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 →
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).
The wait is over for businesses across the United States eager to fly small drones (also known as small unmanned aircraft systems or sUAS). The new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule regarding commercial operation of sUAS, known as Part 107, is now in effect. Part 107 opens the door to commercial sUAS flights that meet certain criteria, avoiding the need for each business to get FAA approval.
In a press conference, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta hailed the new rule as a transformational advancement in aviation policy while ensuring safety. The FAA forecasts as many as 600,000 drones to be operating under the new rule within the year.
FAA’s Part 107 regulations create a structure to integrate commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (also known as sUAS or drones) into the National Airspace System (NAS). As part of this structure, the FAA has given the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a new and potentially time-consuming task: vetting commercial sUAS pilots who do not already have a certificate to operate manned flights. The proliferation of new applications underscores the importance of having an adequately staffed and funded TSA so integration of commercial sUAS is not delayed.
Last week, the FAA issued an historic authority to Industrial Skyworks for nighttime commercial UAS operations. The Section 333 exemption, obtained with the help of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, is the first approval of its kind and demonstrates the FAA’s willingness to permit flights with increased risk as long as the safety case is well demonstrated and maintained.
Commercial operators of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are authorized to operate in the U.S. under a Section 333 exemption from the FAA may now operate up to 400 feet without obtaining a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). This will reduce the burden on commercial operators who could previously operate up to 200 feet without a COA.
This week’s news includes drone registration scams, a study on how jet engines ingest drones, using drones at construction sites, and numerous other recent developments in UAV regulations and usage.
In an effort to continue its public education campaign regarding the safe unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations, the FAA and the Denver International Airport (DIA) released a new UAS Public Service Announcement (PSA) that will run at DIA. The FAA hopes the PSA will reinforce the FAA’s message that UAS operations near manned aircraft are both illegal and dangerous. The FAA press release regarding the campaign is available here.
The new PSA continues the “No Drone Zone” message that the FAA has used in its public outreach campaign for the National Capital Region to reinforce the message that the District of Columbia and 30-mile radius around Ronald-Reagan Washington National Airport are off limits to UAS operations. Federal rules prohibit any aircraft from operating within this Fight Restricted Zone, including all unmanned aircraft operated for commercial or recreational purposes. More information on the Washington, DC No Drone Zone can be found here.
The FAA-DIA safety campaign also follows reports that the FAA fears one million UAS could be sold this holiday season.
Today, the FAA announced its selection of the FAA’s new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) executives that “will guide the agency’s approach to safe, timely and efficient integration” of UAS into U.S. airspace.
Marke “Hoot” Gibson will become the Senior Advisor on UAS Integration, focusing on external outreach and education, inter-agency initiatives, and an enterprise-level approach to FAA management on UAS integration.
Earl Lawrence will become the Director of the UAS Integration Office within FAA’s Aviation Safety organization, leading the FAA’s efforts to safely and effectively integrating UAS into U.S. airspace.
The press release and brief background on the new executives may be found here.
In May, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) issued a Safety Alert, “See and Be Seen: Your Life Depends on It; Maintaining Separation from Other Aircraft,” urging pilots to constantly and vigilantly scan the skies for traffic throughout every flight, and clearly indicate their intentions at all times. The Safety Alert was promulgated in light of incidents involving aircraft narrowly avoiding collision in cruise flight during ideal daytime meteorological conditions that were later found to be related to distractions in the cockpit.