UAS Stakeholders Warn Congress of ‘Unintended Consequences’ of Drone Regulation Bill

In response to a recently introduced bill that seeks to empower state and local authorities to regulate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and 13 other organizations have sent a letter to members of Congress to urge them to consider the potential consequences to the drone industry if the legislation were to be enacted.

In the letter, the organizations say the “legislation is premature, and lawmakers should wait until efforts such as the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) have created consensus recommendations – with input from stakeholders – before considering changes to long-standing federal governance of the [National Airspace System].”

“Legislating changes before consensus is reached may have dramatic, unintended consequences that could stifle innovation, restrict economic growth and interstate commerce, and potentially compromise safety,” the groups warn in the letter.

The Drone Federalism Act was recently proposed by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The bill seeks to “establish a process for federal, state, local and tribal governments to work together to manage the use of recreational and commercial drones.” Feinstein said the legislation “allows communities to create low-altitude speed limits, local no-drone zones or rules that are appropriate to their own circumstances.”

In their letter to Congress, the industry representatives point out that the FAA has already “directed the DAC to ‘evaluate and analyze state or local government interests,’ which ‘could form the basis for recommendations to the DAC reflecting a consensus view that could be used to inform future agency action related to the relative role of state and local governments in regulating aspects of low-altitude UAS operations.’ The tasking statement directs the group to issue a report on its findings in 2017.”

The letter explains that a “consistent framework, agreed upon by all parties involved, is essential for the future regulatory system governing one of the fastest-growing areas in the aerospace and technology sectors.”

“We appreciate your willingness to allow a multistakeholder process to proceed and prevent any legislation from moving forward that would jeopardize ongoing and collaborative efforts.”

AUVSI brings up that airspace jurisdiction is likely to be an issue when congressional committees start considering the FAA reauthorization bill, which is expected later this month.

The other groups that authored the letter are the Consumer Technology Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Business Aviation Administration, the Commercial Drone Alliance, the Small UAV Coalition, the Drone Manufacturers Alliance, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the National Association of Tower Erectors, Helicopter Association International, the Air Traffic Control Association, the National Press Photographers Association, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

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