FAA may grant Special Regulatory Relief to use UAVs in Tornado Operations if a well written Exemption is Submitted

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ARTICLE: Scientists hope to predict tornadoes by using little drones

The issues surrounding the operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) involve complex safety, privacy and other policy issues. The potential uses, beneficial and potentially malevolent, require careful deliberation by the FAA with extensive input from a wide range of stakeholders. The Congressional due date is September, 2015.

While that process moves forward, there are a number of specific considerations which may merit interim solutions, such as UAVs’ use in firefighting. The FAA has extraordinary statutory authority; its exemption powers allow it to appropriately remove/reduce a regulatory burden if the request is in the public Interest.

The linked article lists a number of valuable contributions which UAVs may be able to produce immediately. The unmanned aircraft can, for example, make meteorological readings closer to the tornadoes than any piloted aircraft may venture. The scientists believe that such proximate observations will extend the warning by major minutes, thus saving many lives.

One of the FAA rationales for granting exemptions is to gain experience from the approved “test.” Clearly, the use of UAVs for tornado warning/learning purposes would be in the public interest. Further, the operational data that can be gained from these limited flights could be used by the FAA to write its final UAV regulations.

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