GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 38-2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM


JOHNSON, William C., Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science, University of Kansas, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045-7613,

As many of us are realizing, the utility of UAVs, drones, UAS or whatever parlance one prefers, is expanding exponentially, being limited only by the users’ imagination and motivation. UAV use bourgeoned when systems such as the DJI Phantom series (quadcopter), senseFly eBee (fixed-wing), and others appeared in the marketplace. The smaller, quadcopter UAVs (A.K.A. micro UAVs or sUAS) are popular due to the low price point, masterability, portability, maneuverability, and durability. We in the geosciences are yet in the infancy of UAS applications, though their use in the educational and research arenas is expanding rapidly, being accelerated in part by the continually growing array of sensors beyond still and motion videography (e.g., IR, hyperspectral, magnetometry, LiDAR) and by increasingly sophisticated software packages for rendering data (e.g., Agisoft Photoscan, RECAP 360, OpenDroneMap, Correlator3D UAV). As the wave of UAV deployment expanded, the FAA struggled to define regulations, and a legal side emerged ( and Finally in late June 2016, the FAA issued an Advisory Circular, followed by a ruling entitled “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Final Rule,” an addition to Part 101 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (Federal Register v.81, No. 124), effective 29 August 2016. The web site for the new rule ( is partitioned into “Fly for Fun” and “Fly for Business,” with the former requiring only online registration and labeling of individual UAVs (those UAVs under 0.55 lbs need no registration, while those over 55 lbs require paper application), while requirements for the latter include a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate. This new rule was the culmination of a decade of uncertainty, during which many thought the FAA would institute extreme requirements for UAV operation. For those geoscientists affiliated with a public university, or other governmental entity, two options exist—pilot requirements, etc., or a blanket public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. Case law relevant to UAVs is still emerging, and there is, of course, the physical threat to your UAV from commercially available shotgun shells marketed to down drones (e.g., Dronemunition, Skynet and Tacnition)!