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In the growing marketplace of UAV operators, there is a need for high standards of safety and professionalism. A new certification program available to remote pilots and UAV training organizations has been launched by AUVSI, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

The Trusted Operator Program (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 operator’s proficiency and ability to operate safely and the commitment of training organizations to following a more comprehensive set of protocols.

TOP delivers “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 UAV 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.”

Three levels of TOP certification are available, according to, each tailored to reflect different levels of safety resilience, skills, qualifications and knowledge.

  • Level One – Covers low-risk operations under the FAA’s small UAV 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 list them in a searchable TOP Registry, where those looking to find and hire a qualified UAV operator can easily find a TOP-certified operator for their needs.