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Arlington, Va. — The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) launched the Trusted Operator Program (TOP), a new certification program available to remote pilots and UAS training organizations. Through TOP, operators and organizations can 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.”

TOP uses safety standards developed by accredited standards bodies, international safety experts and aviation regulations from; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), other regulatory authorities and associations, to certify an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operator’s proficiency and ability to operate safely and the commitment of training organizations to following a more comprehensive set of protocols.

AUVSI developed the TOP after 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. Their input helped develop three levels of TOP certification, each tailored to reflect different levels of safety resilience, skills, qualifications and knowledge:

  • 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.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Praxis Aerospace Concepts, Consortiq, Dart Drones and SGS Aerospace are the initial organizations that have received TOP certification. They will apply the TOP protocols in their UAS education and assessment programs so students are TOP certified upon graduation. Experienced remote pilots can apply for certification based on their qualifications, experience and competency.

“The TOP reflects levels of safety and competency protocols that are appropriate for everything from wedding photography to oil flare stack inspections,” said Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI. “By providing UAS operators and those they enable with a standard way to demonstrate proficiency, TOP will help ensure the safe and sustainable advancement of the unmanned systems industry.”

For more information about the TOP, visit www.auvsi.org/topoperator.

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