AUVSI Top Operator Plan Takes Drone Pilots to New Heights

They may not have Tom Cruise, but the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is going to Top Gun – well, Top Operator.

The world’s largest non-profit for the advancement of drones and robotics is launching the Trusted Operator Program, a certification program allowing drone pilots and UAS training groups to “distinguish themselves in a growing marketplace by holding themselves to a higher standard of safety and professionalism.”

“The TOP certification process results in an AUVSI-sponsored seal of approval for individuals and organizations who demonstrate a higher-level of training, knowledge and commitment to safety that goes above and beyond the FAA’s requirements,” said Tracy Lamb, Vice President of Regulatory and Safety Affairs and Chief Pilot of AUVSI.

“Someone looking to hire a UAS operator to take images of property, inspect a roof or survey infrastructure can look for TOP-certified operators and be assured they have the knowledge and experience to operate safely and proficiently.”

The program will use safety standards created by accredited groups, global safety experts and aviation regulators, including the FAA. Top Operators will be certified based on their ability to operate safely.UAS groups will be certified based on conformity to a comprehensive set of UAV protocols.

The program stems from a collaboration through the TOP Steering Committee, a group of more than 197 subject-matter experts and industry leaders from more than 50 organizations across the globe.

TOP encompasses three levels:

  • Level one covers low-risk operations under the FAA’s small UAS rule (Part 107), such as flights during the day, below 400 feet and away from people.
  • Level two is for operators who require a Part 107 waiver, a visual observer or sensor operator, or those that fall outside the Part 107 regulation.
  • Level three provides standards for operating in “safety critical” areas, such as near chemical, oil, gas or nuclear facilities, extended line of sight, pipeline, powerline and cell tower inspections.

Once operators receive certification, AUVSI will lists them in a searchable TOP Registry, where those looking to find and hire a qualified UAS operator can easily find a TOP-certified operator for their needs.

Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.

Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.

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