FAA Updates and Open Questions: From the Floor of the National Public Safety UAS Conference

FAA updatesFrom the floor of the National Public Safety UAS Conference: a panel of FAA representative provide updates and insights for public safety and law enforcement drone community.  Mike O’Shea, FAA Public Safety Liaison; Kerry Fleming, Manager of SOSC; and Aviation Safety Analyst John Meehan presented a major update to the B4UFly app, remote ID, and  and fielded questions from the audience.

Update to the B4UFly App: SGI Requests

SGI stands for Special Government Interests: and its a critical mechanism that allows law enforcement agencies to work with the FAA to deliver critical services utilizing sensitive airspace.  Kerry Fleming, Manager of SOSC, says their department is available 24/7, 365 days a year to work with law enforcement on SGIs: and they’ve collaborated with developers of the B4UFly App to make the process of getting an SGI waiver even easier for qualified agencies.

“We’re working on updates and improvements to make everybody’s life easier,” said Fleming.  “We’ve been working with agencies that have a DFR program, and we’ve listened to the challenges that they have with regards to TFRs [temporary flight restrictions], especially those related to POTUS.”  Now, the department is develop a protocols to give drone as first responder (DFR) programs permission to continue emergency operations, such as response to 911 calls, in TFRs.

In addition, said Fleming, the next iteration of the B4UFly app will provide additional functionality that will enable public safety agencies to autonatically request SGI waivers.  The app will provide a choice of LAANC or  SGI for qualified agencies: for DFR operations in a  TFR area, agencies must request SGI waiver.

Remote ID: Discretionary Enforcement Period Ends

John Meehan, Aviation Safety Analyst, pointed out that while the FAA allowed for a discretionary enforcement period on Remote ID to allow pilots time to equip their aircraft, Remote ID rules are already in place.  That being said, Kerry Fleming points out that if public safety agencies are still waiting for remote ID compliant equipment, the FAA is willing to work with the agency to add a Remote ID waiver to an SGI waiver.

A law enforcement officer from the audience asked if law enforcement pilots might be exempt from Remote ID requirements for their own protection.  John Meehan points out that while there is a possibility, as referred to above, for agencies to receive a waiver for Remote ID requirements for certain sensitive missions, Remote ID is also a critical part of unmanned traffic management (UTM). Robust UTM systems require participation from all parties for accurate airspace awareness and deconfliction.

Practically, Meehan points out, non-participation in Remote ID has other implications.  “You cannot turn remote ID on and off, it’s not like ADS-B,” he said. “The practical reality is that you may need to have a separate piece of equipment for non-remote ID missions.”

Flight Programs and Safety

Meehan also took the opportunity to speak to the audience about the need for airspace awareness to prevent collisions as DFR and law enforcement drone programs continue to grow.

“In the FAA’s mind, you are a flight department,” he said.  “Drones are a tool, like an axe – but are also an aircraft, flown by aviators in the National airspace.  We need people to think differently about risk.”

Meehan points that in 100% of the cases of collisions between unmanned and manned aircraft, “Those drone pilots were screen watching – they weren’t looking up in the sky, they were looking at their camera.”

“There is real risk.  It takes 12 1/2 seconds for an undistracted pilot to detect and act when they see another aircraft.  But a Blackhawk goes more than feet per second… how many seconds of reaction time would you have if a low flying helicopter flew over that building, with restricted vision?

“The risk, statistically is remote – but when it happens, the damage is severe.”

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Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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