Points of Contact

For details on contacting a center Flight Operations Office Point of Contact (PoC) for your location, click below.

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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:

  1. NASA-FAA Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA
  2. The FAA Certificate of Authorization Process, or COA
  3. Special Use Airspace
  4. 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


FAA Rule

To operate small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107, operators are required to adhere to certain FAA regulations while still remaining under NASA’s operational control and complying with center operating policies. A few key operational limitations from the FAA rule include

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds
  • The aircraft must remain within the Visual Line-of-Sight of the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the sUAS or within Visual Line-of-Sight of the visual observer
  • Operations must occur during daylight or, in some cases,  civil twilight with appropriate anti-collision lighting
  • The aircraft must not exceed a maximum altitude of 400 feet Above Ground Level, with few exceptions
  • Operations above people are prohibited
  • Operations are only permitted in Class G uncontrolled airspace, which is essentially in sparsely populated rural areas
  • A multitude of other weather and airspace restrictions