Senators Propose Bill to Expedite UAV Exemptions

May 14, 2015  - By

Two U.S. senators have jointly proposed a new bill that could expedite the commercial introduction of drones.

The senators believe the U.S. is falling behind other countries when it comes to creating rules for commercial drones. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, which would set temporary rules for those who want to fly commercial unmanned aircraft systems before the FAA establishes permanent laws regarding drone use.

Sen. Cory Booker

Sen. Cory Booker

The Commercial UAS Modernization Act outlines basic rules for commercial use around registration, certification, insurance, tests and safety. Operators would be required to keep the drones under 500 feet, fly only in daylight, and operate within visual line of sight (LOS). However, the proposal also creates a deputy administrator position that would be able to make an exemption for a commercial drone operator for beyond visual LOS and for “heavier unmanned vehicles.”

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Deputy Associate Administrator, in consultation with the Administrator, shall expedite and expand exemptions from the interim operating restrictions otherwise applicable to unmanned aircraft under section 337,” the act reads. 

Sen. John Hoeven

Sen. John Hoeven

When GPS World talked with Sen. Hoeven this week, he emphasized that this bill seeks to accelerate the commercial use of drones in the U.S. and to make more use of the UAV test centers that the FAA has set up. These centers are capable of doing more, and can be the points that prospective drone operators visit to register their craft and take knowledge and proficiency qualification tests.

The bill gives tight timescales to the FAA to set up accessible locations to achieve registration and set up these operator qualification programs. In addition, the bill establishes a new deputy administrator position responsible for the safe integration of UAS in U.S. airspace, while also streamlining regulations that currently slow the industry’s ability to innovate new aircraft technologies.

In essence, the bill takes the core elements of the FAA’s past Section 333 approvals — less the requirement for a private pilot’s license — and makes them law. Operators would no longer need to ask the FAA for an exemption.

GPS World asked Sen. Hoeven if the FAA has responded to the proposed bill, and he said he would be meeting with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on May 14. “This follows their rules,” the senator said, so his message is let’s move forward together.

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About the Author: Tony Murfin

Tony Murfin is managing consultant for GNSS Aerospace LLC, Florida. Murfin provides business development consulting services to companies involved in GNSS products and markets, and writes for GPS World as the OEM Professional contributing editor. Previously, Murfin worked for NovAtel Inc. in Calgary, Canada, as vice president of Business Development; for CMC Electronics in Montreal, Canada, as business development manager, product manager, software manger and software engineer; for CAE in Montreal as simulation software engineer; and for BAe in Warton, UK, as senior avionics engineer. Murfin has a B.Sc. from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK, and is a UK Chartered Engineer (CEng MIET).