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UAS and FAA Reauthorization

As Congress prepares to return for a busy post-Labor Day session, some lawmakers are considering new drone-related provisions that could be included in FAA reauthorization legislation.

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) serves as the top ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  In a recent letter to the Department of Transportation, Congressman DeFazio sought suggestions for ways to improve drone safety.  Congressman DeFazio is seeking DOT’s guidance in identifying resources – and potential new statutory authority – that FAA needs to promote UAS safety.

With the expiration of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) looming on September 30, 2015, UAS policy will continue to be a hot topic for regulatory and legislative developments this fall.  Our expectation is that a comprehensive reauthorization will not be completed until the beginning of 2016 (likely later), though a short-term reauthorization of the FAA is likely (there were 23 short-term extensions before the most recent FAA reauthorization was enacted).  We expect that the ultimate comprehensive reauthorization legislation will include language to help integrate UAS into the National Airspace System.

Congress continues to oversee efforts at the FAA to finalize its final rule on small UAS by June 2016.  To meet this timeline, FAA will need to submit a draft it a final rule to OMB by the end of 2015.