A recent hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s aviation subcommittee regarding the safe utilization of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) highlights the urgent need for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue federal regulations for the burgeoning industry.
A primary topic at the hearing was the FAA’s failure to meet a three-year-old, congressionally mandated Sept. 30 deadline to implement regulations governing the use of small unmanned aircraft systems, or s-UAS. The agency issued a proposed framework earlier this year, but final rules aren’t expected before 2016.
In his testimony, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael G. Whitaker, FAA deputy administrator stressed the need to maintain a focus on operational safety. “[The] FAA does not underestimate the importance of integrating the range of UAS technology into the NAS, but there are significant safety challenges that must be mitigated for this to occur,” he added.
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen echoed that sentiment, noting that NBAA has been directly involved for years in efforts to assist the FAA in moving ahead on UAS policies and regulations in a deliberative, though expeditious, manner.
“It is clear that lawmakers share our concerns about the widespread proliferation of UAS without clear guidance, or definitive regulation of the industry,” Bolen added following the Oct. 7 hearing. “It is now more apparent than it’s ever been that we urgently need guidance, through the established rulemaking process, which produces a national regulatory framework that enhances safety and creates a reliable set of operating procedures for UAS operators and the broader public alike.”
NBAA has long maintained that it is imperative that any introduction plan for UAS be focused on safety. This means UAS should not share the same airspace with manned aircraft until they have equivalent certification and airworthiness standards as manned aircraft, including the ability to take timely directions from air traffic control, and to sense and avoid other aircraft and UAS.
Also testifying at the hearing “Ensuring Aviation Safety in the Era of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” James Hubbard, deputy chief for state and private forestry with the U.S. Forest Service; Capt. Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association; Rich Hanson, director of government and regulatory affairs for the Academy of Model Aeronautics; and Dr. Mykel Kochenderfer, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University.