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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 Administration’s (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 FAA’s 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 pilot’s 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.
2017-04-25Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Aerial dogfighting began more than a century ago in the skies over Europe with propeller-driven fighter aircraft carried aloft on wings of fabric and wood. An event held recently in southern California could mark the beginning of a new chapter in this form of aerial combat.
2016-08-0813 Takeaways from The White House Workshop
The White House launched a new effort Tuesday to help increase the use of drones and showcased how government agencies have become a proving ground for a wide array of new drone concepts and technologies.
2016-07-24New Report: Drones in Public Safety and First Responder Operations
It may not seem like it, but drones are still in their infancy and only proving themselves through the rigorous testing done privately, commercially, and by state and federal government agencies. Despite the tangible benefits that drones can provide, the public has mixed sentiments about their use by law enforcement, firefighting, and search & rescue operations.
2016-07-14Drone World Expo – Exclusive Interviews – Mark Bathrick
We wanted to find out more about the team behind Drone World Expo – what makes them tick, what motivates them and what are the secrets behind the success of the event. We interviewed Advisory Board member Mark L. Bathrick who directs a nationwide aviation services business for the U.S Department of the Interior (DOI) overseeing the safe operation of over 1,200 contracted and government-owned manned and unmanned aircraft across a wide range of business applications.
2016-07-03Rwanda Readies Life-Saving Drone Delivery System
This summer, small autonomous airplanes will begin carrying life-saving blood to 20 hospitals and healthcare centers across Western Rwanda, Africa, in one of the first-of-its-kind drone-based delivery demonstrations.
Beaverton, Oregon-based drone startup DroneSeed created a drone with a device that fires seeds into the ground using compressed air in an effort to reforest the Pacific Northwest, and eventually forests around the world.
2016-06-21FAA Finalizes Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.
2016-06-17Embry-Riddle Consumer Guide to sUAS for Novices
A research team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Worldwide Campus has created the first-ever comprehensive consumer guide to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for novice users–those individuals interested in purchasing their first small remote controlled or autonomous multi-rotor flying aircraft.
2016-06-09DroneDeploy 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.
2016-06-01Companies 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.
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Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
2012-04-05 Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Flies ScanEagle