LUTS, Log, 10Bit: Geeking Out on Camera Formats for Drones

LUTS, Log, 10Bit: Geeking Out on Camera Formats for Drones

It takes more than just a Part 107 to be a good drone service provider: customers require expertise in production, too.  If you’re confused about camera formats for drones and some of the newest options on the market, we’ve got you covered with this deep dive.  UAS expert and industry figure Douglas Spotted Eagle here at KukerRanken provides a detailed and expert explanation of 10 bit file formats, LOG formats and Look-Up Tables (LUTS.).

camera formats for drones
camera formats for drones

Camera Formats for Drones: LUTS, LOG, 10Bit

The latest trend in UA camera systems is an ability to record in 10bit file formats, as well as in LOG formats, which allow the use of Look-Up Tables (LUTs, often pronounced “Loots” and more generally pronounced “luhts”), providing significantly greater dynamic range. This greater dynamic range enables color matching, greater opportunity to color correct with higher quality formats such as those offered by Sony, Blackmagic Design, Canon, and others. Video does not have to be recorded in LOG to use a LUT, but using an input LUT on a semi-saturated frames could generate undesirable results.


A LookUp Table (LUT) is an array of data fields which make computational processes lighter, faster moving, and more efficient. They are used in a number of industries where intense data can be crunched more efficiently based on known factors.  For purposes of video, a LUT enables the camera to record in a LOG format, enabling deep color correction, compositing, and matching. There are many LUTs available, some are camera-specific while others are “general” LUTs that may be applied per user preference. A LUT might more easily be called  a “preset color adjustment” which we can apply to our video at the click of a button. Traditionally, LUTs have been used to map one color space to another. These color “presets” are applied after the video has been recorded, applied in a non-linear editing system such as Adobe Premiere, Blackmagic Resolve, Magix Vegas, etc.

Two types of LUTs are part of production workflows;

  • Input LUTs provide stylings for how the recorded video will look in a native format (once applied to specific clips). Input LUTs are generally applied only to clips/events captured by a specific camera. Input LUTs are applied prior to the correction/grading process.
  • Output/”Look LUTs” are used on an overall production to bring a consistent feel across all clips. “Look” LUTs should not be applied to clips or project until after all color correction/grading has been completed.

There are literally thousands of pre-built LUTs for virtually any scene or situation. Many are free, some (particularly those designed by well-known directors or color graders) are available for purchase.

In addition to Input/Look LUTs, there are also 1D and 3D LUTs. 1D LUTs simply apply a value, with no pixel interaction. 1D LUTs are a sort of fixed template of locked values.  3D LUTs map the XYZ data independently, so greater precision without affecting other tints are possible. For a deeper read on 3D vs 1D LUTs, here is a great article written by Jason Ritson.


This is a fairly complex question that could occupy deep brain cycle time. In an attempt to simplify the discussion, let’s begin with the native image.

Natively, the camera applies color and exposure based on the sensor, light, and a variety of calculations. This is the standard output of the majority of off-the-shelf UA systems.  This type of output is ideal for video that is not going to be heavily corrected, will be seen on the typical computer monitor or television display, and time is of the essence. These are referred to as “Linear Picture Profiles” and is the most common means of recording video. Cell phones, webcams, and most video cameras record in linear format. While this is most common, it also reduces flexibility in post due to dynamic range, bit-depth, and other factors. In linear profiles, the typical 8bit video has 256 values of color, represented equally across the color spectrum. The balance (equality) of pixel ranges does not allow the most effective use of dynamic range, limiting correction options in post. With linear picture profiles, bottom end/dark colors use equal energy as brighter exposures, so while color balance is “equal,” it is inefficient and does not allow the greatest range to be displayed for the human eye, specifically midtones and highlights.

To take the best advantage of a LUT, video should be recorded in a LOG format. It’s rare an editor would apply a LUT to linear video, as in most cases, color space, exposure, and dynamic range would be unrealistic and challenged.

LOG formats store data differently than linear picture profiles.

In the past, LOG formats were only accessible in very high-end camera systems such as the Sony CineAlta Series, and similar, high-dollar products. Today, many UA cameras offer access to LOG formats.

When the camera recording parameters are set to LOG (Logarithmic) mode, these native color assignments are stripped away, and the camera records data in a non-linear algorithm.

LOG applies a curve in the bottom end of the image (darks/blacks) and shifts the available space to the more visible areas of the color range where it is more efficient/effective.

Of course, this will create the illusion of a low-contrast, washed-out image during the recording process.

camera formats for drones
A-LOG image direct from camera LUT applied, no additional grading

“A-LOG” is Autel Robotics logarithmic recording format. A-LOG not only allows for greater dynamic range, it is also a 10-bit format, enabling much greater chroma push when color correcting or grading. Most manufacturers offer their own LOG formats.

Graded imageSplit screen comparing LUT, grade, and source image

Virtually every editing application today features the ability to import LUTs to be used with 8- 10-, or 12-bit LOG files. Autel and DJI are the two predominant UA manufacturers offering LOG capability to their users, and any medium lift UA that can mount a Sony, Canon, Blackmagic Design camera also would benefit from shooting in a LOG format.

Magix Vegas allows import of LUTs, and offers the ability to save a color correction profile as a LUT to be re-used, or shared with others.


Shooting video in LOG is much like choosing between .DNG or .JPG. If images/video are to be quickly turned around, and time, efficiency, or client desires are more important than taking the time to grade or correct images, there is no benefit to shooting video in LOG formats.  LOG, like DNG (or RAW) will simply slow the process. However, if images or video are to be matched to other camera systems, or when quality is more important than the time required to achieve the best possible image, then LOG should be used, to future-proof and preserve the best original integrity of archived footage. Of particular consideration are higher resolution formats, such as 2.7K, 4K, 6K, or 8K video. These formats will be most likely downsampled to HD for most delivery in the near future, and shooting in LOG allows for greatest re-use, or color preservation when down sampling. Without getting too deeply into the math of it, the 4:2:0 colorspace captured in a 4K or higher format will be 4:2:2 color sampled when delivered in HD, enabling significant opportunity in post-processing.

“Which is more committed to breakfast, the chicken or the pig? Baking colors into recorded video is limiting, and if appropriate, should be avoided.”


Many monitors today allow for input LUT preview prior to, and during the recording process. This will require some sort of HDMI (or SDI) output from the UA camera into the monitor.

Input LUTs can be applied temporarily for monitoring only, or they can be burned into files for use in editing when capturing Blackmagic RAW (when using BMD products). Bear in mind, once a LUT has been “baked in” to the recorded video, it cannot be removed and is very difficult to compensate.

camera formats for drones

Most external monitors allow shooters/pilots to store LUTs on the monitor, which offers confidence when matching a UA camera to a terrestrial or other camera. In our case, matching a Sony A7III to the UA is relatively easy as we’re able to create camera settings on either camera while viewing through the LUT-enabled monitor, seeing the same LUT applied (virtually) to both cameras.

Another method of seeing how a LUT will affect video can be found in LATTICE, a high-end, professional director and editors tool.


Most UA cameras today are capable of recording in h.264 (AVC) or h.265 (HEVC). Any resolution beyond HD should be always captured in h.265. H.264/AVC was never intended to be a recording format for resolutions higher than HD, although some folks are happy recording 2.7K or 4K in the lesser efficient format.  It’s correct to say that HEVC/h.265 is more CPU-intensive, and there are still a few editing and playback software apps that either cannot efficiently decode HEVC. However, the difference in file size/payload is significant, and quality of image is far superior in the HEVC format. A video created using HEVC at a lower bit rate has the same image quality as an h.264 video at a higher bit rate.

More importantly, AVC/h.264 does not support 10-bit video, whereas HEVC does, so not only are we capturing a higher quality image in a smaller payload, we’re also able to access 10bit, which can make a significant difference when correcting lower quality imagery, particularly in those pesky low light scenarios often found close to sunset, or night-flight images that may contain noise. Additionally, 10-bit in LOG format allows photographers to use a lower ISO in many situations, reducing overall noise in the low-light image. Last but not least, AVC does not support HDR, whereas HEVC does. Each camera is a bit different, and each shooting scenario is different, so a bit of testing, evaluation, and experience enables pilots to make informed decisions based on client or creative direction or needs.


Slower, older computers will struggle with the highly compressed HEVC format, particularly when 10-bit formats are used. Recent computer builds can decode HEVC on the graphics card, and newer CPUs have built-in decoding. However, not everyone has faster, newer computer systems available. This doesn’t mean that older computers cannot be used for HEVC source video.

Most editing systems allow for “proxy editing” where a proxy of the original file is created in a lower resolution and lower compression format. Proxy editing is a great way to cull footage to desired clips/edits. However, proxies cannot be color corrected with accurate results. The proxies will need to be replaced with source once edits are selected. In our house, we add transitions and other elements prior to compositing or color correcting. LUTs are added in the color correction stage.

camera formats for drones
10-bit A-LOG, no LUT applied10-bit A-LOG, LUT-only applied
10-bit A-LOG, LUT applied, Graded10-bit A-LOG, LUT applied, Graded Split Screen

The “Transcend” video displayed above is a mix of high end, DLSR, and UA cameras, captured prior to sunrise. Using 10-bit A-Log in h.265 format allowed a noise-free capture. The video received a Billboard Music award. We are grateful to Taras Shevchenko & Gianni Howell for allowing us to share the pre-edit images of this production.


Shooting LOG isn’t viable for every production, particularly low-paying jobs, jobs that require rapid turnaround, or in situations where the matched cameras offer equal or lesser quality image output. However, if artistic flexibility is desired, or matching high end, cinema-focused cameras, or when handing footage over to an editor who requires flexibility for their needs, then HEVC in 10-bit, LOG-mode is the right choice.

In any event, expanding production knowledge and ability benefits virtually any workflow and professional organization, and is a powerful step to improving final deliverables.

Does the Drone Industry Really Need 8K

Does the Drone Industry Really Need 8K?

Pro Read: As a leak indicates that Autel Robotics may be the first to offer a 6/8K camera on a drone, UAS expert and industry leader Douglas Spotted Eagle dives in to what the advantages of 8k may be – and if the drone industry is ready to take advantage of them.

Guest post by Douglas Spotted Eagle, Chief Strategy Officer – KukerRanken

In 2004, Sony released the world’s first low-cost HD camera, known as the HVR-Z1U. The camera featured a standard 1/3” imager, squeezing 1440×1080 pixels (anamorphic/non-square) pixels on to the sensor. This was also the world’s first pro-sumer camera using the MPEG2 compression scheme, with a color sample of 4:2:0, and using a GOP method of frame progression, this new technology set the stage for much higher resolutions and eventually, greater frame rates.

It’s “father,” was the CineAlta HDWF900, which offered three 2/3” CCDs, which was the industry standard for filmmaking for several years, capturing big hits such as the “Star Wars Prequel Trilogy”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, “Real Steel”, “Tomorrowland”, “Avatar”, “Spykids” (1 & 2), and so many others.  The newer HDV format spawned from similar technology found in the HDWF900, and set the stage for extremely high end camera tech to trickle down into the pro-sumer space.

Overtime, camera engineers identified methods of co-siting more pixels on small imagers, binning pixels, or using other techniques to increase the capture resolution on small surfaces. Compression engineers have developed new compression schemes which brought forward AVC (h.263), MP4(h.264), and now HEVC/High Efficiency Video Codec(h.265), and still others soon to be revealed.

Which brings us to the present.

We have to roughly quadruplemegapixels to doubleresolution, so the jump from SD to HD makes sense, while the jump from HD to UHD/4K makes even more sense. Following that theme, jumping to 6K makes sense, while jumping to 8K is perfect theory, and nears the maximum of the human eye’s ability to resolve information.

At NAB 2018, Sony and Blackmagic Design both revealed 8K cameras and in that time frame others have followed suit.

During CommUAV and InterDrone, several folks asked for my opinion on 6 and 8K resolutions. Nearly all were shocked as I expressed enthusiasm for the format.

–          “It’s impossible to edit.”

–          “The files are huge.”

–          “No computer can manage it.”

–          “There is no where to show 8K footage.”

–          “Human eyes can’t resolve that resolution unless sitting very far away from the screen.”

–          “Data cards aren’t fast enough.”

And….so on.

These are all the same comments heard as we predicted the tempo of the camera industry transitioning from SD to HD, and from HD to 4K.  In other words, we’ve been here before.

Video cameras are acquisition devices. For the same reasons major motion pictures are acquired at the highest possible resolutions, and for the same reasons photographers get very excited as resolutions on-camera increase, so should UAS photographers. Greater resolution doesn’t always mean higher grade images. Nor does larger sensor sizes increase quality of images. On the whole, higher resolution systems usually does translate into higher quality images.

Sensor sizes are somewhat important to this discussion, yet not entirely critical. The camera industry has been packing more and more pixels into the same physical space for nearly two decades, without the feared increase in noise. Additionally, better noise-sampling/reduction algorithms, particularly from OEM’s like Sony and Ambarella, have allowed far greater reduction in noise compared to the past. Cameras such as the Sony A7RIV and earlier offer nearly noise-free ISO of 32,000!

Sensor sizes vary of course, but we’ll find most UAS utilize the 1/2.3, or the 1” sensor. (Light Blue and Turquoise sizes respectively, as seen below).

“Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust, pitting, spalling, or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become apparent with a greater resolution.”


Generally, we’re downsampling video or photos to smaller delivery vehicles, for but one reason. In broadcast, 4:2:2 uncompressed color schemes were the grail. Yet, most UAS cameras capture a 4:2:0 color/chroma sample.  However, a 4K capture, downsampled to 1080 at delivery, offers videographers the same “grail” color schema of 4:2:2!

As we move into 6 or 8K, similar results occur. 8K downconverted to HD offers a 4:4:4 color sample.


We gain the ability to crop for post editing/delivery to recompose images without fear of losing resolution. This means that although the aircraft may shoot a wide shot, the image may be recomposed to a tighter image in post, so long as the delivery is smaller than the source/acquisition capture. For example, shooting 4K for 1080 delivery means that up to 75% of the image may be cropped without resolution loss.

As the image above demonstrates, it’s quite possible to edit 8K HEVC streams on a newer laptop. Performance is not optimal without a great deal of RAM and a good video card, as HEVC requires a fair amount of horsepower to decode. The greater point, is that we can edit images with deep recomposition. Moreover, we have more pixels to work with, providing greater color correction, color timing, and depth/saturation.

For public safety, this is priceless. An 8K capture provides great ability to zoom/crop deeply into a scene and deliver much greater detail in HD or 4K delivery.

The same can be said for inspections, construction progress reports, etc. Users can capture at a high resolution and deliver in a lower resolution.

Another benefit of 6 and 8K resolutions is the increase in dynamic range. While small sensors only provide a small increase in dynamic range, a small increase is preferable to no increase.

To address other statements about 6K and 8K resolutions; They human eye has the ability to see around 40megapixels, age-dependent. 8K is approximately 33megapixels. However, the human eye doesn’t see equal resolutions across the surface. The center of our eye sees approximately 8megapixels, where the outer edges are not as deep. High resolution does provide greater smoothing across the spectrum, therefore our eyes see smoother moving pictures.


Going well-beyond the human eye, higher resolutions are applicable to “computer vision,” benefiting mapping, 3D modeling, and other similar applications. Generally speaking, more pixels equals greater smoothness and geometry. As technology moves deeper into Artificial Intelligence, higher resolutions with more efficient codecs become yet even more important. Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become more visible with a greater resolution. Now imagine that greater resolution providing input to an AI-aided inspection report that might notify the operator or manager of any problem. Our technology is moving beyond the resolution of the human eye for good reason.


Files from a 6 or 8K camera are relatively small, particularly when compared to uncompressed 8K content (9.62TB per hour). Compression formats, known as “Codecs” have been improving for years, steadily moving forward. For example, when compressions first debuted in physical form, we saw Hollywood movies delivered on DVD. Then we saw HD delivered on Blu-ray. Delivery over disc formats is dead, and now we’ve moved through MPG2, AVC, AVCHD, H.264, and now H.265/HEVC. In the near future we’ll see yet even more compression schemes benefitting our workflows whether delivered via streaming or thumbdrive.  VVC or “Versatile Video Codec”will be the next big thing in codecs for 8K, scheduled to launch early 2022.

Unconventional h.264 and H.265/HEVCare currently being used as delivery codecs for compressed 6 and 8K streams. 8K has been successfully broadcast (in testing environments) at rates as low as 35Mbps for VOD, while NHK has set the standard at 100Mbps for conventional delivery. Using these codecs, downconverting streams to view OTA/Over The Air to tablets, smartphones, or ground station controllers is already possible. It’s unlikely we’ll see 8K streaming from the UAS to the GSC.

U3 Datacards are certainly prepared for 6 and 8K resolutions/datastreams; compression is what makes this possible.  The KenDao 8K and Insta 8K 360 cameras both are recording to U3 cards, available in the market today.

It will be some time before the average consumer will be seeing 8K on screens in their homes. However, 8K delivered for advertising, matching large format footage being shot on Weapon, Monstro, Helium or other camera formats may be less time-consuming when using 8K, even from smaller camera formats carried on an UAS (these cameras may easily be carried on heavy-lift UAS).

Professional UAS pilots will benefit greatly from 5, 6, or 8K cameras, and should not be shy about testing the format. Yes, it’s yet another paradigm shift in an always-fluid era of aerial and visual technology.  There can be no doubt that these higher resolutions provide higher quality in any final product.  Be prepared; 2020 is the year of 5, 6, and 8K cameras on the flying tripods we’re using for our professional and personal endeavors, and I for one, am looking forward to it with great enthusiasm.

Experts Tested 4 Different Drone Mapping Solutions for Crime Scene Investigation

Experts Tested 4 Different Drone Mapping Solutions for Crime Scene Investigation. Here’s What Happened.

At Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, more than 300 drone industry professionals watched as experts tested four different drone mapping solutions for crime scene investigation at night.

Guest post by Douglas Spotted Eagle, Chief Strategy Officer at KukerRanken

Commercial UAV Expo brought UAS professionals, developers, manufacturers, first responders, and related industries under one roof for the first time in nearly two years. Due to the pandemic, the show was less attended than previous years, yet provided robust live demonstrations, night flight, daytime seminars, panels, and case studies for the relatively large audience. There was a strong buzz amongst the crowd about being at an in-person event, and experiencing face to face communication for the first time in many months.

In addition to the “Beyond the Cage” Live Drone Demo Day that launched Commercial UAV 2021, produced by Sundance Media Group, Wednesday night provided attendees with a glimpse of the Crime Scene Investigator tools function in the dark hours. Sundance Media Group developed this methodology several years ago at the request of a law enforcement agency and has been presenting this methodology at academies, colleges, universities, and tradeshows since 2017, with a variety of aircraft including DJI Mavic, Phantom 4, Yuneec H520, Skydio, and Autel EVO series (versions 1 and 2). All successfully output data, excepting Skydio, which struggles with brightly lit events in surrounding darkness.

Presented by FoxFury, Sundance Media Group, Autel, and Pix4D, this event also invited SkyeBrowse to participate in the demonstration, showing the effectiveness and speed of their application.

Testing Drone Mapping Solutions for Crime Scene Investigation: Setting the Scene

With a model covered in moulage, mock slit throat, and blood trail on the ground, the demonstration began with the multi-vendor team led by Brady Reisch, Bryan Worthen of Kuker-Ranken, Todd Henderson and Patrick Harris of SMG,  and David Martel.  The team  placed four FoxFury T56 lighting systems at specific, measured points in the scene, supplemented by FoxFury NOW  lanterns and Rugo lighting to fill in holes and eliminate shadows.

Douglas Spotted Eagle of SMG and KukerRanken emcee’d the event through the two flights.

Douglas Spotted Eagle addresses the crowd of 300 persons

SkyeBrowse had the first flight, with its one-button capture. Brady Reisch set up the mission, with input from the SkyeBrowse developer instructing the exposure levels of the camera for the SkyeBrowse video mission. Once the mission was completed, the photos were uploaded to the SkyeBrowse website, where results were found approximately 30 minutes following the flight.

Brady Reisch of KukerRanken sets up the Skybrowse mission with Bobby Ouyang of Skybrowse

The Autel EVO II Pro was programmed on-site for an automated Skybrowse mission and the demonstration began. The area is highly congested with palm trees and buildings enclosing the small rotunda in front of the Mirage Hotel Convention Center.

Brady Reisch flew the second EVO II  mission manually, in much the same configuration as though the aircraft had flown a double-grid mission, supplemented by high-altitude orbit, coupled with manually captured orbit and select placements. Because of the crowd, time was a consideration. In an actual homicide scene, more low-placed images would have been captured.

Brady Reisch monitors time as Pix4DReact rapid-renders the scene (60 seconds)

The mission photos were uploaded to Pix4dReact on-scene and rendered while the audience observed, requiring approximately 60 seconds to output an ortho-rectified, 2D image, complete with evidence markers/tags, and PDF supplemental report output. Also loaded were the photo images into Pix4D and Leica Infinity software packages, to be rendered for 3D viewing once the show floor opened on Thursday. Pix4DReact is a two-dimensional, rapid-mapping solution, so there is no 3D view.

The four screen captures tell the rest of the story, and readers can determine for themselves what each software is capable of providing.  One point of interest is that there were many claims of “guaranteed 1cm of precision regardless of flight area,” which has yet to be verified. The Kuker-Ranken team will be re-flying a mission with two separate GPS systems (Leica and Emlid) to verify the claims of precision.

Precision is Repeatable

Precision is repeatable. Accuracy is the degree of closeness to true value. Precision is the degree to which an instrument or process will repeat the same value. In other words, accuracy is the degree of veracity while precision is the degree of reproducibility. With a base station, NTRIP, Spydernet, PPK, or RTK workflow, precision is always the goal, well-beyond accuracy. This is a relatively new discussion in the use of unmanned aircraft, and although the topic seems simple enough, complexity holds challenges not easily dismissed by inexperience or lacking education and practice.  We are fortunate to have a partner in Kuker-Ranken, providing precision tools to the survey, forensic, civil engineering, and AEC industries since 1928. The KR team includes PLS’, EIT, and other accredited precision professionals, rarely found in the UAS industry.

Precision is critical for surveyors, civil engineers, forensic analysts and investigators, construction sites, mapping, agriculture, and other verticals in the UAS industry, and this sort of scene is no exception. Being able to properly place a map or model into a coordinate is necessary for many professional pilots in the UAV field, and while this mission is not precise to coordinate, it is precise within itself, or in other words, measurements will be accurate in the image, while being imprecise to the overall location.

We’ll dive more deeply into precision in a future article. For purposes of this exercise, we’re more interested in accuracy of content in the scene, and all four outputs were similar in accuracy within the scene itself. In other words, distances, volumes, and angles may be measured point to point. Pix4DReact is not as accurate as the other three tools, as it’s not intended to be a deeply accurate application given speed of output.

Output Results of Drone Mapping Solutions

Output #1: SkyeBrowse (processing time, approximately 35 minutes)

Output #2: Pix4Dreact (processing time, approximately 1 minute)

drone mapping solution Pix4Dreact

Output #3: Pix4Dmapper (processing time, approximately 2.5 hours)

drone mapping solutions Pix4Dmapper

Output #4: Leica Infinity (processing time, approximately 2 hours, 50 minutes)

drone mapping solutions Leica Infinity

Agencies who would like access to this data are invited to contact Brady Reisch, VDC Specialist at Kuker-Ranken.

Part 91, 101, 103, 105, 107, 137: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

All these FARs, what’s a drone pilot to do in order to understand them? Do they matter?


In virtually every aviation pursuit except for sUAS, an understanding of regulations is requisite and part of most testing mechanisms.  As a result, many sUAS pilots holding 

a Remote Pilot Certificate under Part §107 are woefully uninformed, to the detriment of the industry.

Therefore, sUAS pilots would be well-served to inform themselves of how each section of relevant FARs regulate components of aviation.

Let’s start by digging into the intent of each Part.

  • §Part 91 regulates General Operating and Flight Rules.
  • §Part 101 regulates Moored Balloons, Kites, Amateur Rockets, Unmanned Free Balloons, and some types of Model Aircraft.
  • §Public Law Section 336 regulates hobby drones as an addendum to Part 101.
  • §Part 103 regulates Ultra-Light Vehicles, or manned, unpowered aviation.
  • §Part 105 regulates Skydiving.
  • §Part 107 regulates sUAS
  • §Part 137 regulates agricultural aircraft


Part §91

This portion of the FARs is barely recognized, although certain sections of Part 91 may come into play in the event of an action by the FAA against an sUAS pilot. For example, the most concerning portion of Part 91 is  91.13, or “Careless or Reckless Operation.” Nearly every action taken against sUAS pilots have included a charge of 91.13 in the past (prior to 107).

Specific to drone actions, The vast majority of individuals charged have also included the specific of a 91.13 charge.

sUAS pilots whether recreational or commercial pilots may be charged with a §91.13 or the more relevant §107.23 (reckless)

It’s pretty simple; if there are consequences to a pilot’s choices and actions, it’s likely those consequences also included a disregard for safety or planning, ergo; careless/reckless. The FAA has recently initiated actions against Masih Mozayan for flying his aircraft near a helicopter and taking no avoidance action. They’ve also taken action against Vyacheslav Tantashov for his actions that resulted in damage to a military helicopter (without seeing the actual action, it’s a reasonable assumption that the action will be a §91.13 or a §107.23 (hazardous operation).

Other parts of Part 91 are relevant as well. For example;

  • §91.1   Applicability.

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b), (c), (e), and (f) of this section and §§91.701 and 91.703, this part prescribes rules governing the operation of aircraft within the United States, including the waters within 3 nautical miles of the U.S. coast.

The above paragraph includes sUAS.  Additionally, Part 107 does not exclude Part 91. Airmen (including sUAS pilots) should be aware of the freedoms and restrictions granted in Part 91.

§91.3   Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.

(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.

(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.

(c) Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

§91.7   Civil aircraft airworthiness.

(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.

(b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

§91.15   Dropping objects.

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

§91.17   Alcohol or drugs.

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft—

(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

(2) While under the influence of alcohol;

(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or

Sound familiar?

SubPart B also carries relevant information/regulation with regard to operation in controlled airspace, operations in areas under TFR ((§91.133), operations in disaster/hazard areas, flights during national events, lighting (§91.209)

PART 101

Part §101 has a few applicable sections.

Subpart (a) under §101.1 restricts model aircraft and tethered aircraft (balloons). Although subpart (a.4. iiv) is applicable to balloon tethers, there is argument that it also applies to sUAS. Subpart (a.5.iii) defines recreational flight for sUAS/model aircraft.

Finally, §101.7 re-emphasizes §91.15 with regard to dropping objects (may not be performed without taking precautions to prevent injury or damage to persons or property).  Public Law 112-95 Section 336 (which may be folded into a “107 lite” version), clarifies sections not added to Part 101.

Bear in mind that unless the pilot follows the rules and guidelines of a NCBO such as the AMA, AND the requirements of that NCBO are met, the flight requirements default to Part 107 requirements.

PART §103

Part §103 regulates Ultralight vehicles (Non powered, manned aviation)

Although no component of Part §103 specifically regulates UAV, it’s a good read as Part 103 contains components of regulation found in Part 107.

PART §105

Part §105 regulates Skydiving.

Part §105 carries no specific regulation to sUAS, an understanding of Part 105 provides great insight to components of Part 107. Part 107 has very few “new” components; most of its components are clipped out of other FAR sections.

PART §107

Although many sUAS pilots “have their 107,” very few have actually absorbed the FAR beyond a rapid read-through. Without a thorough understanding of the FAR, it’s difficult to comprehend the foundation of many rules.

PART §137

Part 137 applies specifically to spraying crops via aerial vehicles.

Those looking into crop spraying via sUAS should be familiar with Part 137, particularly with the limitations on who can fly, where they can fly, and how crops may be sprayed.
One area every ag drone pilot should look at is §137.35 §137.55 regarding limitations and business licenses.

The bottom line is that the more informed a pilot is, the better pilot they can be.  While there are many online experts purporting deep knowledge of aviation regulations and how they specifically apply to sUAS, very few are familiar with the regulations in specific, and even less informed as to how those regulations are interpreted and enforced by ASI’s. We’ve even had Part 61 pilots insist that the FSDO is a “who” and not a “what/where.” Even fewer are aware of an ASI and how they relate to the world of sUAS.

FSIM Volume 16

It is reasonably safe to say that most sUAS pilots are entirely unaware of the Flight Standards Information Management System, aka “FSIMS.” I’ve yet to run across a 107 pilot familiar with the FSIMS, and recently was vehemently informed that “there is nothing beyond FAR Part 107 relative to sUAS. Au contraire…

Familiarity with the FSIMS may enlighten sUAS operator/pilots in how the FAA examines, investigates, and enforces relevant FARs.

Chapter 1 Sections 1, 2  and 4 are a brief, but important read, as is Chapter 2, Section 2.

Chapter 3 Section 1 is informational for those looking to apply for their RPC Part 107 Certificate.

Chapter 4 Sections 2, 5, 7, 8 are of particular value for commercial pilots operating under Part 107.

Volume 17, although related only to manned aviation, also has components related to 107, and should be read through (Chapters 3 & 4) by 107 pilots who want to be informed.

Gaining new information is always beneficial, and even better if the new information is implemented in your workflow and program. Become informed, be the best pilot you can be, and encourage others to recognize the value in being a true professional, informed and aware.