Drone Groups Comment on FAA's Small UAS Draft Regulation

 - April 24, 2015, 3:19 PM
Among latest announcements, a plantetary scientist unveiled the NASA-inspired C-mi Drone, which features an extendable camera.

The largest trade group representing the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry in the United States is calling on the FAA to establish a more flexible regulation than the agency has proposed for commercial use of small drones. Among recommendations, it calls for the FAA to permit nighttime and beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) operations.

“In the United States, we’re at a pivotal moment in the history of UAS,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “This technology holds tremendous potential for businesses big and small across all sectors. The benefits of this technology are broad, and we need to make sure that we are doing all we can to support its growth and development. The U.S. is certainly in danger of falling behind other countries that have already put more permissive regulations in place.”

The rate of new drone developments continued apace. Aero Kinetics, a Fort Worth company, announced this week that it has filed the first application with the FAA to type certify a multi-rotor small unmanned aircraft. A company founded by planetary scientist Mark Richardson unveiled the “C-mi” drone, which it said is NASA inspired.

Wynne spoke during a teleconference AUVSI conducted on April 24 as the comment deadline arrived for the FAA’s small UAS notice of proposed rulemaking. The agency released the long-delayed proposed rule for drones weighing less than 55 pounds on February 15. “We need to permit more expansive uses of UAS than those contemplated in the draft rule,” Wynne said. “First, as a general principle, we believe the FAA should adopt a risk-based, technology-neutral approach to regulation, focusing on the risk profile of a particular UAS operation instead of solely regulating the platform being flown, an approach that has been successful in other countries with growing commercial UAS industries.”

BLOS operations would be vital to the agriculture industry, which is expected to comprise more than 80 percent of the market for small drones, while also permitting future applications such as package deliveries, Wynne said. Nighttime operations would be beneficial for fighting forest fires and conducting searches, he added.

The FAA has advised that soliciting and assessing the comments it receives and producing a final regulation could take 18 months or more. Wynne said that he recently spoke with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta regarding the agency’s timing to complete the final rule. “The administrator basically said he wants to get it done by the end of the year. I asked him how I could help him with that, because I think that’s a good goal,” he recounted.

In an April 22 release, the Small UAV Coalition said it supports the general framework of the proposed rule. But the trade group representing Amazon Prime Air, Google, DJI, Parrot, 3D Robotics, camera supplier GoPro and other small drone interests has suggested more than 20 revisions. Among them, it calls on the FAA to revise operational limitations on micro UAS operations; establish a process to authorize BLOS operations; revise categorical restrictions on night operations and flights over people not involved in the operation; establish an online testing procedure for initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge testing; and allow small drones to transport property for compensation.

In a separate solicitation, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) received 51 responses from organizations and individuals to its request for comments on “privacy, transparency and accountability” considerations of using unmanned aircraft.

Among those submitting comments to the Commerce Department agency by its April 20 deadline were: CTIA-The Wireless Association, representing wireless telecommunications companies; the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions; the Motion Picture Association of America; the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies; the National Association of Realtors; the News Media Coalition of national media outlets and the Newspaper Association of America.