The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) recently provided comments to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regarding small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS).
AAU and APLU urged the FAA to allow university researchers to fly sUAS beyond line of sight and encouraged the agency to create a new micro UAS classification. The two associations also expressed concern that the current FAA proposal places too many restrictions and administrative burdens on sUAS operators. They further recommended that the agency create a student operator certificate to accommodate faculty who want students to fly sUAS as part of their classes.
“Our institutions have a strong interest in taking advantage of the significant extant benefits of UAS, as well as in researching the potential of UAS to increase America's competitiveness and enhance the social good,” the associations wrote to the FAA.
“Across the country, our universities are seeking to utilize UAS to improve research and development efforts, inspect infrastructure, and teach students. In addition to utilizing UAS to conduct research, our universities’ faculty experts are studying UAS-related issues particularly relevant to the emerging public debate on the use of UAS, ranging from aviation safety to privacy.
“For these reasons, we have urged the expeditious fulfillment by the FAA of its Congressional mandate, established in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, to develop a plan to safely integrate UAS into the NAS.”
In APLU and AAU’s submission to the NTIA, the associations asserted that because universities use sUAS for research rather than commerce, any regulations should distinguish universities from other entities.
The letter added that as the NTIA begins the process of engaging with multiple stakeholders to develop best practices, the NTIA Working Groups should include academic researchers and faculty, particularly those who offer subject-matter expertise in the areas of the First Amendment, privacy and aviation.