U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., have introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, legislation that sets interim operating guidelines for commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and creates a framework to promote American innovation in the rapidly growing field.
Overall, the Booker-Hoeven legislation will set interim safety rules, help speed up the process for commercial users seeking to fly small unmanned aircraft, and preserve the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) rulemaking authority while providing the agency with the flexibility to make changes in the final rule as necessary.
Specifically, the Commercial UAS Modernization Act does the following:
- Creates an interim rule that provides basic guidelines for commercial use and testing of small UAS during the period the FAA finalizes rules covering commercial UAS;
- Builds a reasonable framework for the registration and use of UAS for commercial purposes – prioritizing safety while also lessening unnecessary burdens on responsible commercial UAS operators;
- Strengthens the FAA’s oversight authorities by creating a deputy administrator position exclusively responsible for the safe integration of UAS in U.S. airspace while also streamlining regulations that currently slow industry’s ability to innovate new aircraft technologies; and
- Ensures that FAA test sites are being used to the maximum extent to facilitate research into new technologies, in partnership with industry and other relevant government entities.
“There is so much potential that can be unlocked if we lay the proper framework to support innovation in unmanned aircraft systems,” says Sen. Booker. “But right now, the U.S. is falling behind other countries because we lack rules for the safe operation of commercial UAS technology. The Commercial UAS Modernization Act sets up clear and immediate rules of the road – helping to lay a foundation that will allow us to make cutting-edge progress in a rapidly emerging field.”
The Commercial UAS Modernization Act is supported by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Small UAV Coalition, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
The Small UAV Coalition notes that this act would allow operators in the U.S. to take advantage of this technology now, instead of waiting one year or longer for the FAA to publish its final rule.
“We’re on the frontier of a whole new era of aviation, when remotely piloted aircraft will improve crop production, provide valuable aid for first responders and even deliver packages to our doorstep,” adds Sen. Hoeven. “We need to design safe pathways for the UAS industry to deliver these benefits to consumers, and our bill, through the test sites, does just that.”
“We cannot allow other countries to outpace us at what we do best,’ Booker explains. ‘This legislation is essential to ensuring our legacy as a country that leads the globe in technological innovation.’
The full bill text can be viewed here.