5 Helpful Guidelines: Obtaining A Daylight Waiver
Dec 26, 2019
In this article we will review the different steps a commercial drone pilot must take in order to acquire an FAA Daylight Operation Waiver (107.29 Daylight Waiver). If you are wondering what some of the use cases might be for an FAA Daylight Operation Waiver to fly your sUAS at night, I’ve outlined a few below…
- Wedding Photography
- Real Estate Photography
- Surveying & Inspection
- Law Enforcement
At this point, I’m sure you’re referencing this article to gain insight into obtaining an FAA Daylight Operation Waiver for your current operation - so let’s dive right into it.
Let’s quickly review what the FAA’s Part 107 Rule states for pilots looking to fly during the day, before/after Civil Twilight, and Flying at Night.
To mitigate risk, the FAA’s Part 107 Rule limits sUAS use to daylight, and civil twilight with the use of proper anti-collision lights. Remote Pilot’s should not operate their sUAS during the period of civil twilight unless the aircraft has lighted anti-collision lights visible for at least 3 statute miles. So, if you are thinking about operating your drone during the 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise, then you will not need a Daylight Operation waiver to proceed ONLY if you are using anti-collision lights.
When filling out the Waiver Safety Explanation field in the operational waiver application, applicants must 1. Describe their proposed operation, and 2. The Possible Risk Associated With The Operation, As Well As The Methods You Will Use To Mitigate The Risks.
1. Describe The Proposed Operation:
Note: Use the following questions as a guide to address both sets of information. Answers to these questions may be entered into the Waiver Safety Explanation field on the waiver form (5,000 character limit), or submitted as attachments after receiving a waiver tracking number (see Step 4 – Submitting Additional Information).
Important: If hazard identification and risk mitigation strategies are not included in your application, the FAA will be unable to make a complete safety analysis and will disapprove your application based on insufficient information.
Provide a description of your proposed operation without the technical details, but with sufficient information for the FAA to understand it quickly and easily. This is the who, what, when, where, and how of your proposed operation, and is commonly called a Concept of Operations (CONOPS). All questions below relate to the operation(s) to be conducted under your requested waiver.
- Where do you plan to operate
- Consider providing latitude/longitude and a detailed map of your planned flight area
- How high will you fly your aircraft (maximum altitude above ground level)?
- Do you want to fly in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D & surface E)?
- Are there any other kinds of airspace within 5 miles of any planned flight area?
- If yes, please see 14 CFR §107.41 and Airspace Authorization Request page
- What kind of areas will you fly over?
- Ex: rural, sparsely populated, congested, populated, a neighborhood, within city limits, large outdoor gathering of people, a restricted access site, etc.
Small UAS Details -
- What kind of UAS will you use to fly the operations requested in this application?
- Ex. Multi-Rotor, Fixed Wing, Hybrid (Both Multi-Rotor & Fixed-Wing), Single Rotor, Lighter Than Air, Etc.
- What is your UAS’s power or energy source?
- What is your UAS’s maximum flight time (In minutes), range (In feet), and speed (In miles per hour).
- How big is the aircraft (Length/Width/Height in Inches)?
- How do you ensure the aircraft onlu flies where it is directed (ie. ensure containment)?
- Ex. Geo-Fencing, Tether, Etc.
- What kind of termination system, if any, does the UAS have?
- How much will the aircraft and its payload weigh when flying?
- If the aircraft carries any external or internal load (or object), how is the load secured?
- What, if any, external or internal load (or object) could be dropped from the aircraft when flying, and how will you assure the safety of people, or other people’s property if it is dropped or detached when flying?
Pilot/Personnel Details -
- What minimum level of experience will the Remote Pilot in Command (Remote PIC) have to fly under this waiver?
- How many personnel (including the Remote PIC) will you use for operations under this waiver (minimum needed)?
- What kind of training, if any, will personnel (e.g. visual observer(s)) have prior to flying under the waiver?
- How will the personnel be trained?
- How will the Responsible Person know the other personnel are competent and have operational knowledge to safely fly the UAS under the waiver conditions?
- If personnel will be tested, what kind of testing will be performed, and how will evaluations be conducted and documented?
- How will personnel maintain the knowledge/skill to fly under this waiver? Will recurrent training or testing be required?
2. Describe Operation Risks & Mitigation
Provide, to the greatest extent possible, how you propose to address or lessen the possible risks of your proposed operation. This could include using operating limitations, technology, additional training, equipment, personnel, restricted access areas, etc. When reviewing the questions for each section below, the FAA's primary concerns are:
- How you will ensure your operation(s) remains safe at all times, even in unusual circumstances
- What kinds of circumstances could arise, and how you plan to handle each
The FAA has outlined 5 Specific Guidelines to obtaining a Daylight Operation Waiver
Before we dive into the 5 Specific Guidelines, it’s important for applicants to understand the information needed to make a successful safety case for granting a waiver.
The Part 107 regulations provide a flexible framework for unmanned aircraft operations. Waivers and airspace authorizations are an important part of making the new rule work as intended. Applicants can help speed the process by making sure they make a solid, detailed safety case for any flights not covered under the small drone rule.
Below are a few of the most missed objectives that will result in your application being denied by the FAA during the application process.
- Applicant must provide a method for the remote pilot to maintain visual line of sight during darkness.
- Applicant must provide a method for the remote pilot to see and avoid other aircraft, people on the ground, and ground-based structures and obstacles during darkness.
- Applicant must provide a method by which the remote pilot will be able to continuously know and determine the position, altitude, attitude, and movement of their small unmanned aircraft (sUA).
- Applicant must assure all required persons participating in the sUA operation have knowledge to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness, and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision.
- Applicant must provide a method to increase conspicuity of the sUA to be seen at a distance of 3 statute miles unless a system is in place that can avoid all non-participating aircraft.
IMPORTANT: Make sure that you justify somewhere, that the operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.
5 Specific Guideline Questions
- Describe how the Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) will maintain visual line of sight (VLOS) during darkness.
- How will the RPIC be able to see the small unmanned aircraft (sUA) in the dark, at the maximum planned flight distance from the RPIC and/or Visual Observer (VO)?
- What procedures will the RPIC and/or VO follow in the event they lose sight of the sUA in the dark?
Example Response Ideas: This is where you will want to explain in detail how the Pilot in Command will maintain visual line of sight with the sUAS at all times. Keep in mind, you will be flying at night so it would be beneficial to include that you will be flying with the assistance of anti-collision lights attached to your sUAS. Also, will you be flying with the help of a Visual Observer (VO)? Describe what procedures you have determined to be the most effective when communication with everyone involved in the safety of the mission.
- Describe how the RPIC will see and avoid other aircraft, people on the ground, and ground-based structures and obstacles during darkness.
- How will the RPIC and/or VO locate other persons, aircraft, obstacles, and structures in the dark?
- What will they do if other persons/aircraft are located during flight?
- How will they avoid hitting obstacles/structures during flight?
- If flight operations occur in an area with lighting sufficient for the RPIC and VO to see the sUA and other obstacles, persons, and aircraft, how will they determine the lighting is sufficient before flight?
Example Response Ideas: The great thing about this application, is it gives you time to scout the mission site before submitting. Explain the controlled operating space, and the details of the location that would assist in keeping the mission confined to the point of interest. If the point of interest is located in the center of the site, it would be great to describe the launch area and the conditions surrounding. Also, describe the actions you will take to ensure you are on the same page with you visual observer that will clarify your attempt to avoid collisions at all cost. You might want to sit down with your Visual Observer during this section of the application to detail the methods used to scan the sky for potential hazards or obstructions.
- Describe how the RPIC will be able to continuously know and determine the position, altitude, attitude, and movement of the sUA.
- How will the RPIC be able to tell which direction the sUA is pointing or flying in the dark?
- While keeping eyes on the sUA, how will the RPIC continuously know the current real-time (1) geographic location, (2) altitude above the ground, (3) attitude (orientation, deck angle, pitch, bank), and (4) direction of flight of the sUA?
Example Response Ideas: This is a section where you will want to include your unique safety measurements used when your sUAS begins to lose signal, or completely loses signal. If your Visual Observer loses Visual Line of Sight with the aircraft, it would be in your best interest to describe how you will immediately put the sUAS in hover mode until Visual Line of Sight has been restored. It is very helpful to add an additional Visual Observer to the operation incase something unexpected occurs. Emphasize communication between all parties associated with the mission.
- What procedures will be followed to ensure all the required persons participating in the operation have the knowledge to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision?
- How will the RPIC and any other participants in the operation demonstrate knowledge about night operation risks, such as overcoming night visual illusions, limitations to night vision, and conditions that can affect night vision?
- How will this knowledge be obtained and who will document it?
- How will the Responsible Person verify the knowledge has been obtained and documented?
Example Response Ideas: Describe a pre-flight meeting that will discuss the following topics to reduce the risk of Visual Illusions caused by darkness that may degrade night vision. These concepts can be found in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
Night Vision Illusions
There are many different types of visual illusions that commonly occur at night. Anticipating and maintaining awareness of them is usually the best way to avoid them
- Autokinesis: is caused by staring at a single point of light against a dark background for more than a few seconds. After a few moments, the light appears to move on its own. Apparent movement of the light source will begin in about 8 to 10 seconds. To prevent this illusion, focus the eyes on objects at varying distances and avoid fixating on one source of light. This illusion can be eliminated or reduced by visual scanning, by increasing the number of lights, or by varying the light intensity. The most important of the three solutions is visual scanning. A light or lights should not be stared at for more than 10 seconds.
- Reversible Perspective Illusion: At night, an aircraft may appear to be moving away from a second aircraft when it is, in fact, approaching a second aircraft. This illusion often occurs when an aircraft is flying parallel to another’s course. To determine the direction of flight, pilots should observe aircraft lights and their relative position to the horizon. If the intensity of the lights increases, the aircraft is approaching; if the lights dim, the aircraft is moving away.
- Size-Distance Illusion: This illusion results from viewing a source of light that is increasing or decreasing in luminance (brightness). Pilots may interpret the light as approaching or retreating.
- Fascination (Fixation): This illusion occurs when pilots ignore orientation cues and fix their attention on a goal or an object. Student pilots tend to have this happen when they are concentrating on the aircraft instruments or attempting to land. They become fixated on one task and forget to look at what is going on around them. At night, this can be especially dangerous because aircraft
ground-closure rates are difficult to determine, and there may
be minimal time to correct the situation.
- Flicker Vertigo: A light flickering at a rate between 4 and 20 cycles per second can produce unpleasant and dangerous reactions. Such conditions as nausea, vomiting, and vertigo may occur. On rare occasions, convulsions and unconsciousness may also occur. Proper scanning techniques at night can prevent pilots from getting flicker vertigo.
- Describe how the visual conspicuity of the UA will be increased to be seen at a distance of at least 3 statute miles (mi).
- Will the sUA be visible for at least 3 mi at night, in the location where the RPIC will operate?
- If yes, how will you accomplish this?
- If no, why do other aircraft not need to be able to see your sUA from at least 3 mi?
Example Response Ideas: You will want to include some information about the type of lights you plan on attaching to your sUAS and confirm that the light will be visible during the operation for up to 3 statute miles. As an added factor to the flight of your sUAS and the success of your mission, you will want to include information regarding the constant update of new anti-collision light technology as it comes on the market, and the current condition of your lighting equipment.
Filling out the Application: Step-By-Step Process
The FAA states “... we will strive to review and issue decisions on waiver and authorization requests within 90 days.” Which, is why we urge you to submit your application at least 90 days prior to the mission.
You can fill out the application by logging in to your DroneZone Account: https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/part_107_waivers/
- Once you are logged in, navigate to your dashboard and scroll halfway down the page to the section below.
- Choose the Button in the Bottom Left Corner Titled “Create Part 107 Waiver/Authorization”.
- Select the bullet point Operational Waiver, and Start Application.
Part 1: Acknowledgement
Operation Title: This will be used as a reference to the mission, for example “Daylight Operation Waiver for Construction Surveying & Inspection”
Responsible Party: This section is to be filled out by the individual responsible for the safety of the mission.
Note: This person does not have to be the Remote Pilot in Command.
Part 2: Waiver Application
Provide a description of your proposed operation without the technical details, but with sufficient information for the FAA to understand it quickly and easily. This is the who, what, when, where, and how of your proposed operation, and is commonly called a Concept of Operations (CONOPS). Make sure you responsive is detailed and consistent with the extent of the mission.
Note: Put the start day anywhere from 30-60 days out from the day of operation.
Part 3: sUAS Details
If you have a registered UAS that does not appear below, click the Add UAS button to provide UAS information relevant to this operation.
Note: You will find the Manufacturer & Model on your sUAS
Part 4: Review Waiver & Confirm
Review your application details and be sure to double-check the information provided! Once you feel confident with your application, Submit!
You did it! See… that wasn’t so bad. Now all you have to do is wait for the FAA’s Waiver Authorization team to process your request and get back to you with an answer. For more information on the FAA’s Rules & Regulations be sure to check out our community of like-minded drone enthusiasts or visit our Altitude University Resource page!