Author

Graham Keithley

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As the second anniversary for FAA’s rules for the commercial operation of small UAS (sUAS)—Part 107—quickly approaches, this Insight Series will provide updates regarding on-going UAS rulemaking efforts since Part 107. Although Congress has required more FAA action and the industry has been clamoring for guidance to open the skies to UAS with new rules, the FAA has been limited in its rulemakings and many rulemakings have been significantly delayed.  However, the recently released Report on DOT Significant Rulemakings (March 2018) and the Agency Rule List (Fall 2017) suggest the FAA is making progress and new rules will be proposed in 2018.  Continue to follow our Insights for analyses of newly proposed and final UAS rules.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) released its recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”).  Despite a lack of consensus on issues, the recommendations should help the FAA develop new rules for drone identification and tracking. Although the FAA was scheduled to publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on identification (“ID”) and tracking requirements in May 2018, the proposed rules remain under review by the Department of Transportation and have missed a February 2018 deadline for the Office of Management and Budget to start its review.  It is unclear when the rulemaking will progress.

Launched in June 2017 to address concerns over “rogue” drones flying in the National Airspace System (“NAS”), the FAA tasked the ARC with providing recommendations regarding UAS remote identification and tracking technologies. Comprised of three Working Groups; Existing and Emerging Technologies, Law Enforcement and Security, and Implementation, its membership represented a broad range of aviation and UAS industry stakeholders.  The ARC met several times to educate the public, gather information, and to discuss and deliberate among members and finalized its report in September 2017. 

The White House unveiled a highly anticipated Drone Integration Pilot Program (“Program”) that will allow state and local government to test different models for low-altitude regulation of drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”).  The Program represents a significant break from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) previous position to discourage state and local government involvement in most aspects of UAS operations and is designed to encourage private entities to undertake innovative UAS testing in the United States, such as drone package delivery.  It will create more opportunities for cutting-edge commercial UAS flights for communities and operators, but the FAA and commercial aviation will likely continue to resist expanded operations that pose safety risks, including flights near airports.

EASA is proposing to impose UAS standards throughout EU Member States, harmonizing rules for UAS operations and establishing a low-risk and medium-risk operational categories, Open and Specific, respectively. In addition to the operating rules, EASA is also proposing to impose requirements on manufacturers, importers, and distributors to ensure that operators can more easily comply with the proposed framework, particularly for the operation of off-the-shelf UAS that will not require approvals.  For businesses that want to go beyond the limits of the Open category operations, such as testing new UAS platforms, some form of approval will be required, but EASA is considering mechanisms that can facilitate those operations.  EASA seeks public comments by September 15th.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined that the FAA’s registration rule for recreational unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS” or “drones”) was beyond its legal authority.  While this ruling is a setback for the FAA in its ability to track and oversee the hundreds of thousands of recreational drones operating in the U.S., we view the obstruction as temporary and likely to be fixed legislatively. In December 2015, the FAA began requiring the registration of all…