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UAS policy expanded in congressional FAA reauthorization bills

By AUVSI News posted 30-06-2017 15:25


Before leaving for the Independence Day recess, congressional committees with oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration approved separate pieces of legislation in the U.S. House and Senate to reauthorize the agency and provide it with funding. The bills included many provisions advocated by AUVSI to expand policy for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems.

In the House, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s legislative package directs the FAA to develop a rulemaking process to certify UAS Traffic Management services, opening a pathway for an operational UTM system. It also establishes an exemption process for deploying UTM in low-risk areas, such as in lower-level altitudes over cropland and other areas that are away from congested airspace.

The House measure also provides for government studies on issues impacting the UAS community. They include a Government Accountability Office report on the roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments concerning UAS operations. Another study would analyze the financing of UAS services by the FAA and how to sustain them. In its UAS Policy Priorities, AUVSI says additional FAA funding is needed to expand a regulatory structure to foster further integration of UAS into the national airspace.

Also, the House directs the FAA to update its UAS integration roadmap, which was created in the 2012 FAA reauthorization bill, and for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense to use their combined expertise to develop a coordinated policy for the development and deployment of counter-UAS technology.

The bill passed by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee before Congress left on its July Fourth break also includes a study on government jurisdiction of UAS, as well as a report on spectrum coordination across government stakeholders. According to its policy priorities, AUVSI says “such a dialogue is imperative to diminish inefficiencies and constraints on the UAS industry that might otherwise result from the implementation of a haphazard spectrum strategy.”

Additionally, the Senate bill urges the FAA to publish procedures for conducting emergency operations by civil operators, which is another long-standing AUVSI policy priority.

There is language in both bills to reinstate the requirement that modelers and hobbyists register with the FAA to operate UAS. The issue was at the center of a recent federal court decision, which ruled the FAA did not have the authority to establish rules or regulations for model aircraft. The FAA’s UAS Registration Service was created in 2015 to increase accountability and safety across the entire aviation community. The court’s ruling did not apply to commercial UAS operators, who are required by the FAA to register each UAS platform in their fleets.

“The UAS provisions in the House and Senate FAA reauthorization bills represent a strong and sustained commitment for the growth of commercial UAS in the United States,” said AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne. “Congress has clearly embraced the need to propel the country forward on the march toward full UAS integration, including beyond-line-of-sight operations, flights over people, access to higher altitudes and even package delivery. We look forward to working with both the House and the Senate to realize the full potential of UAS.”

FAA reauthorization is expected to be considered by the full House and Senate later this month. The FAA’s current authorization expires on Sept. 30.

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