The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Part 107 waiver on June 1 to operate a DJI Phantom 4 drone, equipped with a parachute, over people. A waiver is required by Hensel Phelps Construction Company of Greeley, Colorado, to operate a drone contrary to the rules in Part 107, the small unmanned aircraft rule.
In a separate action, at an Innovation Panel before Paris Air Show attendees, FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell said the U.S. “will ensure and enable safer and more innovative technologies to enter new aviation segments. ”
This remains to be seen at the beleaguered agency that appears to be too close to the aircraft industry it is supposed to be regulating. Consider, the FAA’s tardiness in grounding a deadly Boeing 7 airliner after pilot complains aaboutthe control system. Now the Boeing 737 Max software modifications needed to prevent additional fatalities appears to be stalled.
The FAA is still waiting for Boeing’s completed software changes to the MAX – changes that were promised this summer. The FAA will also take part in test flights of a modified 737 MAX and “weigh all the information together before making the decision to return the aircraft to service.” Too bad the FAA didn’t do that the first time around on Boeing’s MCAS software.
As an example of more cooperation with the aviation industry, stand in administrator Elwell (Trump’s original appointee didn’t fly since he had violated FAA regulations)announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that modifies and clarifies existing regulatory procedures to obtain FAA approval to test supersonic aircraft. The NPRM is a first, necessary milestone toward the reintroducing controversial, noisy and polluting civil supersonic flight.
With several supersonic aircraft projects currently under development in the U.S., Elwell claimed this NPRM ensures that these companies have “more accessible information and an efficient process to gain FAA approval to conduct flight testing.” We will wait and see. The record isn’t good here.
The FAA did not certify or approve the parachute that will be used with drones. However, the FAA determined that the waiver application sufficiently met the standard design specification (ASTM 3322-18) and that the proposed small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) operation could be safely conducted under the terms and conditions of a waiver.
This waiver represents the first time the FAA has “collaborated with industry in developing a publicly available standard, worked with an applicant to ensure the testing and data collected acceptably met the standard, and issued a waiver using an industry standard as a basis to determine that a proposed sUAS operation can be safely conducted under the terms and conditions of a waiver under Part 107.”
The FAA claims the process is scalable and available to other applicants who propose to use the same drone and parachute combination. The FAA will require each applicant to provide the testing, documentation, and statement of compliance listed in ASTM3322-18 in their applications using the same drone and parachute combination. Let’s hope this is enough.