Dan Elwell, the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), delivered the keynote speech opening the Interdrone conference earlier this month. His remarks predictably emphasized a concern for safety. He mentioned a number of regulatory hurdles facing the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drone) industry, namely remote identification and unmanned traffic management (UTM). He also mentioned privacy and public opinion very briefly in his speech. But how close are we to finding workable solutions to these problems? Expected legislation may help to address some of these concerns, but the UAS industry will still need more in order to fully integrate into the National Airspace System (NAS).
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), chartered earlier this year, was unable to reach a consensus on key issues. Given that Michael Huerta, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), described the committee’s work as fundamental for allowing operations over people and operations beyond the visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), the committee’s inability to reach a consensus could mean further delay in the necessary regulation that would allow for these operations.
What Is the ARC and What Was It Supposed to Do?
As rules and regulations stand currently, the interim rule entitled “Registration and Marking for Small Unmanned Aircraft” does not include provisions for identifying small aircraft during operations. The FAA recognized that having a remote identification process could provide value in terms of public safety and the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS), so it chartered the ARC on May 4, 2017. The ARC was designed to inform the FAA on the available technologies for remote identification and tracking, shortfalls in available standards, and to make recommendations for how remote identification may be implemented. As of June, the committee had more than 70 members representing a variety of interested stakeholders including representatives from the UAS industry, UAS manufacturers, local law enforcement, and more. Continue reading →
As UAS technology starts to transform traditional industries, so, too, are entrepreneurs looking for ways to build companies that capitalize on the intersection of swiftly evolving tech and the opportunities it creates. Recently, our colleague Christian Salaman sat down with client Mike Ritter, the CEO and cofounder of SlantRange, an agriculture-focused analytics provider, to discuss the challenges of getting a great idea in front of investors, as well as the future of autonomous farming.
Last week US District Judge William G. Young ruled in favor of Dr. Singer in Singer’s lawsuit against the city of Newton, MA (Newton) challenging portions of the city’s local unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drone) ordinance. With the continued proliferation of state and local drone laws, the case drew a considerable amount of attention, with some even contending that the ruling “establishes a rock solid affirmation that the federal government unequivocally holds jurisdiction over the drone industry.” While the ruling does bode well for proponents of federal preemption in the UAS space and can be interpreted as a solid first step, its impact is limited.
What was at Issue Here?
On December 19, 2016, Newton passed an ordinance regulating UAS operations within the city. The ordinance was designed to allow beneficial uses of drones while protecting the privacy of residents throughout the city, and was intended to be read and interpreted in harmony with all relevant rules and regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Dr. Michael Singer, a Newton resident and certified small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) pilot who owns and operates multiple drones, filed suit against the city challenging four provisions of the ordinance. Dr. Singer claimed that the registration requirements in section (b) and the operation limits of subsections (c)(1)(a), (c)(1)(b), and (c)(1)(e) were both field and conflict preempted by federal law. Judge Young determined that all four provisions were conflict preempted thus striking down those portions of the ordinance. Continue reading →
In late June, both chambers of Congress introduced their own versions of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. With Congress in recess for the remainder of August and the current FAA extension expiring at the end of September, it appears increasingly unlikely that either bill will make it to the President’s desk. If Congress is unable to pass a full FAA Reauthorization bill, then it will need to pass an extension. Given the unique needs of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or drone) industry, the extension could include some of the common elements addressed in both the House and Senate Reauthorization bills. Continue reading →
On June 22, 2017, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced bi-partisan legislation designed to advance the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and build on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) efforts to safely integrate them into the National Airspace System. The Safe Development, Research, and Opportunities Needed for Entrepreneurship Act of 2017, or Safe DRONE Act of 2017, is meant to ensure that the United States is able to keep pace in the development and implementation of unmanned technology. The proposed legislation comes just after UAS industry stakeholders indicated that more regulation would be essential to propelling UAS development forward.
The Trump Administration has proposed that Air Traffic Control (ATC) functions be shifted away from the FAA to a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, arguing that the move would allow for increased efficiency particularly in terms of modernization by changing the ATC system from radar-based to satellite-based. If adopted, this plan could accelerate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) into our national airspace system (NAS).
On May 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in John Taylor v. Michael Huerta striking down the Federal Aviation Administration’s Registration Rule, which required the owners of small unmanned aircraft operated for recreational purposes to register with the FAA. (See Registration Rule announcement and full text of the rule.) The Registration Rule was effective on December 21, 2015, but only applied to small unmanned aircraft (UAS) used for hobby or recreation.
- Drone pilots acknowledge the need for legislation for UAS flights. (Tamara Chuang, The Denver Post)
- An sUAS operator is granted a nighttime UAS waiver for inspection and mapping. (The American Surveyor)
- UAV maker DJI proposes new max weight for lowest-risk category of drone. (International Mining)
- The Civil Aviation Administration of China will introduce real-name registration for drones. (Ecns.cn)
- For the first time, New York City firefighters employ a drone to monitor a dangerous fire. (Bart Jansen, USA Today)
- There’s a new fine for drone users caught flying without a license in Dubai. (Nawal Al Ramahi, The National | UAE)
- Aerospace company Thales launches the ECOsystem UTM and partners with drone management company Unifly. (sUAS News)
- North Carolina legislators introduce bill to make it illegal to fly a drone too near a prison. (AP)
- Community groups in Ireland will use drones to fight illegal dumping. (Ciarán D’Arcy, The Irish Times)
- Amazon has been awarded patents for delivery drones with wings and legs. (Arjun Kharpal, CNBC)
This week’s UAS news includes a DAC meeting, drones getting into trouble, more ways that drones are impacting existing industries, and other recent developments in UAV regulations and usage.
- Accidentally knocking someone out with a drone gets a man jail sentence (and fine). (Joseph Hincks, Fortune)
- Snap considered drones as a product line. (Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch)
- Safety rules for drones (and trains and automobiles) may be affected by a Trump administration’s executive order. (Stephanie Beasley, Bloomberg BNA)
- Juan Plaza breaks down what the Drone Advisory Committee focused on in its second meeting. (Juan Plaza, Commercial UAV News)
- Oklahoma legislator proposes bill to allow destruction of drones. (AP News)
- West Virginia lawmakers pass regulations on drone use. (Ashton Marra, The Intelligencer)
- An invisible fence keeps the drones from the President. (Kaveh Waddell, The Atlantic)
- Wildlife officials warn operators to keep drones away from fires. (Ron Rungan, The Arizona Republic)
- There were 37 violators of new drone regulations in Japan in 2016. (The Japan Times)
- How are drones changing real estate? Here are nine ways. (Ilyce Glink, CBS News)
- Drones continue to change the construction industry, as well. (Bob Violino, ZDNet)