DOI and FAA Collaborate on Expanded Blanket Area sUAS Class G Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)

9/20/2018
Last edited 2/18/2021

A DOI employee launches a 3DR Solo UAS in Alaska on a mission using the expanded FAA authorities for Extended Visual Line of Sight operations.

Building on a long history of collaboration on unmanned aircraft systems integration, the FAA recently updated and expanded DOI’s blanket area sUAS Class G airspace COA to include expanded provisions for Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations.  Previous agreements between FAA and DOI have included provisions for visual line of sight (VLOS) sUAS flights to 1,200’ AGL and night operations in Class G airspace and BVLOS flights within a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR).

The updated agreement authorizes DOI to conduct BVLOS operations in three specific instances after operators are approved by OAS For EVLOS and/or BVLOS operations:

  1. Extended line of sight operations within a polygon.
    1. Observers stationed no farther than 2NM apart.
    2. Provided the operator/observers can monitor l 00% of the airspace where the UAS is operating.
    3. Provided the operator/observers are not prevented from detecting traffic due to terrain/vegetation.
    4. The pilot in command (PIC) is tracking the location of the UAS at all times on the ground control station (GCS)
    5. The PIC has the ability to take evasive action to avoid a conflict with an intruding aircraft.
    6. The PIC bas the ability to immediately terminate the flight.
  2. Extended LOS operations from a single point up to 2 NM from the GCS.
    1. Provided the operator/observers have visual contact down to the surface within the polygon.
    2. Provided the operator/observers are not prevented from detecting traffic due to terrain/vegetation.
    3. The PIC is tracking the location of the UAS at all times on the GCS.
    4. The PIC has the ability to take evasive action to avoid a conflict with an intruding aircraft based on feedback from the observers.
    5. The PIC has the ability to immediately terminate the flight.
  3. When operating within the confines of the following National Parks, the DOI will coordinate with aviation management personnel and dispatch centers to ensure deconfliction from other aircraft.
    1. Grand Canyon National Park.
    2. Yosemite National Park.
    3. Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.
    4. Denali National Park.
    5. Glacier Bay National Park.
    6. Big Bend National Park.

A DOI UAS Team operates a DOI UAS Beyond Visual Line of Sight in the Grand Canyon National Park, employing the FAA's expanded flight authorities for DOI UAS.

"The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) UAS program would not be where it is today were it not for the support and assistance of our close partners at the FAA, said Mark Bathrick, Director of Interior’s Office of Aviation Services (OAS).  Through this longstanding partnership, DOI has effectively integrated UAS in over two dozen mission applications and logged over 18,000 successful UAS flights in support of Department missions.  This expanded Beyond Visual Line of Sight authority will enable us to leverage our extensive operational experience and the capabilities of current and future UAS to extend our ability to safely and successfully carry out our responsibilities as the largest public land steward in the U.S."

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