Flying a sUAS at NASA
NASA has authority to operate aircraft under public use authority, which is an entirely different set of rules than aircraft operated as civil use. Under public use, NASA assumes many responsibilities that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) traditionally addresses. This includes ensuring aircraft are airworthy, properly maintained, meet crew certification requirements and are suitable to operate safety in the National Airspace System (NAS). Even small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) operations are conducted under public use, and as such, NASA is responsible for maintaining internal controls for their safe operation.
In August 2016, the FAA issued new rules in the Federal Register. The FAA released Title 14, Part 107 “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems” as the next phase of integrating sUAS into the NAS. This is the first-ever sUAS regulation issued by the FAA, and it involves new requirements for a non-traditional population of users, which may include some of NASA’s operations.
Prior to the issuance of Title 14, Part 107, NASA had three ways to legally operate sUAS. With the new rules, NASA now has four available pathways for flying UAS, including sUAS:
- NASA-FAA Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA
- The FAA Certificate of Authorization Process, or COA
- Special Use Airspace
- Title 14, Part 107 Rules for sUAS
Each of these pathways involve different operating requirements and limitations, so it is important to work with your center’s Aircraft Flight Operations Office to determine the most appropriate one for your aircraft and mission, as well as how to apply applicable NASA requirements.
See sUAS Safety Message