The ability to legally fly drones over people is a necessity for Public Safety responding to emergency situations like Search & Rescue, Active Shooter, Suspect Pursuit, as well as non-exigent operations such as crowd overwatch for major events or pre-planning for disaster response. Yet, due to the cost and complexity of obtaining a waiver allowing overflight of people many agencies are limited to emergency approvals on a case-by-case basis from the FAA’s System Operation Support Center (SOSC).
However, there is some hope in a precedent-setting move by the FAA. On June 1st, the FAA approved a waiver of 107.39(a) to Hensel Phelps Construction Company. The first waiver of its kind where the FAA has approved an off-the-shelf parachute system (the SafeAir System by Parazero) to enable overflight of people.
This is big news.
Essentially, the FAA has agreed that the ParaZero System is safe to fly over people because it has been tested by the manufacturer to meet a standard of design and performance. This ASTM Standard, (ASTM 3322-18) requires the manufacturer demonstrates that the parachute will work effectively in the event of any drone failure scenario.
This is the first instance of the FAA approving a design-standard on a commercially available drone, and it’s likely the first step in a future of safety standardization across all aspects of drone hardware. Just as the auto industry is required to meet standards of safety for new vehicles, drone OEM’s may soon do the same to receive further privileges, like the ability to fly over people.
What does this mean for end users?
This approval is a giant leap towards opening the doors for drones flying over people. Until now, the largest impediment to achieving overflight of people had been what the FAA calls: “technological mitigation”; essentially proving that your drone won’t fall out of the sky and cause a hazard. For the first time, agencies can purchase an off the shelf safety device that the FAA has agreed meets this designation.
With that said, overflight of people is still not “plug and play.” Agencies will still have to demonstrate training, SOPs, inspection procedures, be tied to a specific drone (Phantom 4 in this case) and navigate the protracted waiver process to finally get the FAA’s blessing. Overflight of people is still an uphill battle, but for the first time it’s within reach of the average commercial user or public safety agency.
If your agency needs help with 107 Waivers, AeroVista Drone Academy has received approvals for over 150 Part 107 Waivers for our clients including approvals for Night Operations, Overflight of People (we were the 5th company approved), And long duration blanket approvals in 35 out of 36 Class B Airspaces. Let us manage the paperwork & the process for approval!
Chief Operating Officer
Melanie has a keen eye for emerging technology and a drive for delivering cutting-edge solutions that can change our world for the better. She’s responsible for keeping AeroVista Drone Academy focused on identifying and executing the most optimal solutions for each of our clients, while also spearheading all sales and marketing initiatives. Melanie is an FAA-certified Remote Pilot.