8900.1 CHG 625



Section 3  Compliance and Enforcement

16-5-3-1    PURPOSE. This section provides guidance to inspectors on the process of contact and education generally to be provided to individuals who are the subject of an inquiry relating to an unauthorized or unsafe operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) under certain parts of Public Law (PL) 112-95, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018; Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) Chapter 447, Safety Regulations; 49 U.S.C. § 40102, Definitions; and Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) parts 1 and 107.

16-5-3-3    AUDIENCE. The audience for this section is all Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) aviation safety inspectors (ASI) and aviation safety technicians (AST), and Flight Standards Service policy divisions responsible for implementation.

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16-5-3-5    BACKGROUND. On February 14, 2012, the President signed into law the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) (or “the Act”), which established FRMA Section 336, Special Rule for FRMA Model Aircraft. In October of 2018, the President signed into law The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The Reauthorization Act, Section 44809, Exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft, repeals the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and creates an exception for limited operations of unmanned aircraft. The Reauthorization Act makes clear that the FAA has the authority under its existing regulations to pursue legal enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the National Airspace System.

A.    Ensuring Safe UAS Operations. The increasing number of UAS-related incident reports arising from some model aircraft and small UAS operations indicates a potential risk to safety. In order to mitigate this risk, ensure compliance, and ensure safe operations from this community consistent with the compliance philosophy, the FAA will use outreach and education to encourage voluntary compliance with the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements that pertain to UAS operations. When necessary and in the interest of aviation safety, however, the FAA will use administrative action or legal enforcement action to gain that compliance.

B.    Aviation-Related Videos or Other Electronic Media on the Internet. UAS videos, in particular, are increasingly appearing on the internet. UAS videos may depict aircraft being flown in a variety of classes of airspace and at varying altitudes. Inspectors are to follow the protocol below when receiving notification of videos with potentially noncompliant UAS operations posted to the Internet.

C.    Evidence. In all cases, the FAA must have acceptable evidence in support of all alleged facts in order to take legal enforcement action. Inspectors are reminded that:

1)    Electronic media posted on the Internet is only one form of evidence which may be used to support an enforcement action and it must be authenticated.
2)    Electronic media posted on the Internet is ordinarily not sufficient evidence alone to determine that an operation is not in compliance with 14 CFR. However, electronic media may serve as evidence of possible violations and may be retained for future enforcement action.
3)    Inspectors have no authority to direct or suggest that electronic media posted on the Internet must be removed.

NOTE:  Electronic media posted on a video website does not automatically constitute a commercial operation or commercial purpose, or other non-hobby or non-recreational use.

D.    Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem (PTRS) Documentation.

1)    In the “14 CFR” field, enter “part 107.”
2)    The inspector should list the remote pilot’s name in the “Airman” field and the certificate number in the “Cert Number” field. If the operator does not have an airman certificate, the inspector should list the operator’s name in the “Non Cert” field (last name, first name).

16-5-3-7    EDUCATION, COMPLIANCE, AND ENFORCEMENT PHILOSOPHY. In determining what action to take, ASIs will evaluate the extent of the safety risk to the NAS that arises from any noncompliance associated with the UAS operation. An ASI should start by using counseling or an informational letter to advise and educate a UAS operator about the requirements for regulatory compliance. This type of approach is most appropriate when an ASI determines that regulatory compliance will likely be achieved by informing the operator about how to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements. These informational letters will be strictly advisory in nature, and will serve to provide the UAS operator with guidance on how to conduct operations in accordance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. A sample informational letter is attached as Figure 16-5-3A, Sample UAS Informational Letter for Inspectors.

A.    NAS Enforcement Action. When an operator is uncooperative or intentionally noncompliant, or the operation poses medium to high risk to the NAS, enforcement action may be appropriate. In addition, repeat or intentional violations generally warrant legal enforcement action. In these cases, inspectors should follow the guidance provided in FAA Order 2150.3, Chapter 5, Voluntary Safety Programs; and Appendix H, Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin No. 2014-2.

B.    Administrative vs. Legal Enforcement Action. Inspector questions regarding how to evaluate a particular case with respect to taking administrative versus legal enforcement action should be coordinated with the Enforcement Division (AGC-300) contacts.

16-5-3-9    COMPLAINTS. ASIs are expected to investigate complaints in accordance with Volume 7 and use their judgment in determining the appropriate course of action. If the investigating inspector or technician requires additional guidance or technical information concerning UAS operations, he or she should contact the appropriate FSDO’s UAS specialist. The FAA Compliance and Enforcement Policy is contained in Volume 14.

16-5-3-11  GUIDANCE.

A.    Figure 16-5-3A, Sample UAS Informational Letter for Inspectors.

B.    References (current editions):

    FAA Order 2150.3, FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program.

    FAA Order 8130.34, Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Optionally Piloted Aircraft.

    FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 7, Investigation.

    FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 14, Compliance and Enforcement.

Figure 16-5-3A.  Sample UAS Informational Letter for Inspectors


[ENTER LOCATION] Flight Standards Dstrict Office

12650 N. Featherwood Drive, Suite 230

Houston, Texas 77034-4411

281-929-7000, Fax: 281-929-7059

March 11, 2019


Dear Mr.:

The purpose of this letter is to provide you with information about the laws and regulations regarding Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations conducted within the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA’s safety mandate under 49 U.S.C. § 40103 requires it to regulate all aircraft operations conducted in the NAS, which include UAS operations, to protect persons and property on the ground and to prevent collisions between aircraft and other aircraft or objects.

An Unmanned Aircraft is an Aircraft

An unmanned aircraft is an “aircraft” as defined in the FAA’s authorizing statutes and is therefore subject to regulation by the FAA. The FAA has promulgated regulations that apply to the operation of all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, irrespective of the altitude at which the aircraft is operating. Unmanned aircraft have always been, and continue to be, subject to the statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to aircraft.

UAS Registration Requirements

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All unmanned aircraft, including those operated exclusively as model aircraft, that weigh more than 0.55 pounds and that are operated in the NAS must be registered with the FAA under either 14 CFR part 47 or part 48. The FAA will issue a unique registration number that must be placed on an external surface of the aircraft. Small unmanned aircraft owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA‑issued registration number in a compartment. The operator of the UAS must carry a Certificate of Aircraft Registration in either paper or electronic format and make it available to law enforcement upon request.

Failure to register a UAS, including model aircraft, in accordance with these rules may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $33,333. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.

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To register your UAS or for more information about UAS registration requirements, visit our website at: https://faadronezone.faa.gov.

Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Within the United States

1)    Title 14 CFR Part 107. The rule addresses airspace restrictions, remote pilot certification, visual observer requirements, and operating limitations. Certain provisions in the rule are subject to waiver. Operators may also seek relief from the provisions of the rule using the 14 CFR part 11 exemption process. Read the full regulation by visiting http://www.ecfr.gov and selecting Title 14 and part 107.

2)    Section 333/49 U.S.C. § 44807 Exemptions. The Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems (49 U.S.C. § 44807) grants the Secretary of Transportation the authority to use a risk‑based approach to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for an unmanned aircraft to operate safely in the NAS. Under this authority, the Secretary may grant exemptions to the applicable operating rules, aircraft requirements, and pilot requirements for specific operations. Instructions on how to apply for an exemption can be found at https://www.faa.gov/uas/advanced_operations/section_333.

3)    Public Aircraft Operations. Further information about public aircraft operations is available in Advisory Circular (AC) 00‑1.1A, Public Aircraft Operations. Public aircraft operators must obtain a COA prior to operations. Instructions on how to apply for a COA can be found at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.

4)    Airworthiness Certification. Refer to the current edition of FAA Order 8130.34, Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Optionally Piloted Aircraft. The full civil type certification process allows for production and commercial operation of UAS and is a lengthy process typically undertaken by aircraft manufacturers.

5)    Title 49 U.S.C. § 44809 Operations. In October of 2018, the President signed into law the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft. Additional information regarding compliance with this statute will be available soon. Operators who have questions concerning any items listed above or who seek further information concerning UAS operations may contact the UAS Helpdesk at UASHelp@faa.gov or 1‑844‑FLY‑MY‑UA.

For All UAS Operators

The FAA provides guidance and information to individual UAS operators about how to operate safely under regulations and laws at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.

If you have any questions or concerns, my direct telephone number is [ENTER TELEPHONE NUMBER]. The [ENTER LOCATION] Flight Standards District Office hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.



Aviation Safety Inspector

16-5-3-13 through 16-5-3-29 RESERVED.