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A (Not Totally) Hypothetical

modbuilder

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OK, so I'm a commercial 107 operator and want to solicit aerial photo work for a public works project taking progress/update photos of a highway upgrade/construction project. I could fly down the center line of the median, high enough to be out of harms way of cranes and overhead lines, and be over a very thinly occupied area that is narrow and very long flying straight ahead, or off to the side of the road over totally unoccupied area that is also very long and fly sideways for the shot. I could set up a waypoint mission that would fly the same route autonomously, get photos where they need to be taken and deal with elevation changes over the length of the mission. The MP has a working range that would be adequate for the task, especially if set up as a one-way flight without a take-off-point RTH. But to keep it in LOS, I'd need to move down the line with it, which would need to be as a passenger in a car if the route is say 5 miles long. No problem for a waypoint mission, but now I'm in a car while the MP is flying, keeping it in LOS in autonomous flight.

One of the FAA "don'ts" is operating from a moving vehicle. I would be the Pilot In Command, keeping it in LOS, not actively flying it, being nearby to intervene in case of a problem, but riding in a car. I'm guessing the FAA would view this as a NOT-OK proposition, but I can also see an argument that would say it could be done safely.

Obviously a FAA waiver request would be necessary to CYA, but I thought I'd bounce this off the forum for suggestions/concerns that might need to be addressed. One issue is described above, and I can see that two more would be my slow speed of travel along an active highway, and the possibility of traffic delays due to road construction. But it seems like this situation is a natural application for drone photography. Your thoughts/suggestions appreciated. TIA....... R
 

Jack Daw

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I'm not sure if it needs to be in your line of sight, or just in someone's line of sight. If it's the latter (and I think it is), it may be easiest just to hire a couple of high school kids to stand at intervals of a mile or so, give them 20 or 30 bucks a piece and have them call you in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. Put a high-powered strobe on the thing and you should be able see it for more than a mile.

That'd be the way I'd do it, anyway.
 

modbuilder

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Good ideas both. Had recognized that my spotter would figure into it, but had not considered multiple spotters. They'd have to be competent spotters in order to pass the red face test rather than just pick ups, and communications would have to be verified reliable. Really like that your solution does away with the car during the flight. The strobe also is good. I haven't used one (yet), and my max distance to actually see the MP is about 1/2 mile. I can still see it at that distance as long as I don't look away. Then re-acquiring the critter is next to impossible at that distance without the strobe. The background behind the MP makes quite a difference in ability to see it, but 0.5 mile is about it for me. Good ideas
 
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modbuilder

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I"m also thinking that your solution would not require a waiver. I'll have to re-read the regs, but I think that's all consistent with the requirements. I may go after some of that business. Hmmmm.............
 

Lapeer20m

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It is my understanding It has to remain in pilots vlos even with a vo....pilot can take his eyes off it but is required to keep the drone where he can see it if necessary.

Also, vlos as defined by faa requires one to not only see the drone but be able to ascertain it’s attitude (direction it is pointing)

Flying from a moving vehicle is permissible under part 107 in sparsely populated areas. It is my understanding that “populated” areas show up on skyvector in yellow.
 

Aerial-Pixel

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The Remote Pilot in Command is required to maintain VLOS at all times, not just visual observers. If it is in a Rural area you can operate the UAS as a passenger per Part 107.
 
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modbuilder

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Quoted from the FAA regs: "You must keep your drone within sight. Alternatively, if you use First Person View or similar technology, you must have a visual observer always keep your aircraft within unaided sight (for example, no binoculars). However, even if you use a visual observer, you must still keep your unmanned aircraft close enough to be able to see it if something unexpected happens. Neither you nor a visual observer can be responsible for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at a time."

I find that somewhat ambiguous. FAA trying to have it both ways with regard to use of visual observer.

from the 2016 FAA fact sheet: Fact Sheet – Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107)

Probably can find a more recent reg, but this one is what I recalled. It's not totally clear IMO.
 

modbuilder

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from the same June 2016 fact sheet: "No operations from a moving vehicle are allowed unless you are flying over a sparsely populated area."

Leaves room for an argument.
 

UAVNV

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a lot of it leaves room for argument, why no logs get pulled unless you mess up pretty bad, usually that involves a 3rd party somehow got involved/injured in your project.

that is your biggest risk, outside civilians, just keep your logs proper and complete the task within those arguments. In my opinion the consensus is dont ask dont tell, why they are purposely vague, keep that in mind.

there a few places that pro pilots hang out that have been doing this for years that have better answers, look around the web
 

sar104

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Quoted from the FAA regs: "You must keep your drone within sight. Alternatively, if you use First Person View or similar technology, you must have a visual observer always keep your aircraft within unaided sight (for example, no binoculars). However, even if you use a visual observer, you must still keep your unmanned aircraft close enough to be able to see it if something unexpected happens. Neither you nor a visual observer can be responsible for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at a time."

I find that somewhat ambiguous. FAA trying to have it both ways with regard to use of visual observer.

from the 2016 FAA fact sheet: Fact Sheet – Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107)

Probably can find a more recent reg, but this one is what I recalled. It's not totally clear IMO.
I had the same discussion with one of the local FSDO guys. His understanding was that visual observers cannot replace the PIC, and are only to be used to cover occasional lapses in direct LOS. I was not convinced that he was correct - it's definitely ambiguous.
 

Aerial-Pixel

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Quoted from the FAA regs: "You must keep your drone within sight. Alternatively, if you use First Person View or similar technology, you must have a visual observer always keep your aircraft within unaided sight (for example, no binoculars). However, even if you use a visual observer, you must still keep your unmanned aircraft close enough to be able to see it if something unexpected happens. Neither you nor a visual observer can be responsible for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at a time."

I find that somewhat ambiguous. FAA trying to have it both ways with regard to use of visual observer.

from the 2016 FAA fact sheet: Fact Sheet – Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107)

Probably can find a more recent reg, but this one is what I recalled. It's not totally clear IMO.
Page 10 of that same document:
"the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS. Alternatively, the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the visual observer."
I think this was intended if the Pilot was using FPV.
 
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Lapeer20m

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from the same June 2016 fact sheet: "No operations from a moving vehicle are allowed unless you are flying over a sparsely populated area."

Leaves room for an argument.
Not really ambiguous at all. The faa charts show “populated areas” in yellow.
 

modbuilder

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So........ anything not in yellow should be considered "sparsely" populated ??
 

HoozierDroneDaddy

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You also need to look at your flight path to see if you will be traveling over moving traffic. Not construction equipment on the roadway, but normal traffic such as active traffic lanes. As I understand it, these are off limits. You can fly over parked vehicles, but not moving vehicles occupied by people. This is a safety issue for two reasons, 1) should you have an accident and go down in traffic causing a bigger accident, 2) causing distractions to drivers in-turn causing them to have an accident.
 

modbuilder

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I'd kind of assumed that, but it's a good reminder. It's actually hard to not travel over a traffic lane briefly from time to time, which puts you right back into a gray zone -- crossing a highway for a brief moment. Sometimes following the rules can get really ticky tacky about technical compliance versus what a reasonable person would agree is safe. I can see where crossing the road at 50 feet would attract a driver's attention, but 250 feet not so much.
 

modbuilder

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Back to the sparsely populated consideration -- not sure I can buy that not-yellow means "sparsely". I can buy that it means "not dense", but that seems a big leap to "sparse".
 

sar104

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Back to the sparsely populated consideration -- not sure I can buy that not-yellow means "sparsely". I can buy that it means "not dense", but that seems a big leap to "sparse".
It appears that there may be no clear definition or indication of "sparsely populated". This was considered by the FAA 12 years ago in relation to model rockets, and the following appeared in the Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 62 / Friday, March 31, 2006 / Proposed Rules:

The FAA has not proposed definitions for unpopulated, sparsely populated, or densely populated area. The FAA does not have sufficient experience with reusable suborbital rocket flight activity at this time to define these terms. The FAA did consider, but does not propose to adopt, the following definitions:

Unpopulated means devoid of people.

Sparsely populated means a population density of less than 10 people per square statute mile in an area of at least one square statute mile.

Densely populated area means a census designated place, as defined by the United States Census Bureau, with
a population in excess of 100,000 people, or any area with a population density in excess of 1,000 people per square statute mile and an area of at least one square statute mile.
Although proposing precise definitions may be premature, the FAA offers the following observations as preliminary guidance. The term ‘‘unpopulated’’ would mean no people, period. The term ‘‘sparsely populated’’ suggests an area with a few scattered people where the risk to those few persons from the overflight of a suborbital rocket, even one being tested, would likely be negligible. The term ‘‘densely populated area’’ would have two characteristics.

One would be strictly related to numbers of people, without regard to population density. Any area with 100,000 people is not a good area to test rockets. The second characteristic would be density—an area would have to be large enough to allow an applicant to find a workable operating area in certain parts of the country, but small enough to keep the risk to the people within the area negligible, given the flight constraints discussed below. The FAA requests comments on the definitions that it considered and on its preliminary observations.
 
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