The Navy has released a message to its entire force telling them to please get their unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, certified before taking them to the skies in any capacity.
Sorry, drone with its own GoPro. You'll have to get certified before you can go on missions. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)
The all Navy administrative message released by the SecNav Ray Mabus reminds all Navy commanders that any aircraft owned, leased, or procured in any way by the Department of the Navy must gain an "airworthiness approval" before it can be flown in any capacity.
So, leave your commercial, off-the-shelf drones at home until you get them certified sailor (or Marine)!
The Naval Air Systems Command told WATM, "The airworthiness assessments of small [commercial off-the-shelf] UAS focus on the safety of flight, which assesses risks to personnel and property on the ground and in the air, and that the system can be operated safely and safety risks are understood and accepted by the appropriate authority."
This is not a chief throwing an unauthorized drone into the sea. This is just a sailor launching a drone that does have an airworthiness approval. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge)
For everyone hoping that this announcement came because Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli flew his drone into a Harrier engine while the big bird was attempting a vertical landing, no dice.
In their message to WATM, NAVAIR said that the ALNAV was released to alert UAS operators to existing policies because cheap, commercial drones had allowed Navy organizations who wouldn't typically buy aircraft to do so.
The Navy is trying to bring these non-traditional aviators up to speed, not responding to Seaman Skippy's assertion that no one had specifically said he couldn't fly a drone over the carrier during flight ops.
Commanders with a full inventory of drones without airworthiness approvals don't have to panic, though. NAVAIR said that it has streamlined the approval process for small, commercial drones and it can take as little as a few days.
Some factors could cause it to take much longer, such as if the drone will be used for an especially challenging purpose or in a dangerous operating environment.
Those who are curious can read the full ALNAV here.