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.
Airports around the globe are considering new methods to respond to the proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems (also known as “UAS” or “drones”) and the increased number of near-misses between drones and airplanes. In addition to strengthening its laws to curb such operations, the third busiest airport in the world, Dubai International Airport (DXB), has taken a technological approach to the problem—a sophisticated watchdog drone which can detect other drones flying in the airport’s perimeter and track down the operator’s location. Continue reading →
The European Union (EU) is on the verge of revising its regulations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”) operations in Europe. The revisions will shift the regulation of UAS away from EU Member States to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as well as incorporate a risk and performance-based approach for UAS regulation. Continue reading →
Last week, the FAA sent a new proposed rule for operations of sUAS (aka “drones”) over people to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”).
Currently, Part 107 for the commercial operation of sUAS prohibits operations above non-participants without a waiver. This new rule would provide relief from current Part 107 operational restrictions and would significantly impact various industries eager to exploit UAS applications, such as news & media coverage, search & rescue, real estate, and construction.
With this new development, the FAA continues to expand the sUAS regulatory framework. A rule for micro-UAS weighing less 4.4 pounds is also in FAA’s direct line of sight.
In light of the FAA’s new rule (or Part 107) for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry has eagerly pushed the U.S. government to initiate testing of drone delivery systems. Although Part 107 suggests the FAA will likely expand the uses of drones, the rule does not allow for such drone applications in the National Airspace System (NAS). Among the various companies expressing interests in using drones to deliver goods, are industry giants Amazon PrimeAir (Amazon) and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Continue reading →
A federal court upheld the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) subpoenas of a 19-year-old Connecticut drone operator in relation to YouTube videos showing two drones (also known as unmanned aircraft systems or UAS) modified to carry a flamethrower and a handgun. This decision further affirms the FAA’s broad enforcement authority over UAS, but it also highlights the common legal confusion over the precise boundaries of FAA regulation.
After two videos (linked here and here) depicting “weaponized” UAS garnered significant attention on YouTube, the FAA began an investigation into their ownership and development. As part of that investigation, the FAA issued administrative subpoenas to Austin Haughwout and his father Bret Haughwout, asking for depositions, records, video, photographs, and receipts related to the two UAS. The Haughwouts refused to comply with the subpoenas and instead challenged the FAA’s authority to enforce the subpoenas in federal court.
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.
As wildfire season heats up in the Western United States, drone (also known as “unmanned aircraft systems” or “UAS”) operations near wildfires have spurred technological advances and prompted a series of state and federal statutory and regulatory changes. From a practical perspective, these new laws can impose harsh penalties for violations—including having drones shot out of the sky. From a legal perspective, these new laws reveal the tension between state and federal regulation of UAS operations and important questions about federal preemption.
UAS operations near wildfires create the potential for collisions with manned firefighting aircraft, such as air tankers and helicopters, because these aircraft fly at significantly lower altitudes than typical manned aircraft operations. Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) rules permit UAS operations up to an altitude of 400 feet in most places, but firefighting aircraft often operate at an altitude of 200 feet—creating a dangerous airspace overlap. In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI”) documented 25 instances of unauthorized UAS operations over or near wildfires in five western states. This summer, nearby UAS operations have grounded firefighting aircraft at wildfires in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, in Southern Utah and many other states. According to officials in Utah, grounding aircraft slows firefighting efforts and vastly increases the costs.
In the FAA Extension legislation, Congress implemented important safety provisions related to drones (also known as unmanned aircraft systems or “UAS”). The language, which President Obama signed into law late last week, addresses UAS operations involving airports, critical infrastructure, and emergency response.