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Commercial Developments

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The commercial UAS industry in Mexico has become a complex ecosystem composed of technology, product, demographic, and market issues. The diverse applications, data and use that can be obtained from UAS operation is already changing the way companies do business in a large number of sectors, such as logistics, inspection, security, mining, agriculture, safety and other industrial applications that UAS can make more productive and economic. According to the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), there are approximately 450 registered organizations, including private companies and governmental entities that are using UAS in Mexico. Some of the governmental entities using UAS in their operations are the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Navy, the Center for Research and National Security, as well as the Ministry of Public Security. Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) is one of the hot topics in the UAS world and commercial/industrial application. Many…

In mid-January, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and the U.S. Federal Aviation  Administration (“FAA”) released a long-awaited proposed rule permitting unmanned aircraft system (“UAS” or “drone”) operations at night and over people. Once the rule is finalized, it will allow commercial operators to fly UAS operations previously restricted under the current Part 107 rules (14 C.F.R. §107) without an individualized waiver from the FAA (14 C.F.R. §107.200).

These rules show that the FAA is advancing from a one-size-fits-all regulatory structure to a more nuanced regime based on risk and safety analyses. For the most part, the rule is not based solely on weight. Instead, it incorporates performance-based requirements to achieve the agency’s safety objectives. Basing UAS restrictions on performance and risk is more consistent with European rules and other countries with advanced UAS regulations.

While the proposed rule represents a step in the right direction, the rule is not likely to be finalized for many months or longer, because the FAA indicated the rule would not be finalized until after the FAA addresses the contentious issue of remote identification of UAS. In the proposed rule—which is expected to be published in the Federal Register next week—the FAA states that it “plans to finalize its policy concerning remote identification of small UAS—by way of rulemaking, standards development, or other activities that other federal agencies may propose—prior to finalizing the proposed changes in this rule.”

On April 19, the US Government issued a fact sheet outlining a new policy (the “New UAS Policy”) on exports of US-origin unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”) and a new National Security Presidential Memorandum (“NSPM”) updating the United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy (the “New CAT Policy”). These changes do not directly impact the export licensing requirements on UAS under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) or the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”). However, according to statements made in a press briefing on these developments, the new policies reflect the Trump Administration’s interest in enabling US manufacturers of UAS to “level the playing field” and increase exports of these products to US allies and partners. They also evidence a broader effort to increase considerations of economic interests in arms transfer decisions. Direct Commercial Sales Perhaps the most significant change made by the New UAS Policy is to allow exports of certain…

The FAA is rolling out the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capacity (“LAANC”), a tool which is allowing operators of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS” or drone) operators  to get immediate approval for certain operations in controlled airspace.  The introduction of LAANC will benefit commercial operators by decreasing the planning time required for many drone operations and increase flexibility in decisions.  LAANC is currently supported at about 50 airports from Miami to Anchorage and is scheduled to expand next year.