Drones

U.S. drone regulations – Operations Over People explained

Explore the new rule, discover the OOP-approved drones and their benefits compared to waivers

In April 2021, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a rule allowing drone Operations Over People (OOP) and Moving Vehicles (OOMV). With the new rule, approved UAS don’t need a waiver to conduct these operations.

AgEagle’s eBee X series drones are the first and only UAVs to date approved by the FAA for OOP and OOMV in the United States under the new rule.

In this guide, AgEagle’s Head of Regulation, Pierre-Alain Marchand, explains the current U.S. regulations for flying over people and over moving vehicles.

Overview U.S. drone regulations for Operations Over People and Moving Vehicles

The U.S. rule Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Over People is divided into four categories that determine the eligibility and operational conditions under which it is permitted to fly certified drones over people and over moving vehicles:

Category 1

Eligibility

  • Takeoff weight: drones below 0.55 lbs / 250 g
  • Rotating parts: Not exposed
  • Documentation: Not required

Fly over people (OOP)

  • Can maintain sustained fly over open-air assemblies if the drone has Remote ID

Fly over moving vehicles (OOMV)

  • Yes, if not sustained flight. For sustained flights over a vehicle, all people inside must be on notice

Drone example

  • DJI Tello

Category 2

Eligibility

  • Takeoff weight: N/A
  • Kinetic energy upon impact: Less than 11 foot-pounds / 15 joules
  • Rotating parts: Not exposed
  • Does not contain any safety defects
  • Documentation: Required Means of Compliance (MOC) and Declaration of Compliance (DOC) for the drone. Done by the manufacturer only once to obtain approval

Fly over people (OOP)

  • Can maintain sustained fly over open-air assemblies if the drone has Remote ID

Fly over moving vehicles (OOMV)

  • Yes, if not sustained flight. For sustained flights over a vehicle, all people inside must be on notice

Drone example

  • None

Category 3

Eligibility

  • Takeoff weight: N/A
  • Kinetic energy upon impact: Less than 25 foot-pounds / 34 joules
  • Rotating parts: Not exposed
  • Does not contain any safety defects
  • Documentation: Required Means of Compliance (MOC) and Declaration of Compliance (DOC) for the drone. Done by the manufacturer only once to obtain approval

Fly over people (OOP)

  • Operations within or over a closed- or restricted-access site and all people on site are on notice
  • Operations in which the drone does not maintain sustained flight over any person unless that person is participating directly in the operation or located under a covered structure

Fly over moving vehicles (OOMV)

  • Yes, if not sustained flight. For sustained flights over a vehicle, all people inside must be on notice

Drone example

Category 4

Eligibility

  • Takeoff weight: N/A
  • Case-by-case basis and limited to a set of circumstances and parameters (similar to waiver)
  • Must have an airworthiness certificate issued under Part 21 of FAA regulations
  • Must be operated as approved in the Flight Manual or as specified by the Administrator
  • Must have maintenance, preventive maintenance, alterations, or inspections performed in accordance with specific requirements in the final rule

Fly over people (OOP)

  • Can maintain sustained fly over open-air assemblies if the drone has Remote ID

Fly over moving vehicles (OOMV)

  • Same operational limitations and procedures as for flying over people

Drone example

  • Up to now, only MATTERNET (delivery drone) has achieved it. The process took them 4 years and 5 months.

Drones approved for Operations Over People in the U.S.

Drones that can fly over people and conduct operations over people in the United States.

Approved

Currently, AgEagle’s eBee X series drones are the first and only approved sUAS by the FAA for Operations Over People (OOP) and Moving Vehicles (OOMV) in the United States. Moreover, they are Remote ID approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Not eligible

Other professional drones, such as Wingtra, Quantum-Systems, or the DJI M300 RTK drone are not eligible for OOP and OOMV until a change in their design is made (for example, adding a parachute).

Note, however, that adding a parachute increases the weight and hence decreases the flight time. Moreover, parachute mitigation can fail, while mitigation on drone design doesn’t.

Currently, the only assessment protocol approved by the FAA is the one from Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), which doesn’t allow parachutes for impact testing.

Getting a waiver vs. OOP approved drones

Waivers are granted case-by-case for a specific drone, flight location, mission, and more unalterable parameters. If something in the mission changes, a new waiver is needed.

With the new rule, once the aircraft and its potential risk of injury are assessed according to an FAA-accepted method (MOC) and get the OOP approval, the complex waiver process is no longer necessary.

Getting a waiver is still technically possible. However, the number of approved waivers in the U.S. for OOP (107.39) was low in 2022 – only 19, mostly for delivery drones – and it’s expected to continue decreasing in 2023.

Waivers already issued and still in the process are valid. Nevertheless, the renewal procedure can be complex now that a new rule is in place and that the FAA has shown a clear preference for OOP certified drones.

Moreover, with a waiver, flights over people are generally limited to sparsely populated areas.

WaiverOOP approved drone
GrantedCase-by-case for a specific drone, flight location, mission, and more unalterable parameters.To the drone for all types of flight locations, missions, and parameters within the operational conditions of the rule.
DocumentsSubmit documentation and testing to the FAA and wait for their approval.

The paperwork usually takes months.

An official body assesses the drone.

If the aircraft passes the tests and proves no potential risk for people, the drone is OOP approved by the FAA and no longer needs a waiver.

Need to renew itYes, when the waiver expires or if there are any changes in the mission.No, if drone design remains the same.
DronesWingtra, DJI M300 RTK, Quantum-Systems and many otherseBee X, eBee TAC, eBee Geo

Testing process

eBee X testing process to be the first OOP certified drone in the U.S.
eBee X testing process to be the first OOP certified drone in the U.S. Image: Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership

To be an OOMV and OOP approved drone, the aircraft must undergo thorough testing to demonstrate operational safety around people.

The only approved drones to fly over people in the U.S. are the eBee X series sUAS. The assessment was done by Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (VT MAAP), and it consisted of:

  1. Determination of the Worst-Case Typical Failure (WCTF)
  2. Impact testing
    • 6 crash tests from different angles/directions and comparing the results with the rigid object
  3. Laceration testing

If you want more details about the testing regime, read VT MAAP’s article.

OOP requirements for operators

Pilots that would like to fly over people in the United States must have the following:

  • OOP certified drone, like the eBee X.
  • FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate.
  • Register the drone on the drone manufacturer portal. In this case, my.sensefly.com. The FAA will check the contact details in case of issues or updates.
  • Ensure to perform a service every 100 hours of use.
  • Follow the drone instructions, limitations, and procedures of the manufacturer’s OOP user manual.
  • Be aware of the FAA’s final rule on OOP and OOMV.

Drone geo-zones in the U.S.

Drone geozones in the United States
eMotion, the flight planning software for eBee drones, has the U.S. geo-zones integrated

Drone pilots are responsible for checking outside conditions when planning a mission. The airspace is shared with other aircraft, and the ground has restricted zones, such as prisons or airports, which prohibit flyovers.

In eMotion, the flight planning software for eBee drones, U.S. geo-zones are integrated, making it easier to plan your mission.

For air traffic awareness, the eBee X Ping USB accessory is an ADS-B device that allows the operator to view live air traffic data directly within eMotion.

Before buying a drone in the U.S.

Purchasing a drone that matches your operational needs while bearing in mind U.S. drone regulation compliance can greatly simplify your operations. We strongly recommend that you check:

For more information about the U.S. or other drone regulations, contact us directly at [email protected]

Drone vocabulary for U.S. OOP

OOP – Drone Operations Over People

OOMV – Drone Operations Over Moving Vehicles

BVLOS – Flights Beyond Visual Line of Sight

sUAS – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Synonyms: UAS, UAV, drone.

FAA – Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. The agency regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the country.

Remote ID – UAS remote identification. A drone with Remote ID built-in and approved by the FAA, like the eBee X, provides identification and location information during the flight. This electronic license plate ensures public safety and reduces security risks by notifying other aircraft of the UAV’s identity, position and altitude. All drone pilots are required to fly Remote ID-compliant drones from September 2023.

Waiver – Official document issued by the FAA which approves certain aircraft operations. You may request to fly specific drone operations not allowed under Part 107 or when the drone is not OOP certified by requesting an operational waiver.

Part 107 – The FAA Part 107 is the regulations for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in the U.S. In order to fly your drone under the sUAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA.

MOC – Means of Compliance. Testing method to prove operational drone safety around people. The FAA must approve the MOC. The method evaluation process includes drone failure mode and safety defect assessment, impact and laceration testing, and more.

DOC – Declaration of Compliance. Form submitted to the FAA page where the manufacturer declares that the drone complies with the MOC. Besides the form, the manufacturer must submit the testing report (received by the testing center) and the user manual for OOP. The DOC is necessary for final OOP drone approval.

Geo-zone – Information on the geographical zones that a drone can fly over. Generally excluded geo-zones are prisons, airports and other national security key points.

ADS-B – Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast technology. Live air traffic device.

Source: https://www.suasnews.com/2023/01/u-s-drone-regulations-operations-over-people-explained/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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