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.




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.

Invitation to Review NATO UAS Airworthiness Requirements

2016-02-07
Invitation to Review NATO UAS Airworthiness Requirements
The US Government has issued an Invitation to the Unmanned Aircraft Industry for Review and Comment Period on Edition 1 of NATO Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4703 Light Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Airworthiness Requirements.

Bonded Cellular Technology for Wireless Video Transmission Available for Commercial UAS Operations

2016-02-02
Bonded Cellular Technology for Wireless Video Transmission Available for Commercial UAS Operations
TRIDENT, from FlyMotion integrates LiveU‘s technology for live video acquisition, management and distribution over IP with FlyMotion’s capabilities as a FAA 333 approved UAS solution provider.

FAA Registers 300,000 Unmanned Aircraft Owners During First 30 Days

2016-01-25
FAA Registers 300,000 Unmanned Aircraft Owners During First 30 Days
Nearly 300,000 owners have registered their small unmanned aircraft in the first 30 days after the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) online registration system went live. Owners who registered in the first month received a refund for the $5 application fee.

US Army Special Ops Want Multi-Intelligence UAS

2016-01-23
US Army Special Ops Want Multi-Intelligence UAS
Army aviation special operators want new unmanned aircraft systems that can carry multiple sensors to collect vital intelligence from the battlefield and they’re working with the Army to achieve the capability, Brig. Gen. Erik Peterson, the Army Special Operations Aviation Command commander, said last Thursday.

DHS Privacy Suggestions on Agency Drone Programs

2016-01-12
DHS Privacy Suggestions on Agency Drone Programs
As technology continues to blur the lines between privacy and security, the Homeland Security Department has several suggestions to help agencies consider civil rights and liberties issues when setting up their respective unmanned aircraft system programs.

Air Bases Report Increase in Near-Collisions with Drones

2016-01-04
Air Bases Report Increase in Near-Collisions with Drones
Rogue toy drones – a hot-selling Christmas gift this season and last are starting to interfere with military operations at several bases across the country. With sales of consumer drones expected to approach 700,000 this year, military officials say they are bracing for the problem to get worse and are worried about the potential for an aviation disaster.

Europe Takes Next Step on UAV Regulations

2015-12-28
Europe Takes Next Step on UAV Regulations
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has taken the next step in developing a regulatory framework for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with the publication of its “technical opinion” on the safe use of unmanned aircraft in Europe’s airspace.

FAA Announces Small UAS Registration Rule

2015-12-15
FAA Announces Small UAS Registration Rule
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just announced a streamlined and user-friendly web-based aircraft registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) including payloads such as on-board cameras.

Japans Clue launches DroneCloud, data management platform for businesses using drones

2015-12-08
Japans Clue launches DroneCloud, data management platform for businesses using drones
Tokyo-based Clue announced in November the launch of a data management service for drones called DroneCloud. The service will offer a platform to manage drone data, such as tracking who operates which drone, managing projects and team members operating drones, as well as managing and sharing drone flight data.


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