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Using spotters to fly BVLOS: legal or not?

WilliamDaugherty

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After seeing a DJI Air 3 range test video recently, I contacted the UAS Support Center to ask if it is indeed legal to extend flights from the pilot/control operator by using spotters. The FAA's response was unequivocal:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"§ 107.31(b) states:

"Throughout the entire flight of the small unmanned aircraft, the ability described in paragraph (a) of this section must be exercised by either:

(1) The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system; or

(2) A visual observer."


The Preamble specifically defines the term visual observer (with my emphasis):

"Accordingly, this rule will define visual observer as a person who assists the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground." Note the defined role is to assist in see and avoid, not to extend the range of operation.

Further, the Preamble states (with my emphasis):

"Allowing remote pilots to extend their visual line of sight through the use of one or more visual observers may introduce new hazards into the operation. As discussed in the next section of this preamble, the visual observer’s role in the operation is limited to simply maintaining visual line of sight and communicating what he or she sees to the remote pilot. Allowing “daisy chaining” of visual observers to fly the unmanned aircraft beyond line of sight of the remote pilot in command would result in a delay in the remote pilot’s reaction time because the visual observer would have to verbalize any hazard and the remote pilot would be unable to look up and directly see the situation. Instead, the remote pilot would have to respond to the hazard by formulating and executing a maneuver based on his or her understanding of the information received from the visual observer rather than a direct visual perception of the hazard.

Because a delay in reaction time may introduce new hazards into the operation, this rule will retain the requirement that the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command) must be able to see the small unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight.

As explained earlier, the visual-line-of-sight framework requires the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS, and the visual observer to always have visual-line-of-sight capability. The visual observer can exercise this capability instead of the remote pilot in command and person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot in command), but under this rule, everyone must have the visual-line-of-sight capability, even if they are not exercising it."

Bottom line...Part 107 specifically prohibits using a VO to extend VLOS."
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I had several additional emails back and forth with them regarding the language ambiuity of the actual rule, and the references to the "preamble", which I'd never heard of. Nevertheless, their position is perfectly clear as evidenced by the last sentence.
 
I’m going to guess that was from Steve.

Many folks don’t understand VLOS rules. They can be confusing, and some people just flat out ignore them.

Some folks (like Pilot Institute) have BVLOS waivers to do range testing.
 
Why can't they say "Allowing remote pilots to extend their visual line of sight through the use of one or more visual observers is prohibited and will not be tolerated."
It’s spelled out in the first part of 107.31 when it says “and” when taking about who has to see the drone.
 
It’s spelled out in the first part of 107.31 when it says “and” when taking about who has to see the drone.
I saw that mentioned above in the previous post. Some people see the language as weak and open to interpretation which is why the non-criminals are likely taking liberties. My suggestion is not to be so squishy if the intention is not to open it to interpretation. Maybe add 107.31 (c) Allowing remote pilots to extend their visual line of sight through the use of one or more visual observers is prohibited and will not be tolerated. Or, 107.31 (d) The PIC operating FPV aircraft using goggles alone is prohibited without the use of a visual observer.

Others have said, under 107.31(a), it is actually quite easy for both the PIC *and* VO (when there is one) to accomplish each one (1) thru (4). But I like it the way it is since it appears the FAA is not trying to play hard with this one. I have no argument.
 
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If you call the FAA and speak with a Director as I have many times, you will find the Gray Zone , that Gray Zone has stripes, dots, zig zags , along with a ending tone , which leads you back to the Gray Zone.

Common Sense is our #1 Rule to follow and that will guide you .

Phantomrain.org
Gear to fly in the Rain. Land on the Water
 
It’s spelled out in the first part of 107.31 when it says “and” when taking about who has to see the drone.
I think the problem is coming from the second part, which says the requirement in the first part can be met by "...either...or..."

The references to the Preamble as a way of clarifying is certainly suboptimal. I agree that clear, unambiguous language in the regulation itself would have been better. In the meantime, we have people telling their wide audience that VOs can in fact extend flights indefinitely.
 
If you call the FAA and speak with a Director as I have many times, you will find the Gray Zone , that Gray Zone has stripes, dots, zig zags , along with a ending tone , which leads you back to the Gray Zone.

Common Sense is our #1 Rule to follow and that will guide you .

Phantomrain.org
Gear to fly in the Rain. Land on the Water
Previous Directors of the FAA ("Acting" Directors most recently) know squat about UAS regulations. The only true way to get a correct interpretation is to talk to the FAA Legal Department.

Which is where the UAS Help Center gets their answers.

107.31, while slightly clunky with the "and" language in Section (a), and the "either/or" language in Section (b), is clear in it's meaning.

(a) states the three people described in the regulation must be able to have the ability to see the drone. (b) states that at least one of them must actually have the drone in sight at all times.

And as far as FAA Directors, the newest nomination will actually have some knowledge of the UAS industry, albeit in the AAM sector. Mike Whitaker is currently the COO of Supernal, Hyundai's UAM (Urban Air Mobility) division. Supernal is also where former UAS Integration Office Executive Officer Jay Merkel works. Knowing Jay as well as I do, I have no doubt he's helping Mike understand even more about the smaller drones in the UAS world.

I hope Mike makes it through the confirmation office. It will be nice to finally have someone in charge of the FAA who has some AAM as well as manned aviation knowledge. Maybe our industry will start getting the respect it deserves as the largest sector of aviators (by far) in the country.
 
If you call the FAA and speak with a Director as I have many times, you will find the Gray Zone , that Gray Zone has stripes, dots, zig zags , along with a ending tone , which leads you back to the Gray Zone.

Common Sense is our #1 Rule to follow and that will guide you .

Phantomrain.org
Gear to fly in the Rain. Land on the Water
Fuzzy wuzzy regulations is the essence isn't it? At the end of the day it's the courts that have to decide where the boundaries are assuming someone challenges them.
 
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We call that extended visual line of site down here and can get endorsements and approvals for these flights.
 
Nothing fuzzy. The PIC must be able to see the drone at all times. The intent of the VO is to allow the pilot to focus on the screen to take a shots, etc. At any point during the flight the PIC must be able to view the aircraft in the sky.
 
Nothing fuzzy. The PIC must be able to see the drone at all times. The intent of the VO is to allow the pilot to focus on the screen to take a shots, etc. At any point during the flight the PIC must be able to view the aircraft in the sky.
So, doesn’t this make the use of goggles by the PIC illegal even if he has a VO standing next to him/her?
Hmmm, well that went fuzzy pretty quickly. 🤣
 
If you're in the middle of nowhere, like myself, just do it if you want. If there are any houses don't even try it. Seen enough ****** on YT. Be very mindful of aircraft and don't go crazy with your altitude.
 
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So, doesn’t this make the use of goggles by the PIC illegal even if he has a VO standing next to him/her?
No. It simply means the PIC must be able to remove the goggles and see the drone at any time just like looking up from the screen.

Why does everyone have to try to read things into such a simple rule? Nothing fuzzy at all about keep your drone within VLOS at all times unless you have a BVLOS waiver.
 
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Honestly, that may be. I know I can not reliably do that with my fpv but that isn’t saying no one can.
Actually NO it doesn’t because the VO is supposed to be there to alert the PIC to any dangers in the vicinity of the drone. The PIC can only see ahead of the drone so they cannot know what is going on around it at any given moment.
 
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So does that mean if the PIC can remove the goggles and see the drone at any time, no VO is needed (when you fly FPV with Goggles)?
The PIC is able to see the drone if he removes the goggles. But he does not actually have it in sight at all times with the goggles on.

Vic nailed it. It is clear.

107.31, [...] is clear in it's meaning.
(a) states the three people described in the regulation must be able to have the ability to see the drone. (b) states that at least one of them must actually have the drone in sight at all times.
 
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