Flying a commercial drone at night: Tips to get Part 107.29 waiver from FAA
How you can convince FAA to grant your commercial drone business a waiver from Daylight Operations
There are several reasons why commercial drone pilots may want to fly after the end of evening twilight – shooting a film, filming a concert, surveilling a facility after dark, curbing nighttime illegal activities, monitoring a forest fire, deterring poachers, or capturing the heat signature of a building at night.
But to fly a drone at night, you need to convince the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to grant you a waiver from Daylight Operations (Part 107.29). Here is how to do it:
Maintain VLOS and Visual Conspicuity
The FAA requires that any drone flying at nighttime be visible for at least 3 statute miles and make use of at least one Visual Observer (VO). As such, your waiver application must contain documentation for the communication methods that will be used between the remote pilot in control (RPIC) and VO(s). These could include direct contact, two-way radio, cellphone, etc. The waiver application must also describe in detail the procedure that would be followed in the event RPIC and VO(s) lose sight of the drone during night operations.
The Night Operations applications previously approved by the FAA emphasize the methods leveraged to detect other aircraft. For example, the details of the prescriptive training for the RPIC and VO(s) to visually scan airspace; the topics and training material provided to the RPIC and VO(s); and specific training on topics related night vision and night visual illusions.
Successful waiver applications also describe methods to avoid other aircraft, including descriptive procedures the RPIC will follow to yield the right-of-way to other aircraft and remain well clear of other aircraft. The methods to locate and avoid hazards to nonparticipants must also be spelled out clearly, as should be the methods to avoid operations over non-participants. You also need to provide procedures for the RPIC and VO to follow when a nonparticipant(s) is located in the ground operations area, as well as the methods to locate, see, and avoid ground-based structures during the flight.
Continuous Knowledge of Location and Movement
Your waiver application must document what methods you would follow to be cognizant of accurate flight data and the bird’s location continuously. Describe how the RPIC would receive and monitor telemetry data sent from the drone, including the type of data that would be monitored, and how it would be used.
You should also explain how onboard or additional lighting added to the drone would be used to make the determinations required in 107.31.
Describe the training that all participants of night operations would undergo to show proficiency in managing risk, overcoming visual illusions, limitations of night vision, etc. Provide a detailed list of the specific subject areas that would be covered, including the lesson plans, and document a resource for training material. Explain how the participants will receive this training and define a method for retaining and retention of knowledge, training records, and knowledge verification records.
For more clarity, do go through a representative sample of an approved Part 107.29 application here.
Ishveena Singh is a versatile journalist and writer with a passion for drones and location technologies. In the last 12 years, she has worked with both mainstream media organizations (Miami Herald International, Times of India, Microsoft MSN) and dedicated geospatial technology media (Geospatial World, Geoawesomeness).
With a deep understanding of content marketing and social media, Ishveena also helps private companies (DJI, Terra Drone) to generate qualified leads through useful and timely content.