Chapter 13 Waiver for Operations at Night
The University of California was granted a Operational Waiver of 14 CFR 107.29 - Daylight Operations (Waiver Number: 107W-2018-1155) for night time UAS activity in Class G airspace.
This Operational Waiver requires modifications to existing UAS activity practices as described in this Standard Operating Procedures for Advanced UAS Operations (SOPA). The following sections document the additional restrictions and addendums to UAS activity necessary to comply with the 14 CFR 107.29 - Daylight Operations Waiver.
13.2 Aircraft Restrictions
Unmanned aircraft that operate under this Waiver must meet the following requirements:
- Must be outfitted with an anti-collision strobe light that is visible from a minimum distance of 3 miles.
- Must have navigational lighting that enables the aircraft altitude, attitude and heading to be known through visual observations.
- Must have geofencing capability installed and enabled to prevent unintentional controlled flight outside a safe operating environment
- Must have a real-time data telemetry link that provides the altitude, attitude and heading of the unmanned aircraft
- Must have a real-time data telemetry link that enables an approximate location of the unmanned aircraft at all times, either with GPS coordinates or a flight path overlay on an online map. This information is necessary but not sufficient for navigation purposes.
13.3 Addendum to Roles and Responsibilities
Systemwide Designated UAS Authority
The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority is responsible to the FAA for the safe conduct of the operations. Prior to conducting operations that are the
- Must ensure the RPIC, manipulators of the controls, and Visual Observer are informed on the terms and provisions of the Waiver and the strict observance of the terms and provisions herein;
- Must ensure the RPIC, manipulators of the controls, and Visual Observer are informed and familiar with 14 CFR 107 regulations not waived; and
- The above must be documented and must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative.
The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority listed on this Waiver must maintain a current list of pilots by name and remote pilot certificate number used under the Waiver. This list must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative;
The Systemwide Designated UAS Authority listed on the Waiver must maintain a current list of small unmanned aircraft (sUA) by registration number(s) used under the Waiver. This list must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative;
Remote Pilot in Command
- The RPIC must be trained, as described in the Waiver application, to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness, and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision. This training must be documented and must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative.
- One or more Visual Observers is mandatory for all UAS activity under the Waiver.
- The Visual Observer must be trained, as described in the Waiver application, to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness, and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision. This training must be documented and must be presented for inspection upon request from the Administrator or an authorized representative.
- At least one Visual Observer must maintain verbal communication with the RPIC without the need for a radio or electronic devices.
- Auxiliary Visual Observers may utilize a radio or other devices to maintain verbal communication.
13.4 Addendum to Flight Planning
The following provisions are required for UAS activity under the Waiver
- The area of operation must be sufficiently illuminated to allow both the RPIC and Visual Observer to identify people or obstacles on the ground, or a daytime site assessment must be performed prior to conducting operations that are the subject of this Waiver, noting any hazards or obstructions.
- The unmanned aircraft must be equipped with lighted anti-collision lighting visible from a distance of no less than 3 statute miles. The intensity of the anti-collision lighting may be reduced if, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.
13.5 Additional Waiver Provisions
- The Waiver must not be combined with any other waiver(s), authorizations(s), or exemption(s) without specific authorization from the FAA;
- The FAA has the authority to cancel or delay any or all flight operations if the safety of persons or property on the ground or in the air, are in jeopardy or there is a violation of the terms of the Waiver;
- Operations under the Waiver may only be conducted in Class G airspace unless a separate airspace COA specifically stating that night operations may be conducted in controlled airspace is received from the FAA, in accordance with § 107.41. The airspace COA to operate at night must be requested separately, and is not part of this Waiver;
- A copy of the Waiver must be available during UAS activity that are the subject of the Waiver.
- All operations under the Waiver must use one or more Visual Observer.
13.6 Supplementary Training Requirement
The UC has developed a supplementary training program that includes an online night flying knowledge course and corresponding knowledge exam. All persons involved in the flight operations must have completed this UAS night flying knowledge course and knowledge exam prior to any operations under the Waiver.
The Online Training can be accessed here. You must pass the quiz at the end with 100% in order to complete the night flying knowledge course. The completion of the knowledge course is valid only for University of California use - it may not be used for any other purpose.
The knowledge course covers the following material:
General knowledge of night time operations
Review of Part 107 requirements
- Anti-Collision lights
- Navigational Lights
- Situational awareness and environmental equipment
- Site Inspections
- Site Evaluations
- Example Scenarios
Maintaining visual line of sight at night
Crew Management for night time operations
Flight Planning at night
Visual Illusions and means to combat
- Auto Kinesis
- False Depth Perception
- Flicker Vertigo
- Reversible Perspective Illusion
- Size and Distance Illusion
13.7 Waiver Application
How will the Remote Pilot in Command (Remote PIC) be able to see the aircraft in the dark, at the maximum planned flight distance from the Remote PIC and/or Visual Observer (VO)?
Visibility will be ensured through multiple strategies.
The aircraft will be equipped with a combination of navigational and anti-collision lights. The anti-collision lights (Firehouse Cree Strobe light or equivalent) will be visible for at least 3 miles.
The operations will only occur during times of clear visibility. This will be determined with a weather report collected no earlier than 12 hours prior to flight activity.
At least one suitably trained visual observer will be mandatory for all flight operations in the dark and will be strategically located to ensure visibility. The primary visual observer will however be sufficiently close to maintain verbal communication with the RPIC without the need for a radio or phone. Additional auxiliary visual observers may be placed strategically as necessary to establish a safe operation area. Communication by auxiliary VOs may be accomplished through radios or whistles.
All participants must be in place for at least 30 minutes in the dark to ensure that everyone’s eyes have adjusted to the dark.
How will the remote PIC be able to tell which direction the aircraft is pointing or flying in the dark?
Navigational lights (primarily green/red) will enable attitude estimation. Flight activity will remain constrained to within the flight distance both laterally and vertically at which attitude estimation is feasible. The maximum flight distance will be determined through prior validation testing. For systems with limited navigation lights, such as the DJI Mavic Pro, the lateral flight distance will be limited to 50 ft. For systems outfitted with external bright navigation lights (Firehouse Drone UAS Strobe Spot Lights), the maximum distance may be as far as 200-300 ft.
What procedures will the Remote PIC and/or VO follow in the event that they lose sight of the aircraft in the dark?
In the event that the location or attitude estimation of the aircraft cannot be confirmed by either the remote PIC, the flight operation will immediately be paused until visual contact can be restored. If the visual observer loses visual contact, the visual observer will immediately inform the RPIC. If both the visual observer and the RPIC lose visual contact or are unable to determine the attitude of the UAS, the aircraft will be commanded to land immediately using an automated land command.
How will the Remote PIC and/or VO locate other persons, aircraft, obstacles, and structures in the dark?
No earlier than 12 hours prior to flight operations, all RPICs and VOs will be required to conduct both a daylight site inspection and site evaluation. The site inspection will consist of identifying potential obstacles, structures and points of access for non-participating persons or vehicles. The evaluation will consist of evaluating mitigation strategies for obstacle avoidance and establishing means to ensure the site will remain clear of non-participating persons. Mitigation strategies for obstacle avoidance include establishing appropriate operating limits and means for identifying the limits of the operations in the dark. Means to ensure the site will remain clear of non-participating persons include evaluating and procuring if necessary, pedestrian traffic control such as reflective traffic cones and reflective caution tape. Auxiliary VOs may be placed at strategic points to assist in preventing non-participating pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
For the detection and threat evaluation of other aircraft, the RPIC and VOs training will include how to listen for aircraft and conduct a threat evaluation including a follow-up visual search for intruding aircraft.
What will they do if other persons/aircraft are located during flight?
In the event of a breach of the operation site by non-participant or the detection of an aircraft within the vicinity, the flight operation will be immediately paused and a threat assessment will be conducted. Pausing the mission will consist of hovering and keeping the drone in place. To do a threat assessment, the RPIC and the VOs will discuss the situation and evaluate contingency operations. Determining the best course of action will depend on the threat assessment, some possible courses of action include but are not limited to: Hovering in place until the threat is resolved, landing immediately or even moving our landing area to another space. In the event of an imminent threat to safety, the RPIC will take emergency actions without consultation with the VOs.
How will they avoid hitting obstacles/structures during flight?
No earlier than 12 hours prior to flight operations, all RPICs and VOs will be required to conduct both a site inspection and evaluation. The site inspection will consist of identifying potential obstacles, structures and points of access for non-participating persons or vehicles. The evaluation will consist of evaluating mitigation strategies for obstacle avoidance and establishing means to ensure the site will remain clear of non-participating persons. Mitigation strategies for obstacle avoidance include establishing appropriate operating limits and means for identifying the limits of the operations in the dark. Means to ensure the site will remain clear of non-participating persons include evaluating and procuring if necessary, pedestrian traffic control such as reflective traffic cones and reflective caution tape. During the flight operation, the VO(s) will be tasked to monitor the aircraft for proximity to obstacles and structures.
If flight operations occur in an area with lighting sufficient for the Remote PIC and VO to see their aircraft, and other obstacles, persons, and aircraft, how will they determine the lighting is sufficient prior to flight?
The lighting system for the aircraft consists of navigational lights and anti-collision lights. If the light operations occur in an area with lighting sufficient for the Remote PIC and VO to see the aircraft (normally met by navigation lights) and other obstacles (normally met through mitigation strategies), there remains the issue of determining whether the lighting system is sufficient for anti-collision purposes. The aircraft will be outfitted with an anti-collision strobe light that is visible from a minimum distance of 3 miles. Given that the ambient lighting may attenuate the maximum visibility distance of the strobe light, the strobe light must be evaluated in a similar lighting condition.
While keeping eyes on the aircraft, how will the Remote PIC continuously know their aircraft’s current real-time (1) geographic location, (2) altitude above the ground, (3) attitude (orientation, deck angle, pitch, bank) and (4) direction of flight?
The aircrafts used within this waiver must have a real-time data telemetry link that provides the (2) altitude above the ground, (3) attitude and (4) direction of flight. The real-time data telemetry link must also provide GPS coordinates and an option to overlay the aircraft position on an online map. It is recognized that the online map may not be up-to-date and thus may be unreliable for accurate (1) geographic location. As such, prior to flight, a site inspection and evaluation must be made, and a visual observer may be tasked with providing accurate (1) geographic location information verbally to the RPIC.
How will the Remote PIC and any other persons participating in the operation demonstrate knowledge about night operation risks, such as overcoming night visual illusions, limitations to night vision and conditions that can affect night vision?
All persons involved in the flight operations must have completed a UAS night flying knowledge course and must annually pass a knowledge exam with an \(100\%\) passing score. The knowledge course will include issues such as overcoming night visual illusions and other mitigation strategies for air safety.
How will this knowledge be obtained and who will document it?
All persons involved in the flight operations must have completed a UAS night flying knowledge course and must annually pass a knowledge exam. If a crew member receives less than \(100\%\), the crew member must have the exam reviewed and corrected until he or she reaches \(100\%\). A certificate of completion of the course and the exam with a passing score must be submitted to the Responsible Person and through the University of California UAS Safety Management System.
How will the responsible person verify that it has been obtained and documented?
The University of California employs a UAS Safety Management System and coordinates all official UAS activity through a centralized office.
The coordination system includes a detailed listing of UC approved UAS pilots and aircraft, mandatory pre-flight assessments and mandatory flight reporting for each flight in order to continuously improve UAS safety and reliability, while providing accountability for all UAS activity. The coordination enables the responsible person to validate whether the RPIC and any ground crew has taken the knowledge course and knowledge exam.
The list of UC approved pilots and aircraft, as well as any applicable flight records, will be made available to the FAA upon request.
How Will the aircraft be visible for at least 3 statute miles (SM) at night, in the location you will operate at?
The aircraft must have an anti-collision strobe light installed (Firehouse Cree Strobe light or equivalent) that is visible to at least 3 statute miles. The visibility distance must be validated prior to use in operations where ambient light may attenuate the maximum visibility.