On July 20, 2018, the FAA issued a press release to clarify its position on federal preemption of state and local laws relating to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The brief release reminds states and municipalities that they are preempted from regulating aircraft operations, including flight paths, altitudes, or navigable airspace. On the other hand, however, the FAA acknowledges that states and local governments have the power to regulate landing sites for drones through their land use powers.
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 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.
Yesterday, the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) published details of the new Unmanned Aircraft System (“UAS” or “drone”) Integration Pilot Program (“Program”) in the Federal Register. The White Office of Science and Technology Policy launched this Program to encourage State, local, and tribal governments to collaborate with private industry on innovative UAS operations. The Program is the most significant change in UAS regulation by the Trump Administration and could lead to unprecedented opportunities for companies to test drone applications that were previously restricted.
But time is of the essence—communities and companies must move quickly to avail themselves of the new UAS opportunities. We encourage any interested parties to begin developing a plan and submit a Notice of Intent with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) in the coming weeks. Details of the Program are explained below and are available in the Federal Register Notice.
As the California wildfires grow with devastating impacts on human life, property, and business, the potential unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone) benefits and risks for firefighting (re)emerge. UAS stakeholders, including firefighters, are realizing the potential life-saving and fire response applications of UAS. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local emergency services remain on high alert for UAS that pose a risk to emergency responses.
On July 21, the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (“DAC”) will hold its third meeting of 2017. The virtual meeting will provide the DAC with the opportunity to respond to the FAA’s presentation from the previous meeting and move forward with the priorities of each task group.