Drone News: Forward and Upward

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Media are highly drawn to the topic of UAS’ technology, regulation, uses and a variety of other elements of this exciting new aviation business. Google searches spew out many, many stories about the drones. As with recent posts with a similar title, here are a few lead news articles culled from a much longer list:

· Prosecutors will not charge White House drone operator, FAA may finethe pilot of the quadcopter (pictured above) which landed at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will not be criminally charged because the Secret Service’s investigation demonstrated that the individual was not controlling the UAS when crashed. The matter is being turned over to the FAA for civil enforcement (penalty: $1,100) for breaching the prohibited P 56 airspace, it was reported. Thus, his very capable lawyer may not be able to reassert the Pirker legal attack on the FAA’s UAS authority.

· Video: Texas University conducts test flights for RPA sense-and-avoid system— Sense and Avoid may be the technological advance which may allow the FAA to relax some of its strictures. Texas A&M University Corpus Christi’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems research center (LSUASC) working with SRC, Inc. to test a promising system. If this is a breakthrough, the FAA may have to reconsider some of its Part 107 standards (such as requiring an observer and/or “daisy chain” set of “eyes”. Amazon, FedEx and other potential commercial users will be tracking this and other sense and avoid technologies.

· State Farm® Cleared for Takeoff one of recent FAA §333 exemptions drew some interesting comments and appears to be oblivious to the essence of the future safety of their uses of a sUAS:

. The sUAS Coalition argued in favor of a less restrictive set of conditions on the proposed use (no Part 61 certification of the “operator”, no visual line of sight requirement, etc.

. ALPA opposed grant for a number of reasons, significantly that petitioner’s reference to operations conducted within “limited or predetermined” sterile areas is not defined, nor does the petitioner detail procedures for controlling the airspace or area of operation.”

. Finally, the National Agricultural Aviation Association (the crop dusters) made a plea that these UAVs pose risks for their low-level flights.

The FAA granted this request for test and research operations as a prelude to future use of UASs to underwrite, re-underwrite, respond to catastrophes, inspect roofs, and setting resolutions. All of these exploratory operations will be performed in restricted environments in the air and on the ground. Ostensibly the results of this experiment will be used to justify future UAS flights over populated areas, such as an emergency. However, the FAA did not define the parameters of safety, which would justify operations with humans on the ground, to be demonstrated in the tests.

Policy may best be formed from a singular perspective; that’s why Congress enacted the statute (FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012) and set standards for the FAA to implement. The §333 exemptions and the Part 107 NPRM are examples of the FAA’s exercise of that authority.

The decision not to prosecute the White House UAS “flier” will keep the policy decision making at the FAA and that is good.

Technology, like the Texas A&M research and other efforts, may help make the regulations more finite.

The FAA test sites, the exemptions and basic research will further likely expand the data base for the final rules. The State Farm ® exemption failed to establish some experimental criteria, a priori, to approve future UAS operations over unassociated people. Now, once State Farm ® finishes its experiment, the first thing that the public will want to know is what did the study prove which will allow these UASs to fly over the general populace.

Policy will evolve but the process will move more directly with explicit directions.

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