FAA reauthorization contains key UAS provisions

By UAS Magazine Staff | August 15, 2016

A bill reauthorizing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through September 2017, passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed by Pres. Barack Obama in July, contains key provisions for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), said, “This FAA extension will provide short-term stability for the commercial UAS industry. Its provisions will help expand commercial operations, advance research and keep the airspace safe for all users – manned and unmanned.”
Spokespersons from various industries offered their own respective takes on what the reauthorization means for UAS and industry.

Oil and Gas
Spokespersons for the energy and insurance industries commended Congress for the legislation. Robin Rorick, midstream director with the American Petroleum Institute, said, “The ability to use drones will allow the industry to use the latest technologies to continue to effectively monitor infrastructure and facilities while minimizing the risk to personnel.”

Jimi Grande, senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said UAS technology can assist policyholders during times of disaster.
“Drones can go into disaster-stricken areas long before those areas can be established as safe for humans, which means damage can be surveyed and claims can begin to be processed far more swiftly to help victims begin their recovery process,” he noted.

Electric Utility
Tom Kuhn issued, president of the Edison Electric Institute, said, "With this legislation, Congress has made clear its priorities for the FAA, specifically highlighting the need for owners and operators of critical infrastructure to operate unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight.”


Key UAS measures in HR 636, the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, include:

Test Sites Continue
• An extension authorizing the FAA’s six UAS test sites until February 2020. The sites are the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, North Dakota; the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation in Corpus Christie, Texas; the Nevada Unmanned Aerial System Test Range in Las Vegas; the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership test site for Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey; the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in Fairbanks; and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance Inc. (NUAIR) site in Rome, New York.

Emergency Flights Made Easier
• A streamlined process to deploy UAS during emergency situations such as natural disasters and wildfires.

No Fire Flying
• A provision that prohibits UAS operators from interfering in firefighting and other emergency situations. It includes civil penalties of up to $20,000.

Don’t Fly Near Airports
• A process to detect, identify and mitigate against the unauthorized use of UAS near airports and other critical infrastructure.

Facility Fly-Overs Limited
• The ability for facility operators to request an FAA designation that prohibits UAS flights near structures such as energy generation and transmission facilities, refineries and amusement parks.

Preaching Safety
• A requirement for small UAS manufacturers to provide their customers with information on safety and FAA regulations.