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FAA unveils effort to expand the safe integration of UAVs

February 24, 2016  - By
Image: GPS World

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee with industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a regulatory framework that would allow certain UAS to be operated over people who are not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft.

The FAA is taking this action to provide a more flexible, performance-based approach for these operations than what was considered for micro UAS. A UAS is generally defined as a micro UAS if it weighs no more than 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) and is constructed of frangible materials “that break, distort, or yield on impact so as to present a minimal hazard to any person or object.”

The committee will begin its work in March and issue its final report to the FAA on April 1. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is a participant.

“The Department continues to be bullish on new technology,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We recognize the significant industry interest in expanding commercial access to the National Airspace System. The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach that can accommodate innovation while maintaining today’s high levels of safety.”

The rulemaking committee will develop recommendations for performance-based standards for the classification and operation of certain UAS that can be operated safely over people; identify how UAS manufacturers can comply with the requirements; and propose operational provisions based on the requirements. The FAA will draft a rulemaking proposal after reviewing the committee’s report.

“Based on the comments about a ‘micro’ classification submitted as part of the small UAS proposed rule, the FAA will pursue a flexible, performance-based regulatory framework that addresses potential hazards instead of a classification defined primarily by weight and speed,”said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

To develop this framework, the FAA is seeking advice and recommendations from a diverse set of aviation stakeholders, including UAS manufacturers, UAS operators, consensus-standards organization, and researchers and academics.

The UAS registration task force established last October serves as a model for the Micro UAS rulemaking committee.  The committee will be co-chaired by Earl Lawrence, Director, FAA UAS Integration Office and Nancy Egan, General Counsel, 3D Robotics.

A Q&A PDF provides additional details.

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