“UAS Pilots Wanted . . . Experience Required”

So, you want to be a commercial UAS pilot.  Do you have what it takes?  A hobbyist can literally fly any UAS under 55 pounds for recreational purposes without any prior experience or training.  No doubt there are hobbyists out there who have been flying fixed wing, single blade, and multi-rotor UASs for years, and have thousands of hours of experience.  Can they turn their hobby into a job?  It depends . . . .

While we won’t know for sure what the pilot requirements will be until the small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is issued later this fall, we can make an educated guess based on the Section 333 Exemption guidance issued by the FAA and the Section 333 Grant of Exemption given to the filmmakers last week.

For now, the FAA is imposing pilot qualifications that are tailored to the types of operations being flown.  The restrictions the FAA imposes on other Section 333 petitioners may be different depending on the types of UAS that are being flown, the proximity to other aircraft, as well as persons and property on the ground.

For the filmmakers, in order to be a Pilot-in-Command, the pilot must have:

  1. Logged a minimum of 200 flight cycles;
  2. Logged 25 hours of total time as a UAS rotorcraft pilot;
  3. Logged at least 10 hours as a UAS pilot with a “similar UAS type (single blade or multi-rotor).”

The FAA also set currency requirements for the Pilot-in-Command.  Within the 90-days prior to the flight, the PIC must have:

  1. Logged 5 hours flight time in the exact make and model to be flown commercially; and
  2. Have three take-offs and landings in the exact make and model to be flown commercially.

So far, so good.  These are all requirements that an experienced hobbyist can meet, and we can all start updating our resumes.  Not so fast, there is one additional requirement:  a pilot’s license.

In its guidance for Section 333 petitioners, the FAA stated that the Section 333 process does not give any leeway to lessen the requirements for pilot certificates.  Because a UAS is an aircraft, the FAA stated that it had no choice but to require “ the appropriate airman certificate under 14 CFR Part 61 for the proposed operation and the appropriate medical certificate under 14 CFR Part 67.”

So, if you are a hobbyist, and you have solid flight experience, and a pilot’s license, you can look at a new career as a commercial UAS pilot.

(Originally posted October 2, 2014)

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