FAA Pushed to Finalize Drone Rules

With 1 million drones expected to be in the hands of consumers by Christmas, a $1.9 million fine being sought by the FAA from a drone operator, and about 100 drone sightings reported monthly by pilots, members of a House committee with jurisdiction over civil aviation vented frustration and urged action during a recent hearing.

Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation also voiced concern about disrupting an unmanned aircraft industry that is already producing growing numbers of jobs and economic activity, with potential for much more. 

A study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) shows the UAS industry will create over 100,000 jobs and generate $82 billion in revenue in just 10 years. Precision ag is expected to claim more than $65 billion of that market. The reality: None of it will be realized until the FAA finalizes rules for UAS integration into national airspace.  

And for every year that UAS integration is delayed, the U.S. stands to lose $10 billion, which translates into a $27.6 million loss per day.

In 2012, Congress directed the FAA to develop final rules for regulating commercial operation of small, unmanned aircraft. That deadline passed in September.

On February 15, 2015, a proposed set of regulations for small UAS – those under 55 pounds – was released by the FAA and DOT. 

During the hearing, which was held on October 7, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker noted that more than 4,500 comments were received on the proposed rules, and the agency was working through those.

Whitaker told committee members that the agency should have the final rules drafted by the end of this year, and that additional review by the Department of Transportation and other entities would require another six months. He concluded by saying final rules should be in place by June 17, 2016.

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