Industry wants UAS regulations Expedited; pressing an already burdened FAA is really a good idea? Should Alternatives be considered?

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Aerospace, Consumer Tech Lobbies Join Forces to Push for Domestic Drone Regulations

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The President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries wrote a letter to her successor, FAA Administrator Huerta, as follows:

“We write to urge your expedited consideration and approval of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regulating the safe use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in U. S. airspace. Representing the aerospace manufacturing and technology industries — growing sectors of our economy — we do not often request additional regulation.” (emphasis added)

This is surprising; not because an industry is asking an agency to set the rules for a new and potentially lucrative industry; but because AIA should comprehend why the FAA has not expedited the promulgation of the UAS rules.

One could make a credible argument that the FAA leads all Executive Agencies in the category of expected production exceeding realistic resources (and then are constantly being reduced). The NTSB, the Inspector General, the Governmental Accountability Office, multiple Congressional Committees and numerous consumer groups all have long lists of regulations which are deemed a priority and for which the FAA is deleterious. At the same time bean counters in OMB and the Senate and HR budget committees have their dashboards identifying where the agency staff should continue to be cut.

Aside from their overburdened regulatory safety mission, the Administrator, the Deputy Administrator and their executives devote considerable focus to NextGen. Only recently, space was added to the FAA’s purview. Clearly there is not a surfeit of time for these policy makers to shift their attention to UAS rules.

Please note that the FAA is a competent aviation regulatory organization. Congress has told the rule makers to also draft privacy rules, which are not within their normal work. That’s a very taxing element to their task.

So with that background the FAA is being asked to expedite the comprehensive rules on aircraft certification, operator qualification and certification, pilot training and flying rules, separation between UASs and aircraft in the airspace as well as between these vehicles and life on the ground, the host of ATC rules and procedures, etc., etc.,etc. It may well be that the FAA has been studying this regulatory regime for a longtime, but it is equally evident that the scope of their assignment tends to grow exponentially every day.

Even if the FAA meets its August, 2014 FINAL rule deadline (already an impossibility under normal APA guidelines for a complex set of innovative standards), then the REAL business begins. Where will Administrator find the staff to approve the hundreds of aircraft,

to qualify the thousands of operators, to control the millions of flights and to surveil the literally myriad of issues that will emanate once these first iteration/ imprecise standards are issued?

Perhaps it is time to pause and reflect. Is it really wise to expect that an already tested FAA, which is challenged keeping up with

· the airlines (which are shrinking),

· the OEM manufacturers (which are increasing the demand upon certification),

· GA/BA aircraft,

· space flight (threatening to expand) and

· NextGen (most demanding),

can reasonably be expected to keep abreast of the UAS business which Ms. Blakey expects to explode. If the FAA issues the rules and if it cannot meet all of its regulatory requirements, the worst scenario would be a horrible incident/accident in which the government is implicated.

The aforementioned pause might cause policy makers to reconsider whether there are other options. Should UAS be guided by a governmental institution which has almost 80 years of precedent which influences its views on an industry which has a substantial future before it? Might innovation and expansion be better served by a fresh set of regulatory eyes? Yes, the airspace must be integrated, but today civil and military uses of the airways coexist.

Just a thought!

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