While technology has progressed quickly, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) policymaking has lagged behind. Commercial drones efficiently and safely inspect our nation’s infrastructure, deliver medical and other supplies, and enable social distancing while accomplishing important tasks. However, even though Congress mandated that the federal government develop a plan to integrate UAS into the national airspace system (NAS) almost ten years ago, commercial drone operations beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the operator are still not broadly authorized in the United States. The inability to operate UAS BVLOS of the operator forecloses many of the most promising and beneficial UAS use-cases that can benefit all Americans.
That could soon change, as today marks an important step forward. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson has just announced the formation of the UAS BVLOS Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The FAA forms ARCs on an ad hoc basis to provide information, advice, and recommendations to the FAA on particular subjects on which the FAA is interested to conduct rulemaking.
According to its charter, the objective of the UAS BVLOS ARC is to provide recommendations to the FAA for performance-based regulatory requirements to normalize safe, scalable, economically viable, and environmentally advantageous BVLOS UAS operations in the NAS.
The ARC will be tasked to recommend requirements for a performance-based regulatory framework for BVLOS operations that would apply to several important UAS use-cases, including long-line linear infrastructure inspections, industrial aerial data gathering, small package delivery, and precision agriculture operations.
The ARC is comprised of a committee of selected members representing various aviation stakeholder groups, including stakeholders in academia; infrastructure security; privacy; state, local, tribal, and territorial governance; technology and network infrastructure; traditional aviation associations; UAS associations; UAS manufacturing; and UAS operations.
Lisa Ellman, Hogan Lovells partner and Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, will serve as an Industry Lead for a Working Group focused on market drivers. We look forward to working with other stakeholders to support this important effort.
According to a notional schedule, ARC plenary meetings begin later this month, and a final recommendation report is due to the FAA in six months. Given ongoing delays in UAS integration, it will be very important to keep the work of the ARC on time and moving forward expeditiously.
Authored by Lisa Ellman, Arjun Garg, Patrick Rizzi, Emily Kimball, Matt Clark, and Christina Isnardi.