FAA Position on Contracted UAS Operations by Public Agencies
[The following was written in my role as the Advocacy Director for the National Association of Search and Rescue. A PDF version is available here – Public Agency SUAS-final.]
This is an interpretation of information in the Advisory Circular 00-1.1A “Public Aircraft Operations” and refers to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR); and Title 49 U.S.C. §§ 40102(a)(41) and 40125.
Public agencies and civil operators are encouraged to retain their own attorney to review this interpretation.
After consultation with a UAV lawyer and their FAA consultant, we believe that civil aircraft operators may fly UAVs in support of government entities (public agencies) if the following conditions are met:
- The public agency has a COA
- A contract exists between the public agency and the civil aircraft operator
- A one time declaration is filed with the FAA by the public agency
- The mission(s) flown are purely public service
- The public agency makes a determination before each mission that the mission is public serving
If these conditions are met, any civil operator regardless of certifications may operate a UAV in support of the public entity under the requirements set forth by the public entity and its COA.
CAUTIONARY NOTE: The civil operator is not required to have a 333, or to have passed the certification described in (proposed) Part 107 in these circumstances. However, the agency can and should require a 333 or the certification described in Part 107, as a requirement of the contract with the civil operator.”
It is extremely important to note that:
- The public agency must have a COA.
- This is transferring almost all risk, responsibility, and liability for certification, experience, training, etc. from the FAA to the public agency.
- There must be a contract in place between the public agency and the civil operator (it is recommended that the contract include a requirement for the civil operator to hold a 333 or part 107)
- The declaration names a specific government official and contract that covers the relationship
It is of vital importance that the public agency maintains control of the operator of the UAV and of the missions. The liability completely falls on the public agency. There is great risk if an agency enters into this relationship without a complete understanding of the risks associated with it.
This is spelled out in more detail in Advisory Circular 00-1.1A “Public Aircraft Operations” and refers to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR); and Title 49 U.S.C. §§ 40102(a)(41) and 40125.
[An FAA presentation on this topic is available here – FAA Public Aircraft Presentation.]