On February 23, 2015 the FAA issued its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rule Making on Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. It solicited comments on the proposed rules and gave unusually strong indications that substantive comments on specific issues could influence the revision of the final rule. This is a unique opportunity for the SUAS population to impact the rules defining how they operate.
First, unlike a Congressional office, the FAA does not place great stock in the numbers of comments submitted. There is probably an inclination to discount papers which follow a uniform statement. There is little cumulative value to repetition. The FAA staff does highly value thoughtful, well-articulated analysis of why, for example, a specific rule prevents an operation which is safe. Even more compelling would be a description of a practice developed by a sUAS operator, which provides the same or higher level of safety than that found in the proposed Part 107.
Second, it is difficult when reviewing thousands of documents in the docket to discern which paper deserves careful review, particularly when the docket is flooded. In such circumstances, the FAA staff looks for a trusted resource; for example, if comment from a trade association, which has established its technical competence, is found, the ideas contained therein will get greater scrutiny. Again the message should not be broadly drafted words; rather the more careful section specific the comments and the more precise the criticisms, the staff will more likely take the time to compare the NPRM text against alternative wording.
If you are an individual sUAS operator or manufacturer, the most powerful way to get your concrete criticism to the FAA would be to contact the association which represents you in Washington, for example click here. If you have not chosen to join such an organization, then here are some thoughts about how best to make points with the FAA:
· start by introducing your experience-
o detail the years and hours you have devoted to sUAS;
o include any relevant academic credentials;
o list all of the FAA authorities (PPL, A&P, etc.) you may hold;
· get to the NPRM’s draft regulations and to a lesser extent the explanatory text (the “Preamble”):
o cite the specific proposed regulation on which you are commenting;
o quote the words for which you have problems;
o provide words which you think better accomplish the intent of the FAA draft rule;
o emphasize the safety aspects of your preferred version;
o if you feel compelled to argue the added cost of a rule, recognize that the FAA staff is not strongly influenced by those numbers;
o there are sections of the Preamble(I. Executive Summary, C. Costs and Benefits and V. Regulatory Notices and Analyses, B. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Determination (IRFA) which assesses the costs imposed on the public versus the safety benefits . If your financial analyses will change the conclusions of the FAA, that’s where you should direct such dollars.
· YOU MUST SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS TO THE DOCKET BY APRIL 24
· If you have contacts in the trade press, send them your paper and offer to walk the reporter through your points; the FAA reads the prominent journals on a regular basis; if your position is highlighted by one of those publications, the likelihood that the FAA review staff will focus on your criticisms.
· DON’T BE 100% NEGATIVE; comment positively on aspects of the NPRM with which you agree. A negatively dominated discourse is likely to cause the reader’s attention to fade quickly. Remember they are humans!!!
The FAA has signaled, more than other NPRMs, that they will listen; this appears to be an honest request. Take advantage of this opportunity with a well-crafted submission.