One area under intense discussion by the entire UAS universe is the qualifications needed to be a UAS pilot. The final word on this subject resides with the FAA and will likely be addressed in the NPRM we are expecting this fall.
To date, while the regulator hasn’t spoken definitively on the subject, it has suggested that if you want to operate a UAS for business or commercial use, you will need to possess either a commercial pilot’s certificate or, at a minimum, a private pilots certificate.
If you think about it, while certainly desirable, it simply shouldn’t be necessary to have a traditional pilots’ certificate, either commercial or private. What the FAA ought to do in their upcoming NPRM is establish a UAS Operators Certificate as a new category of airmens certificate. Even if we agree (and we do) that UASs are aircraft, the qualifications needed to operate them are clearly not the same as those needed for fixed wing or rotorcraft.
Do you need to have an understating of the National Airspace System? Yes. Do you need to know the basics of fixed wing and rotorcraft operation? Probably. But, do you need to know how to fly a fixed wing aircraft or rotorcraft? No.
We suggest that a ground school course, followed by a written examination, both of which are tailored to UAS operations and the knowledge base called for by their operation, along with a demonstration of one’s operational competence, is the type of qualification which should permit the FAA to issue a UAS Operators Certificate. Since the hobby/recreational UAS “pilot” is already allowed to fly his UAS, any UAS Operators Certificate issued by the FAA would, by definition, be for commercial/business operations. Moreover, there would be no need for the UAS equivalent of an Air Transport Pilots (ATP) Certificate since there are no passengers on board and, certainly for the foreseeable future, the aircraft will be 55 pounds or less.
Chapter 16 to the FAA Flight Management Information System (FMIS), published June 23, 2014, dealing with public use UASs, suggests that we might see a UAS Operators Certificate that is other than the traditional pilots certificate. Common sense certainly tells us we should.
Now, let’s talk about medical certificates . . . . . .
(Originally posted August 11, 2014)