA was actively pursuing the laws against risky drone flights. By virtue of our good friend and industry expert, Tom Powers, we acquired another FOIA request that states a strong desire to continue enhanced enforcement actions against drone pilots.The years 2018 and 2019 saw zero new enforcement actions that led to repercussions for drone pilots. To be honest, it is disappointing that FAA has not imposed any fine on airspace violations or illegal flights over crowds. One of the reasons could be realization by FAA that drones are not as dangerous as once deemed.
The new investigators to regulate drone pilots can be beneficial as illegal drone flights will be checked a lot more rigorously. There have been reports of increased ramp checks from pilots including Trent Siggard who carried out drone flights with three other pilots at Rose Bowl. This is a fabulous opportunity for the FAA to rectify the mistakes of most of the drone pilots and the only fellows who will face the music will be the ones who fail to be abide by the prescibed rules.
If you are anxious regarding your drone flights coming under scrutiny, we believe that this is a wonderful opportunity to trigger some community enforcement and expand relations between FAA and local drone pilots.
These latest enforcement approaches will unleash new avenues of learning for drone pilots but at the same time could be confusing for FSDO investigators who are not familiar with drone operations. Here is the investigative list that is being used by investigators to ramp check drone pilots and we discovered a few irregularities that could be obfuscating. One particular section stipulates that maintenance records should be demanded by investigators for review.
While AC 107-2 suggests drone pilots to maintain records of all kinds, there is no recommendation that maintenance records ought to be kept specifically. There has been no response from any FSDO inspector despite our repeated requests so far. FAA Symposium in Baltimore held in June this year had plenty to add with regard to enforcement actions.