The House T&I Committee’s Aviation heard from those on Leading Edge of Aviation
Witnesses asked,among other things for:
Unified rules @ all 50 states and at federal level
More expedition at FAA
Incentives for developing and use of INNOVATION
Chairman Larsen, the able Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, Transportation & Infrastructure, has the vision to call a hearing on innovation in this industry. The five witnesses identified issues which they believed need to be fixed. Some of their targets really do not have Congressional solutions; some are INCREDIBLY URGENT; and many depend on the full development of technologies before policies are developed.
Need for Uniform Law for UAS operations from FAA airspace to Local Roads and low level airspace
The witnesses, Mayor Garcetti and Mr. Grimsley, expressed concerns about a growing body of different UAS laws in different states. Garcetti pointed to the need to develop “national standard and clear rules for managing low-altitude airspace that recognizes the responsibility of local governments around land use, density, and development.” While Congress could preempt and impose a regulatory system which gives the FAA authority in all phases of urban air mobility, that single perspective would likely create a long list of implementation issues.
The need for a non-federal dominant, but consistent set of laws in all 50 states is not a novel need—
The Uniform Law Commission (ULC, also known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws), established in 1892, provides states with non-partisan, well-conceived and well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law.
ULC members must be lawyers, qualified to practice law. They are practicing lawyers, judges, legislators and legislative staff and law professors, who have been appointed by state governments as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to research, draft and promote enactment of uniform state laws in areas of state law where uniformity is desirable and practical.
- ULC strengthens the federal system by providing rules and procedures that are consistent from state to state but that also reflect the diverse experience of the states.
- ULC statutes are representative of state experience, because the organization is made up of representatives from each state, appointed by state government.
- ULC keeps state law up-to-date by addressing important and timely legal issues.
- ULC’s efforts reduce the need for individuals and businesses to deal with different laws as they move and do business in different states.
- ULC’s work facilitates economic development and provides a legal platform for foreign entities to deal with U.S. citizens and businesses.
- ULC Commissioners donate thousands of hours of their time and legal and drafting expertise every year as a public service, and receive no salary or compensation for their work.
- ULC’s deliberative and uniquely open drafting process draws on the expertise of commissioners, but also utilizes input from legal experts, and advisors and observers representing the views of other legal organizations or interests that will be subject to the proposed laws.
ULC is a state-supported organization that represents true value for the states, providing services that most states could not otherwise afford or duplicate.
Chair Larsen should write to the ULC and ask for their help in drafting the Uniform UAS Code.
Expedite FAA actions
Several witnesses complained, in their opinion, the FAA’s slowness is inhibiting their growth. While that may be a valid perception, Congress has a history of establishing deadlines and little results. The Members could add (not just designate, which becomes a zero sum- subtract positions from other offices) staff to these assignments.
It is unreasonable to expect regulations which move to the beat of the Administrative Procedures Act ‘s lugubrious drum to keep up with innovation with speed exceeding the SOUND BARRIER.
Provide incentives for Electric Aircraft Utilization/Operation
Incentives could include tax exemptions and/or cash subsidies. Messrs. Ganzarski, and Scholl argued for such federal economic support for these evolving innovations. Either option would require review by other Hill Committees and those added stops mean delay. More than the authorizing committees open up new fronts for opponents to attack, such as hydrogen and lithium ion energy developers plus visibility attracting proposed add-ons like mandating that the quieter/cleaner planes fly over impacted neighborhoods. The massive infrastructure BILLs might provide a vehicle which might move.
By Kelsey Reichmann | April 30, 2021
During an April 28 House of Representatives Aviation Subcommittee meeting, aviation industry advocates asked Congress to provide more funding for innovation and clearer regulatory guidelines to help advance emerging technologies.
“We need your help at the federal level,” Eric Garcetti, Mayor of the city of Los Angeles, California, said during the hearing. “Don’t let us have 1,000 standards in 1,000 cities. Let’s develop a national standard and clear rules for managing low-altitude airspace that recognizes the responsibility of local governments around land use, density, and development. The FAA needs to prioritize research into safely integrating AAM [Advanced Air Mobility] into congested airspace, as well as research into how takeoffs and landings will weave into the flight path of traditional commercial aircraft operations.”
The stated purpose of the hearing was to allow industry to inform members of the subcommittee on new aviation technologies with potential societal, safety, and environmental benefits, according to Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA). The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), commercial space transportation, the National Mediation Board, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The hearing comes a week after new final rules for flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the national airspace went into effect last week. The rules address remote identification of UAS and UAS operations over people and at night. However, industry experts expressed concern over the slow and often disparate.
“The US safety regulatory system for civil aviation has an enviable record of stewardship over the busiest and most complex aviation system in the world,” James L. Grimsley, executive director of advanced technology initiative at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said. “In order to sustain this vibrancy, our regulatory system needs to evolve to enable and support emerging technologies and new entrants into the airspace, although we’ve made progress in the IPP and BEYOND and understanding how our regulatory system needs to evolve to integrate drones, our policies lagged behind the pace of technological advances. This hinders the industry unnecessarily.”
Later in the hearing, Grimsley cited an example of the regulatory barriers facing industry in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grimsley said he was contacted by many in his community who were looking to use drones for contactless delivery, however regulatory hurdles hindered their ability to be of use.
“We saw a lot of other businesses that were using things like curbside delivery, online ordering app ordering, they were able to shift and society was able to adjust quickly,” Grimsley said. “On the side of things like drone delivery, where society could have benefited, the regulatory system was not ready. We could not get anything in place to do any sort of meaningful missions or to help the public specifically because the regulatory system has been so slow to get to where we are now. So, I’d say our regulatory system actually delayed our ability to respond, in my opinion, very proactively and very constructively to the pandemic response.”
Grimsley said the U.S. is at risk of losing its aviation leadership role because of the slow regulatory movements that are plaguing the drone industry.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) both inquired about competition in the drone industry from China. Adam Bry, chief executive officer at Skydio, said that 80 percent of drones currently in use are made by China and have security concerns.
“Even though the drones are small, the stakes are high,” Bry said. “For the recent past, the drone industry has been dominated by manually controlled drones that are hard to fly and easy to crash. Eighty percent of these drones are made by companies based in China and come with a slew of cybersecurity concerns. The drone market is ripe for a transition from hardware to find products to software-enabled solutions, and…there is an opportunity for U.S. companies to lead the way with the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs here in the U.S.”
Job creation is not the only benefit of U.S.-made drones, Bry said. U.S. manufacturers will also be able to set standards that reflect their values.
“Most importantly, the stronger the domestic drone industry, the more this technology will reflect democratic values,” Bry said. “In 2020, Skydio became the world’s first drone company to issue a set of ethical principles to guide our work. We consider the holistic impact of our products with a particular focus on privacy and civil liberties.”
The U.S. is also falling behind on aviation technologies that can drive environmental sustainability, Roei Ganzarski, chief executive officer at magniX, said during the hearing.
“The U.S. has always been a leader, be an economics, culture, technology, the world looked to us as a beacon for the future, however, with aviation our country is falling short of our reputation for pioneering innovation and leading industry,” Ganzarski said. “In Europe countries are pledging domestic flights to be electric by 2030, banning short flights to reduce emissions, and providing hundreds of billions of dollars to advance carbon-free aviation.”
Ganzarski said the solution is for Congress to invest in electric aviation and provide incentives to operators who adopt it. He said he wants to see an amendment of the Essential Air Service which was passed in 1978 and aimed at guaranteeing that small communities are served by air carriers and given access to the National Air Transportation System.
“Congress needs to provide incentives for operators to adopt electric aircraft for existing and new routes, incentives for airports to invest in charging capabilities, and incentives for manufacturers to develop all-electric aviation solutions. These incentives can include grants, tax credits and more. I also propose amending the Essential Air Service, a taxpayer program, by adding an environmental performance criterion to be awarded subsidies. Separately I’ll share that the FAA is doing an amazing job working with the right attitude and approach with these new technologies, but there are lacking resources.”
Black Scholl, founder and chief executive officer at Boom Supersonic, also advocated for tax credits and policy incentives. He cited the FAA’s work with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as critical to future supersonic flight and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) which is being offered as a solution to move away from fossil fuels.
“Regulatory certainty is vital to our success and ICAO must continue to advance economically reasonable, technologically feasible, and environmentally beneficial standards for supersonic aircraft,” Scholl said. “In the field of SAF, policy incentives will also be critical to accelerating production and adoption. At Boom, we support measures such as blender tax credits to accelerate staff production, and we’re working with a broad coalition of staff stakeholders to advance that policy.”
Pierre Harter, director of research and development at the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University, said the aerospace industry is not only critical to the economy but also national security.
“It is apparent that U.S. dominance in aerospace is a critical economic driver and a national security imperative,” Harter said. “The next two decades promise exciting new aerospace innovations and products that will transform the way we live and work enhancing the quality of life for Americans and the rest of the world. As in the past, the government must continue to support innovation by incorporating these new technologies into a strategic framework, investment in R&D, and capitalizing on industry, academia, and government partnerships will enable the safe, secure, and efficient introduction of these new technologies and products.”
Here is a video report on the hearing (link)
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