A breakdown of the proposed UAS Rule

@jkallman85 on Twitter
20 Март 2015, 18:33
The long-awaited small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was released today. What was included? What was left out? What’s next? Here’s a quick breakdown of the rule and what to expect.
Overall it was refreshing to hear the FAA begin to echo what the industry has been saying for years. UAS will shape and change many industries across America and the technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that the current regulatory framework will not be sufficient to support it. It is important for regulations to match the risk posed by the operation. Today’s proposed rules were a step in the right direction. Here are the highlights:
The expected: The FAA dropped the requirement for operators to have a private/commercial pilot’s license. While this was expected, it is great to see it included since flying a manned aircraft is completely different from operating a UAS. The only similarity is the need for aeronautical and airspace knowledge, which will remain a requirement. The FAA is currently finalizing the exact standard and knowledge test now. The training will be handled at centers across the country, which will make it much easier to attain.
The welcomed surprise: The FAA dropped the requirement for aircraft certification in this category. Removing the need for aircraft certification in this category (within the bounds of the NPRM, under 55 lbs, no flight in populated areas, daytime, within visual line of sight) will allow the market to grow at a much more rapid pace. This is the appropriate approach for low-risk operations. As aircraft increase in weight and distance from operator, certifications on different components make more sense.
The shocking: Operations in class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed. We did not expect to see operations in controlled classes of airspace included. The rule states that operations in class B, C, D, and E airspace are allowed but with the caveat of Air Traffic Control (ATC) approval. This means the responsibility will shift to ATC and will likely still require high certification thresholds.
Still missing: Beyond line of sight (BLOS) operations. Many of the most promising uses of UAS exist in operations that go beyond line of sight, where UAS can be used to do jobs that were previously too dangerous, costly or difficult. The rule is still restrictive in the sense that it prevents BLOS operations and there is no language related to flights over sparsely-populated or populated areas, or mention of technologies that can enhance and ensure safety. The rule does mention the potential for a micro UAS rule (for aircraft under 4.4 lbs), which would allow for some flight over populated areas. However, dropping the weight significantly is not the only option. To ensure safe operations for BLOS and in populated areas, we should look to advances in technology like contingency management, fail-safe mechanisms, and highly-reliable flight control software. The FAA states that the technology is not available, but indeed it is, and is being used safely in Europe today. We are optimistic that the industry can provide enough research before the rules are final to open up this sector of operation, which we see as critical to the growth of the commercial UAS industry in this country.
So what’s next? For the next 60 days, we as an industry need to review this document in detail and provide our comments (www.regulations.gov) back to the FAA so that they hear directly from those who this law impacts. It is important that we provide constructive feedback that will enable the FAA to easily turn this into a final rule we can all utilize. Once the comment period closes, the FAA will adjudicate and release a final rule.
We at Airware believe that safety and reliability are paramount in all categories of UAS operation. Having the right technologies in place will ensure safety across all operational environments and will be key to enabling growth for our industry. It is difficult for regulations to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology but there can be a regulatory framework that allows for technology to be a solution.
Today marks a long-awaited step in the right direction. I look forward to working with our colleagues across the industry to provide feedback to help develop appropriate regulations for the safe use of commercial drones in the United States.