Senate Bill Calls for Certification of Unmanned Aircraft

2016-03-26

Senate Bill Calls for Certification of Unmanned Aircraft
The Senate’s version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 has finally made it out of committee, and it contains 65 pages of requirements for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Some of these provisions go to the heart of the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) philosophy for dealing with unmanned aircraft. If enacted, the legislation could have a profound impact on the development of this industry.

First and foremost, the bill will require all small UAS to meet design and production standards within one year from enactment. Manufacturers will not be allowed to sell any UAS in the United States unless they certify to the FAA that their design and manufacturing processes meet these new standards, and that random production samples are tested to the standard. A manufacturer will also have to provide a sample of the UAS to the FAA for review.

While the Senate is clear that it does not want the FAA to use the existing certification processes, lawmakers are essentially creating a “light” version of type certification. The FAA would retain some flexibility under the bill, as the agency can determine the applicability of the standard. However, it would be within the FAAs discretion to apply the standard to all aircraft.

In addition, it is not clear if the Senate intends the FAA to apply these standards to model aircraft as well as aircraft operated commercially. What is clear is that, if enacted, the bill would reverse the course the FAA has taken with the small UAS rule, where airworthiness certification will only be required for vehicles that operate over people or beyond visual line of sight.

Another major philosophical change in the bill is the requirement that all operators (even model aircraft pilots) pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. The FAA does, however, have the authority to conduct a rulemaking to find that a particular type of user does not need to take the test. The bill also exempts aircraft under .55 pounds, and pilots under 13 years of age who fly under the supervision of an adult who has passed the test. The FAA would have 180 days to put the testing process in place after the bill becomes law. Interestingly, the FAA is specifically prohibited from issuing a civil penalty for a first-time violation of the requirement.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation also made three significant, last-minute additions to the bill. The first establishes a two-year deadline for the FAA to create a new operating certificate for unmanned aircraft package delivery operators. The second gives the FAA nine months to establish a rule for micro UAS (under two kilograms, or 4.4 pounds) that would not require a pilots certificate and would be operated similarly to model aircraft. The third gives the FAA nine months to develop standards for UAS operations by institutions of higher education. If the FAA does not complete the standards on time, the institutions can essentially operate on the same basis as model aircraft.

Given the significant differences between the House and Senate versions of the FAA Reauthorization, it is unclear what legislation will ultimately emerge when the House and Senate finish negotiating. The time for the industry to make its voice heard is short, and the time to act is now. We will keep you informed as the legislative process moves forward.




DroneDeploy Users Map 3,000,000 Acres

2016-06-09
DroneDeploy Users Map 3,000,000 Acres
At the Drones Data X Conference in San Francisco, Mike Winn, co-founder and CEO of DroneDeploy, announced in his keynote that our users had achieved a new industry milestone: 3,000,000 drone mapped acres across 120 countries.

Companies Team for UAS Inspection of Wind Turbines

2016-06-01
Companies Team for UAS Inspection of Wind Turbines
Two companies involved in aerial wind inspection services, HUVRdata, based in Austin, TX and EdgeData based in Grand Forks, ND, announced a collaboration to deliver a suite of wind industry data intelligence tools and credential processes to optimize the use of this technology within the wind industry.

DARPA Demo Day at the Pentagon

2016-05-15
DARPA Demo Day at the Pentagon
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency yesterday hosted DARPA Demo Day 2016 at the Pentagon, giving the Defense Department community an up-close look at the agency’s portfolio of innovative technologies and military systems.

FAA Enables Section 333 UAS Registration Online

2016-04-25
FAA Enables Section 333 UAS Registration Online
What’s not to like about an automated government system thats faster, simpler and more user-friendly than the paper-based system it supplements?

Europe Wants UAS for Migrant Route Surveillance

2016-04-19
Europe Wants UAS for Migrant Route Surveillance
EU border patrol agency Frontex announced Friday that it is in talks with industry for using remotely piloted aircraft for maritime surveillance, adding drones to its existing portfolio of satellite and sensor technologies for monitoring vessel traffic and migrant flows.

AUVSI Study of FAA Exemptions Published

2016-04-17
AUVSI Study of FAA Exemptions Published
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has released an interactive analysis that finds 38 types of business operations have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aircraft systems commercially in the National Airspace System (NAS). According to the report that analyzed more than 3,000 FAA exemptions, aerial photography received the most, followed by real estate and aerial inspection. The report also finds that exemptions have been approved in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible within a Decade

2016-03-15
Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible within a Decade
Dreams of antimatter space propulsion are closer to reality than most rocket scientists could ever imagine, says former Fermilab physicist Gerald Jackson. In fact, if money were no object, he says an antimatter-driven spacecraft prototype could be tested within a decade. To that end, next month, Jackson and his Chicago-based Hbar Technologies firm are launching a $200,000 Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the next phase of its antimatter propulsion research.

FAA Announces Effort to Expand the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft

2016-02-28
FAA Announces Effort to Expand the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee (PDF)with industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a regulatory framework that would allow certain UAS to be operated over people who are not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft.

Australian Researchers Navigate with Drones in Antarctica

2016-02-18
Australian Researchers Navigate with Drones in Antarctica
Flying drones in Antarctica is not easy. A 100-110 degree difference between true and magnetic north at this location complicates navigation. There’s zero terrain protection against the strong headwinds that cut through like a knife, theres snow, and drone batteries discharge quickly in the freezing conditions.

UAS Project to Increase Snowpack in Nevada Mountains

2016-02-12
UAS Project to Increase Snowpack in Nevada Mountains
A new industry-academic research partnership will bring together Nevada’s top atmospheric scientists and leading unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) engineers, designers, and data experts to develop and test innovative applications focused on increasing snowpack depths in the Lake Tahoe region.


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