AUVSI, UAS industry reps call out FAA on missed deadline

By Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International | October 01, 2015

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) led 28 other organizations and companies in sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) marking its failure to meet the congressionally mandated deadline for integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA has had more than three years to meet the Sept. 30, 2015 deadline for full integration, yet the agency hasn’t even completed the small UAS rule. 

The co-signees include a broad array of UAS stakeholders, including manned and unmanned aviation organizations and companies representing industries from energy and construction to insurance and engineering. 

“While the FAA has hit some milestones in the integration process, it has yet to finalize small UAS rules, let alone facilitate the full integration of UAS that Congress contemplated in 2012,” the letter states. “The increasing number of businesses applying for Section 333 exemptions demonstrates the pent-up demand for commercial UAS operations and the immediate need for a regulatory framework.” 

The UAS industry is poised to be one of the fastest-growing in American history. During the first decade following UAS integration, the industry is projected to create more than 100,000 jobs and provide more than $82 billion in economic impact, according to AUVSI’s economic impact study. 

“The benefits of UAS are significant. Whether it is assisting first responders with rescue missions, helping the insurance industry more efficiently survey damages due to natural disasters, or helping farmers improve crop yields, the applications of UAS are virtually limitless and enable public agencies and businesses to do things safer and more cost effectively,” the letter states. 

Additionally, the letter argues that the lack of regulations isn’t just limiting the economic potential of the industry; it’s also causing states and municipalities to fill the void with laws that they may not have the authority to enforce. The most recent example was California’s Senate Bill 142, which would have restricted UAS from flying below 350 feet over private property. Only the FAA can regulate airspace; states and municipalities cannot. According to the U.S. Code, “The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.”

“In addition to creating inconsistencies with federal law, state and local proposals have the potential to stifle innovation and create a complicated patchwork of laws. Some people are already confused about where they should and should not fly. For the continued safety of the airspace, the FAA needs to finalize the small UAS rules to bring greater clarity to, and awareness of, the policies governing UAS, not allow more confusion to take hold,” the letter states. 

“On behalf of businesses across a wide range of industry sectors in the United States, we urge the FAA to use all available means to finalize the small UAS rules immediately without any further delays and move ahead with the next regulatory steps on the path for integrating all UAS into the NAS. Once this happens, we will have an established framework for UAS operations that will do away with the case-by-case system of approvals, reducing the barriers to commercial UAS operations. And importantly, having more trained commercial operators will create a culture of safety that helps deter careless and reckless behavior.” 

The letter co-signees include the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA); Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Airware; American Aerospace Technologies, Inc.; American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC); Battlefield International Inc.; Cherokee Nation Technologies; Comply365; Georgia Southern University; Gryphon Sensors LLC; JohnsTek Inc.; Kaizen Kinetics International Inc.;  Kespry Inc.; MAPPS; Merlin Global Services; National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC); National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS); Near Earth Autonomy; NUAIR Alliance; PAISAJES GALLEGOS, S.L.; Plastic-Metals Technology, Inc.; SOAR Oregon; SRC, Inc.; Textron Systems Unmanned Systems; the AES Corporation; Trimble Navigation; Unmanned Vehicle University; and xCraft.

The full letter may be found at http://bit.ly/Sept30LetterToTheFAA.