Back in the wild west of the commercial drone industry, pilots in the U.S. had to request a Section 333 exemption from the FAA in order to fly. It was a lengthy application process that could take months. Of course, that’s old news now since the FAA improved everything by rolling out Part 107, the regulations for commercial drone operations. Obtaining a Part 107 certificate made it much easier to use drones for business purposes.
In order to earn a Part 107 certificate, commercial pilots are required to pass the FAA’s Airmen Knowledge Test. The exam isn’t unreasonably hard to study for and pass. But like any test, it’s a challenge to retain all the information after you put down the pencil.
At Skyward, we know how important it is to operate safely under regulations. That’s why we designed our software to empower pilots to do just that: conduct advanced operations while following Part 107.
Here are five ways Skyward helps pilots operate within the bounds of Part 107.
1) Airspace intelligence that’s easy to understand
Part 107 opened up much more airspace to drone pilots, but that doesn’t mean drone pilots can fly wherever they want. The FAA is very strict about where drones can and can’t fly. And unless you’ve recently studied for your exam and you have a VFR chart on hand, it may be very difficult to remember which areas you have permission to fly in.
That’s why Skyward set out to design an airspace map for drones with an easy-to-understand user experience, even if you aren’t an aviator. Skyward’s airspace intelligence map clearly indicates where you can fly right away, where you need to get permission, and where you’re forbidden to fly. This includes temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) — airspace that may suddenly become unavailable due to wildfires, VIP movement, or other causes.
Still not sure if you’re allowed to fly in a given area? Click or tap the location you want to fly, and Skyward provides airspace cards with more information. You can see the classes of airspace up to 400 feet, plus any LAANC facilities, National Parks, or flight restrictions.
And speaking of LAANC, Skyward also integrates requests for easy access to controlled airspace in areas with the FAA’s LAANC capability. Skyward’s airspace map clearly shows the maximum available heights above ground level you can request to fly. With a few clicks, you can submit a request and get a nearly instant response to allow you to fly there.
2) Notifications for Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate expirations
My teammate Rachel Mulholland recently wrote about the updates to the FAA’s drone pilot certification process. In the article, she mentioned that a drone pilot’s test results are only valid for two years. To keep a Remote Pilot Certificate valid, a drone pilot needs to retake the Airmen Knowledge Test every 24 months.
Skyward’s personnel management features are designed to help managers keep track of their pilots’ certifications. When pilots enter their information into Skyward, they can enter the issue date of their test results. When the certification nears its expiration, Skyward automatically notifies the pilot and any administrators in the organization. Skyward will send a reminder 60 days prior, 30 days prior, and on the day the certificate expires. And every pilot’s certification status is displayed on the organization’s Personnel page.
Maintaining a current certificate is an important part of following Part 107. Skyward helps you make sure there’s no lapse in certification that could stop your drone operations.
3) Safety alerts for flights BVLOS or above maximum altitude
Under Part 107, pilots aren’t allowed to fly a drone beyond where they can see it with the naked eye. There isn’t a set, prescriptive distance limit because weather, terrain, and the size of the drone all affect how far away a pilot can safely view the drone.
Altitude is similar. Pilots can’t fly higher than 400 feet above ground level, unless it’s within 400 feet above an object on the ground. So a pilot can technically fly 400 feet over an 800 foot tower, pushing their maximum altitude to 1,200 feet.
Because of these stipulations, it can be hard to tell the exact limits of a flight and whether a pilot flew farther or higher than Part 107 allows. But program managers need to be able to know whether or not their pilots are flying in compliance with Part 107.
That’s why Skyward flags flights that go farther than 1,500 feet or higher than 400 feet. Those flights might be perfectly compliant with Part 107 for the reasons listed above, but Skyward highlights them for review so pilots and program administrators can keep a pulse on exceptions. It’s just one more step toward maintaining safe, compliant drone operations.
4) Situational awareness around airports and heliports
The FAA is clear: it’s critical for drone pilots to avoid interfering with manned aviation. Part 107 requires drone pilots to yield right of way to manned aircraft, whether you’re operating in controlled airspace or not. Failure to do so can result in huge fines or even jail sentences — not to mention potential disaster should there be a midair collision.
Drone crews need to keep a vigilant eye out for manned aviation like helicopters or planes. But Skyward does offer some help with situational awareness: our airspace map calls out heliports and airports, and even shows the direction of the runways. By showing these hazards, Skyward helps you be aware of your surrounding environment and the obstacles it may bring.
5) VFR Sectional Chart map layer
A surprising amount of information on the Part 107 knowledge test is tied to the VFR Sectional Chart, an aviator’s true, authoritative guide to the sky. It provides far more information than drone pilots may need to follow Part 107. However, it can be a very helpful resource for information on the surrounding airspace, ground obstacles, airport communications, and much more.
Because of how important a VFR chart is, Skyward offers it as a layer on our map for business and enterprise subscribers. You can view your planned flights on top of the VFR sectional to see how your flight areas fall across obstacles that may not directly affect compliance, but which you want to avoid in your operations.
Skyward supports Part 107 and company policies
Skyward helps drone operators comply with Part 107 regulations. Beyond that, our software is configurable for company policies that go above and beyond. Check out a demo to see how Skyward can help your drone operations!