The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) have reached an agreement that will greatly simplify the operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for certain uses. Previously the DOI and other agencies had to go through a lengthy and time-consuming FAA approval process before they could be used. Now there is much less paperwork and it appears that it can all be done within the DOI. This new process applies to aircraft weighing 55 lbs or less operating below 400 ft AGL and is limited to natural resource, scientific applications, and Search and Rescue efforts. Unfortunately, a UAS intended to be used for wildland fire still has to go through the tedious FAA approval process, after which the fire might be out.
Below is the information issued by the DOI Office of Aviation Services on January 23, 2014:
“United States Department of the Interior
Office of Aviation Services
Distribution: All DOI Employees
Subject: Issuance of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), dated Jan 23, 2014 between the Department of Interior (DOI) Office of Aviation Services (OAS) and the Federal Aviation Administration, UAS Integration Office (AFS-80) Regarding Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Class G Airspace.
This Information Bulletin (IB) identifies and clarifies DOI Bureau responsibilities in the implementation and use of this MOA.
This MOA establishes a framework under which DOI Bureaus must operate to comply with FAA rules and procedures pertaining to small UAS (sUAS) employment. The scope of sUAS operations under this MOA applies only to systems weighing 55 lbs or less engaged in public aircraft operations below 400 ft AGL and is limited to natural resource and scientific applications, as well as Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts. All other UAS operations to include wildland fire and law enforcement operations must still comply with the FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) application and approval process before flights can commence. See attached flow chart for a graphical depiction of the project approval process for DOI UAS operations.