FAA Drone Rule Comments: Leave us your thoughts

FAA Proposed Rule

  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
  • At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.

Draft Comment (regarding the 4 points above): Limiting UAS use to VLOS greatly reduces UASs a viable tool for large scale fish and wildlife surveys in remote areas.  Surveys such as statewide roosting bird surveys, alligator nest counts, big horn sheep monitoring, and habitat mapping frequently occur in rugged terrain areas including swamps, marsh land, or steep hillsides that are best surveyed by aircraft.  Wildlife and habitat surveys in these areas often require low, slow, circular flying, which can be high risk.  Unmanned aircrafts would alleviate this risk if rules were in place allowing operators to use onboard 360 degree cameras and remote video display to see and avoid other aircraft while operating outside the VLOS.

Proposed Solution: Special licensing to operate UASs outfitted with camera equipment capable of fulfilling the VLOS and see-and-avoid requirement through video equipment and real-time video transmission to the operator.  Additionally, adding mandatory return to home or soft landing auto-shutoff feature requirements and battery life distance limitations under this exemption would be acceptable.

 FAA Proposed Rule

  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.

Draft Comment: Fish and wildlife professionals have an interest in using UASs to observe recreational activities.  We would like the FAA to define how near to a person a UAS may be for direct survey purposes.  Additionally UASs may inadvertently be flown over hunters, anglers, hikers, campers in remote areas while conducting fish and wildlife surveys.  Individuals participating in recreational activities in areas where UAS surveys are conducted may not be visible even when the UAV is within VLOS, we would like exemptions for unintentional flyovers to be included in the rule.

Proposed Solution:  In areas where a UAS may be flown over a person, either intentionally or unintentionally, public notice of the planned survey activity could be issued in advance of the survey.

FAA Proposed Rule

  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).

Draft Comment:  Limiting UAS operation to daylight-only operations removes UASs as potential tools for monitoring nocturnal species.  Fish and wildlife professionals could survey for nocturnal species, which can be detected via night vision or thermal technology incorporated in UAS devices, if UASs were allowed to be operated during twilight and nighttime hours.

Proposed Solution: Special UAS operator licensing that allows for nighttime operation of UASs

FAA Proposed Rule

  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.

Draft Comment:  In the event of man-made or natural disaster (e.g. flood, fire, volcanic eruption, earthquake, or chemical spills) UAS flights in conditions with less than 3 miles of the visibility could be integral in protecting human life and natural resource welfare.  Ash, smoke, and flog could all limit visibility in disaster areas.  Limiting UAS use in these conditions could lead to increased loss of life and resources that would have been preventable through emergency response guided by UAS technology.

Proposed Solution: Disaster response exemption to the 3 mile visibility and VLOS rules based on operator certification and UAS onboard live-feed camera system allowing for remote operator “see-and-avoid” response.

2015 Student Research Scholarship

2015 Student Scholarship Application | Deadline July 31, 2015

In conjunction with its Conference and Annual Meeting, OFWIM invites graduate students in fisheries or wildlife science to share their research with conference attendees. The Student Research Scholarship Award recognizes academic and professional excellence and supports attendance at the conference.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 scholarship award. The award will be made to one graduate student who is local to the conference and working towards a graduate program such as a Graduate Certificate Program, Master’s degree or PhD.

The recipient must present a formal paper on the research project prospectus during the 2015 Conference and Annual Meeting to be held in Williamsburg, Virginia, September 27 – October 1. The recipient must also present a formal paper on the project results at the 2016 Conference and Annual Meeting.

Announcing the 3rd Annual Innovation Award

Innovation Award graphic Innovation Award Nomination Form | Deadline: August 1, 2015

The Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers invites individuals and conservation organizations to apply for the Innovation Award, which recognizes excellence in the advancement of fish and wildlife information management technology or processes. Nominees may be individuals or agencies/organizations,
The winner will be announced at the 2015 conference in Virginia and will receive a 1-year free membership to OFWIM.

Travel Grants for 2015 Conference

Download Application Form  or Apply Online
Deadline: July 10, 2015

If you have a paper or poster to present at our fall conference, and need help with expenses, you’re invited to apply for a travel grant. OFWIM can offer grants of up to $500 to assist current or retired professionals in attending our Conference and Annual Meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, Sept 27-Oct 1.

Each grant recipient must present a formal paper or poster at the conference. Membership in OFWIM is not required. For more information,  download the application or contact Julie Prior-Magee. Recipients will be notified by July 17.

OFWIM Officer Elections

Congratulations to our incoming officers for 2014/2015

  • President: Kristin Rogers, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
  • Past President: Jim Husband, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
  • President-Elect: Keith Hurley, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
  • Treasurer: Jay Kapalczynski, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
  • Secretary: Jeanette Jones, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency
  • Member-at-Large: Amy Ewing, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries