Following the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) release of the proposed rule for drone operations, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is urging the FAA and the Department of Commerce to address three remaining areas of concern in a final rule.
Specifically, Schumer is urging the FAA to reconsider its proposed line-of-sight rule, which requires that all unmanned aerial systems (UAS) fly within the visual line of sight of the operator.
In a letter to the FAA and Commerce Department, the senator writes that this requirement “could significantly hinder the potential for UAS in many commercial usages … including agriculture, mining, construction and infrastructure monitoring, land surveying and mapping, and delivering necessities to rural communities.
Schumer also says the FAA should require drone manufacturers to develop and install built-in software, firmware and GPS tracking in the device to better control where the aircraft fly. This technology, he writes, “would allow enforcement of FAA UAS rules in a simpler and more complete way.”
“Self-enforcement of rules, such as not flying above 500 feet or near restricted airspace, seems to be the simplest and most effective way to ensure safety. This technology also takes human error out of the equation,” he says.
Lastly, Schumer is urging the FAA to work with the Department of Commerce to develop stringent privacy guidelines for the use of drones. “We all shudder to think that someone can send a drone peering into the window of our living room or our bedroom,” he writes.
In light of a number of near-misses at New York City airports, as well as numerous privacy concerns, Schumer says, he has long been an advocate for clearer guidelines on drone use.
He says the proposed rule includes many positive changes that will help make U.S. airspace safer, particularly for commercial air travelers and pilots. For instance, the draft rule requires drones to fly below 500 feet and significantly outside of airport and other secure airspace. The senator says that although this action is a solid first step, the proposed rules do not sufficiently strike a balance between safety and allowing the commercial potential of drones to take flight.
In the letter, he writes that “the FAA has taken a good first step and should also be commended for recognizing that these proposed rules may need further modifications.”
“I appreciate your consideration of these requests,” the letter says. “I look forward to working with you to ensure that commercial UAS – which have the potential to be a truly transformative, beneficial technology – are integrated into the national airspace in a way that promotes economic development and efficiency, as well as privacy and safety.”