Minnesota Department of Transportation

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MnDOT Policies

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

MnDOT Policy OP006
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Policy statement

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will permit the use of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) for the purposes of conducting the business of the agency. The MnDOT Unmanned Aircraft Systems policy pertains to operations by MnDOT employees or by contractors and consultants working on behalf of MnDOT. The Office of Aeronautics must approve UAS usage by MnDOT or third parties conducting business for MnDOT.
For UAS operation MnDOT employees must:

  • Comply with the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Create a safety and operations plan that addresses all aspects of the intended mission.

When contracting for UAS services, the contractor must adhere to federal regulations under which they are operating.
MnDOT-owned UAS and UAS owned by contractors are required to license the aircraft as required by Minnesota Statutes §360.511 through Minnesota Statutes §360.62 Contractors are required to obtain a commercial operator's license from the MnDOT Office of Aeronautics as required by Minnesota Statutes §360.521 through Minnesota Statutes §360.675.
The Office of Aeronautics provides assistance to districts and offices that are pursuing or contracting for UAS services.

Reason for policy

  • Provide clear and concise information on the UAS application, purchase and usage procedures
  • Identify roles and responsibilities
  • Ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations

Who needs to know this policy

  • Office of the Commissioner
  • District Engineers and Assistant District Engineers
  • Office Directors
  • Division Business Managers
  • Project Managers
  • Office of Communications
  • Employees and third parties, including consultants and contractors, seeking or obtaining approval to use UAS for MnDOT activities

Definitions

Flight

A flight is an individual operation of the UAS from takeoff to landing. Each flight should have defined parameters for area of operation, altitudes, flight path and length of flight.

Mission

The mission includes the specific details and justification for the particular use of a particular aircraft. Examples of missions include bridge inspections, aerial photography, salt pile measurements, etc.

Pilot

UAS pilots must meet the FAA requirements for the type of operation they are conducting. Pilots flying under the Part 107 small UAS rule must be certificated as remote pilots with a small UAS rating. If the operation is being conducted under a Certificate of Authorization (COA), then the pilot must meet the requirements as required by the COA. All MnDOT staff piloting small UAS are required to have a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating issued by the FAA. Additional training will be required to comply with a COA or Operations Manual.

Project

A project is a specific task. A project will have a specific purpose, timeframe and defined location. A project may require multiple flights.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

A UAS is an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) and all the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment necessary to operate the unmanned craft. The UAV is the flying portion of the system, flown by a qualified pilot via a ground control system, or autonomously through use of an on-board computer, communication links and any additional equipment that is necessary for the UAV to operate safely.

Small UAS

Small UAS (sUAS) is a UAS that weighs less than 55 pounds including everything that is on-board or otherwise attached to the aircraft.

Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV)

A UAV is an aircraft flown without direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.

Small UAV

A small UAV is an aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds including everything on-board or otherwise attached to the aircraft. UAVs are normally either fixed wing aircraft or multi-rotor aircraft.

Procedures

MnDOT contracting process for UAS approval

Offices or districts contracting for UAS use must complete a MnDOT Unmanned Aircraft System Use (UAS) application. The information captured in this document must represent a comprehensive view of the issues surrounding the decision and incorporate feedback from all parties directly impacted.

  • Identify the office or district requesting to use the UAS
  • Detail the particular consultant, the purpose, time, manner, and location of use
  • Complete an analysis that identifies the benefit of using a UAS
  • Provide a safety and privacy plan that addresses the risks and outlines the risk mitigation processes
  • Prepare a communications plan to make the public aware of the operation
  • Email the completed application to *DOT UASRequest@state.mn.us

The Office of Aeronautics must review and approve all applications prior to contracting for services. The Office of Aeronautics will consult with the Office of Chief Counsel, as needed, to determine if the content of the application complies with federal
and state regulations. The funding plan is the responsibility of the requestor and not subject to the review and approval by the Office of Aeronautics.

UAS purchase process and FAA approval

Offices or districts preparing for the purchase of a UAS must complete a MnDOT Unmanned Aircraft System Use (UAS) application. The information captured in this document must represent a comprehensive view of the issues surrounding the decision and incorporate feedback from all parties directly impacted.
Prior to purchase, the office or district must:

  • Identify the mission and complete an analysis that identifies the MnDOT benefits of using the UAS
  • Specify the UAS intended for purchase
  • Identify the personnel that will operate the UAS

Prior to operating the UAS, the office or district must:

  • Provide an operation manual that addresses common processes for the mission, crew training and certification procedures for project and flight planning, UAS maintenance, record-keeping, and emergency procedures to follow in the event of a crash.
  • Additional missions for an existing UAS require an update of the operations manual to cover the new missions.
  • Purchase of a new UAS requires an update of the operations manual to cover the maintenance and operation of the new UAS.
  • On approval of the purchase, the Office of Aeronautics will coordinate federal approval with the requesting MnDOT office or district for UAS use.

While FAA approval may not be required for UAS operations that comply with CFR Title 14, Part 107, "Operation and Certification of sUAS," offices or districts may find the need for exceptions to the Part 107 rules. Currently there are two means to get an exception to Part 107:

  • Request a specific exemption for a specific restriction on a specific project, like flights in Class B Airspace or,
  • Obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the FAA, which takes longer to get initial approval, but allows the operator more latitude in the scope of the exception. Offices or districts anticipating short notice waivers for flights in support of disaster operations should work towards obtaining a COA.

UAS operations by MnDOT personnel

In addition to regular field safety policies MnDOT operators must comply with the following requirements:

  • All operators must meet the current FAA requirements.
  • MnDOT further requires that operators demonstrate their ability to perform the tasks required for the mission in a safe environment including exercising the emergency recovery capabilities.
  • An Office of Aeronautics pilot or a mission-qualified pilot will supervise newly certified pilots on their first project flight in the field.
  • Pilots are required to fly three flights per quarter to maintain their currency. A qualified and current pilot must supervise pilots that are not current until they meet currency requirements.
  • Pilots must be certificated by the FAA. In addition to FAA certification, pilots must demonstrate the ability to fly a UAS of similar design to the UAS they will operate in the field. Offices or districts should take advantage of training available from the UAS manufacturer to gain skills in operating the particular UAS they will fly in the field, as an efficient and effective means of financial management.

UAS operations on MnDOT projects or Right of Way by parties who are not MnDOT personnel or consultants and contractors hired by MnDOT

MnDOT will not authorize the use of a UAS on MnDOT projects or right of way by persons unaffiliated with MnDOT. UAS operators flying in accordance with 14 CFR, Part 107 generally do not require MnDOT authorization. If special circumstance seems to indicate the need for MnDOT authorization, contact the Office of Aeronautics prior to proceeding.
A contractor or consultant of MnDOT may want to fly over a project or MnDOT right of way. MnDOT personnel must complete a MnDOT Unmanned Aircraft System Use (UAS) application prior to the UAS operation and email the completed application to *DOT UASRequest@state.mn.us. The Office of Aeronautics will consult with the Office of Chief Counsel, as needed, to determine if the operation can be safely completed and complies with federal and state regulations.

Responsibilities

Office of Aeronautics

  • Review proposed UAS use requests for contractor use of UAS.
  • Approve the UAS Use Request and the operations manual for UAS missions flown by MnDOT staff.
  • Jointly coordinate COA applications with the requesting MnDOT office or district
  • Assist in registering the UAS and contractors to ensure compliance with state statutes and rules, as necessary
  • Conduct spot checks of UAS operations to ensure compliance and to identify opportunities for improvement of UAS operations.
  • Assist the district or office in working with the FAA on waivers and airspace authorizations. If issues with the FAA arise, the district or office should contact the Office of Aeronautics for assistance.

Office of Communications/District Public Affairs Coordinators

  • Provide media coordination for projects to ensure clear, consistent messages about MnDOT use of UAS

Office of Government Affairs

  • Provide timely updates on MnDOT UAS usage to the Governor and legislature, as requested

Districts and Offices (program managers and contractors)

  • Prepare and provide the UAS Use Application to the Office of Aeronautics for review and approval
  • Prepare an operations manual for the MnDOT ownership and use of UAS
  • Monitor the operations of MnDOT-owned UAS to ensure that flights are being conducted in accordance with the operations manual
  • Prepare the funding plan supporting the UAS (purchase or contract)
  • Notify the Office of Communications or District Public Affairs Coordinator on each project
  • Ensure employees authorized to use a UAS read, understand and follow this policy
  • Provide necessary coordination with multiple parties to mitigate risk exposure for employees, contractors and the public
  • Involve the Office of Aeronautics when working with the FAA on waivers and airspace authorizations. If issues with the FAA arise, the district or office should contact the Office of Aeronautics.

Employees using Unmanned Aircraft Systems

  • Read, understand and follow this policy and the operations manual, all FAA regulations and the instructions provided by the UAS manufacturer
  • When operating the UAS always err on the side of safety.

Contractors or Consultants using Unmanned Aircraft Systems on MnDOT projects or right of way

  • Follow the restrictions laid out in the UAS Use Application and supporting documentation
  • Operate the UAS within the restrictions imposed by the FAA, State of Minnesota and the instructions provided by the UAS manufacturer.

Forms/instructions

Related information

History

Amended/Revised

  • Second Revision March 16th, 2018
  • First Revision July 29th, 2016

Effective

June 18th, 2015

Ownership

Please go to the MnDOT Org Chart to find specific contact information: Org Chart.

Responsible Senior Officer

Deputy Commissioner/Chief Engineer

Policy Owner

Office Director
Office of Aeronautics

Policy Contact

Aviation Safety & Enforcement Manager
Office of Aeronautics