Do Tethered Drones Fall Under Part 107?


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Got this question over email and thought it'd be great to post here:

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I am hoping you can help clear up some information for me regarding tethered drones.  There is a tethered drone company out there that I have heard is marketing their product to public safety organizations and saying that an operator is not needed to conduct its operations.  From what I am gathering, the drone is raised up and basically hovers over the scene but remains tethered the entire time, all while relaying images (even in thermal) to the command screen.  It appears they may be stating that a pilot/certified operator is not needed because they are using the term "kite" instead of "drone" in their marketing.

Where I could use some guidance is on the regulatory side.  I have looked at the new 2018 FAA regulations.  They define tethered unmanned aircraft under Part 101, including kites.  The regulations basically state that if the tethered UAS was designed to be permanently tethered and was not operational in any other way, it is a kite.  If it is a UAS that a tether is attached to, but not on a permanent basis, it is basically a drone and subject to Part 107 certification for operation.

If I am interpreting the information correctly, it is also saying that for recreational and hobbyist purposes, certification to fly these tethered aircraft is not needed, however, I did not see it make any reference to the commercial or public use of these systems.  I am concluding that this would mean that commercial and public use of this system would require a Part 107 certification (or COA), whether or not it is defined as a kite or a drone.

Could you help out with clarifying this for me and/or giving me some direction on this?  I would hate to see a business using the wrong (or misguided) terminology in their marketing in order to make a sale to a public organization (such as a fire department) especially if that organization is venturing into this field for the first time.

 

 

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Since when has marketing language ever been misleading or blurred the lines of truthfulness? 😎

55 minutes ago, Alan Perlman said:

I would hate to see a business using the wrong (or misguided) terminology in their marketing in order to make a sale

A tethered drone is treated the same as a non-tethered drone within the regulation.

Edited by Dave Pitman
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I concur with @Dave Pitman.  We were asked to do a project near an airport and we asked the FAA drone representative here in Denver if we could tether it and avoid the Part 107 requirements and we were told that we could not.  We then asked if we put a camera on a pole that is the same height and proximity to the airport (75' AGL) if that would create issues and they said no, we could do that.  

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Yeah it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  

I Some product shot for a Meguires wax commercial at John Wayne airport and the only way they would let us fly it was with a tether.  We had to stay below the height of the hanger and couldn’t get any closer to the taxi way as the tether was hi/long.  We had a guy from TSA for the entire day.  It worked out great.  

Because of the tether it just turned the drone into a jib, but when you consider how close we were and how big the planes were it actually worked well.  There’s a shot where a P51 taxied almost directly under us.  

This is the extended version of outtakes, I just like the song..

 

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I'm a licensed aircraft pilot although sold my airplane and do not fly. I am considering buying a tethered UAV to find livestock on my ranch. I have no intent nor interest in doing this commercially and as a longtime aviator, I simply wish to comply with the FAA requirements for what my specific use would be, but I'm not having any luck finding the specific regulation/CFR. 

None of my proposed flights would exceed 100 feet. I just need to look over trees and into creeks. Any leads will be greatly appreciated.

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Sorry, forgot to add - I am a licensed UAV recreational pilot. I have a second property where I need to fly a tethered UAV and is within five miles of a towered airport, 9 miles from an Air Force base.

Edited by NamVol
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Hey @NamVol, thanks for sharing your question.

The nature of your flight is recreational, so you'd be flying under those rules:

https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/

You can punch your property's address into an app like B4UFLY or Airmap.

Those apps will show you the airspace and whether or not you need to request airspace authorization. And most of the time you can request authorization right from within the app.

Happy to answer any additional questions!

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@ Alan 

Thank you. My goats will appreciate it when I locate them with the UAV and then feed them some goodies. I've flown my UAVs auto our ranch in the middle of nowhere but being within 5 miles of a small airport on our other property, I only feel comfortable flying with a tethered UAV and I'll check the apps you suggested.

Cessna (1).jpg

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In the US I believe the FAA removed the five mile restriction for recreational operators.  

Your a pilot, haven’t you ever heard the expression an inch is as good as a mile. I’m not recommending that you fly within and inch of a manned aircraft, but five miles is stupid.  If your property isn’t directly off the approach end of the runway, use common sense and keep your drone within a 100ft of the ground and be safe.   If a manned acft comes anywhere near you, it has way more serious problems than running into you.  
 


 

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