The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced new rules, called Part 107, applying to the civil operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones. The rules will go into effect beginning Aug. 29. The new regulations provide standardized guidelines for drone operations, including a knowledge test for pilots.
City users of drones
Part 107, on its face, does not apply to drones used for public operations. While Part 107 explicitly does not apply to public operation of drones, the FAA notes in the full text of the rule that public users can voluntarily choose to abide by the new requirements. As a result, cities wishing to use a drone are only required to register online and follow the Part 107 requirements, including having a pilot who has successfully passed the knowledge test.
Cities may also opt to go through a slightly different registration process, which is as follows: First the city will need to register online at, using the Non-Model Aircraft registration, and pay a $5 registration fee. By going this route the city will not have to go through paper registration, which can take up to six weeks.
Once online registration is completed, the city will be given an FAA registration number. In addition to completing the online registration, the city will also need to send an email to 9-AJR-36-UAS@faa.gov to request a username and password so that the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) process can be completed online as well. After receiving a username and password, the city should then go online to complete the process.
Part 107 will likely be the more straightforward route for most city operations. For operations that do not seem to be consistent with the requirements of Part 107, the city should follow the alternative registration method.
However, a city may actually be required to comply with Part 107 in certain circumstances. Aside from the relative ease with which a city can comply with Part 107 for certain uses, a city’s use of a drone may not actually qualify as a “public operation” under FAA rules. In such a situation, the city would be required to comply with Part 107 anyway, so following the requirements from the beginning would ensure the city is compliant, regardless of whether the specific drone flight satisfies the FAA’s strict standards of “public operations.”
There are many things a city should consider prior to taking flight, and a decision on whether to follow Part 107 is one of them. For most city applications, it is likely compliance with Part 107 will be the easiest and most efficient option. Any city considering using a drone should work closely with its city attorney, as well as League staff, to ensure the use of the drone is done in a safe and legal manner.