Several members of the advisory board of the upcoming Drone World Expo have given their take on the recently proposed rules from the Federal Aviation Administration for commercial unmanned aerial system operations.
Gretchen West, vice president of business development and regulatory affairs at DroneDeploy, says, “While these were positive implications, overall the rule still has several restrictions that would hinder the growth of the commercial market.” One regulation would be maintaining a visual line of sight with the operator – “which restricts many potential applications for precision agriculture use, package delivery, large-area surveying and inspection, and more,” she explains.
Other hindering restrictions include, she says, flying during only the daytime, keeping the UAS away from people not part of the operation and limiting the operator to flying only one UAS. “We do not believe any of these proposed restrictions would have an adverse effect on the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS) and believe there are technologies that can mitigate the majority of the risks outlined in the proposed rule.”
Lisa Ellman, co-chair of the UAS Practice Group at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, notes that the FAA’s proposal is a “strong step in the right direction and provides a great start for discussions on the significant benefits of commercial UAS in the United States.”
Ellman says the FAA’s requiring an operator to have a UAS operator certificate instead of a private pilot license “is particularly good news because the certificate is a much better skill set needed to safely operate a UAS in the NAS.” She brings up the importance of the FAA’s 60-day public comment period: “Innovators should take advantage of the public comment process to continue to make their voices heard.”
Jesse Kallman, director of business development and regulatory affairs at Airware, also notes the importance of the public comment period. “For the next 60 days, we as an industry need to review this document in detail and provide our comments 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.”
“Overall it was refreshing to hear the FAA begin to echo what the industry has been saying for years,” he says of the proposed regulations. “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.”
Colin Guinn, chief revenue officer of 3D Robotics, stresses the need for a micro UAS rule, which would govern all commercial operations for UAS that are under three pounds in weight and are operated at altitudes below 400 feet (as proposed in December on behalf of UAS America Fund LLC by Brendan Schulman, law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP's UAS practice head.
“We need to push for the micro class,” says Guinn. “That's the only thing that will motivate manufacturers to develop small, lightweight, yet very capable systems. The motivation to lighten the systems will keep our skies safer.
“By making the rules around using the lightweight systems pretty straightforward and ‘easy,’ companies are very motivated to integrate these systems into their workflow. Then they will only use the larger systems when they are absolutely necessary,” he adds.