So, what's a COA?

We get a ton of questions about COA, so we decided to put together this helpful guide to COA. Let's start with the most basic stuff:

  • COAs are issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration
  • The FAA uses guidance from order 8900.1 Flight Standards Information Management System (FSMIS)

There are many different types of COAs available but let's focus on the two that have the most to do with public safety.

Public Safety Blanket COA
The Blanket Certificate of Authorization allows a public agency to operate UAV under the following limitations and conditions:

  • UAV’s can only be flown from the surface to 400 feet above ground level (AGL)
  • Must remain in line of sight
  • Must utilize a pilot-in-command solely dedicated to the UAV operation
  • Must utilize a Visual Observer (VO) for all operations
  • Daytime use only
  • Only in Class G airspace
  • Must maintain 3 miles visibility and 500 feet below and 2,000 horizontal from clouds
  • Must remain 5 miles from active towered airports, and 3 or 2 miles from other airports depending on specific approach procedures to those airports

 None of these limitations can be waived within a Blanket COA. However, agencies with a Blanket COA can utilize their COA outside of their jurisdiction provided they operate within the prescribed limitations.

Public Safety Jurisdictional COA
The jurisdictional COA allows for an agency to operate at higher than 400 feet AGL, within different airspace types, at night, and within other parameters as long as the agency can make an adequate safety case for operating in such a manner.

The process for obtaining a Jurisdictional COA is as follows:

1. Obtain blanket COA
2. Conduct and document training under the Blanket COA
3. Define operating area
4. Create Risk Assessment of Jurisdiction
5. Map and grid risk assessment
6. Create necessary safety cases (i.e. night time operations)
7. Create policies and procedures for operations
8. File documentation with FAA
9. Work with FAA on ATC coordination and procedure for operations within Class D surface area

So, what if your COA gets denied?
While we've never had a COA outright denied in our 3 years of service, we still want to make sure you're comfortable with the process. That's why we offer a full refund of the fee for that service if the COA is denied.

To ensure your COA goes through, we work hard to use the proper filing procedures and safety cases with every client we work with. The purpose of the jurisdictional COA is to create a process by which agencies can safely operate in otherwise airspace-limited areas, and no one has had more success getting Public Safety UAV programs off the ground.