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 →
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.