The problems which the FAA has faced in defining how to regulate UAS are well documented, but the below article heralds a wave of new aircraft which will be an even greater conundrum for the FAA regulators.
The risk analyses of UAS vehicles, particularly the less than 55 pound aircraft, find that the kinetic energy is unlikely to produce harm to persons and/or property. This article discusses the fleet of aircraft which can operate on the ground and in the sky. The author identifies six legitimate entrepreneurial companies that plan to offer these vehicles as soon as 2017
Terrafugia, AeroMobil, PAL-V and California-based Moller International all have declared their intentions to launch such “carcrafts.” Most are fixed wing airplanes but one proposal is for “mix between a motorcycle and a gyrocopter.” Several of the innovators recognize that there will be difficulties getting the airworthiness certifications from the FAA. One president, gifted in understatement, is quoted as saying:
“’Building something that works is different than [building] something that’s allowed,’ said Robert Dingemanse, CEO of PAL-V, who said his gyrocopter-style vehicle meets all the necessary road and air regulations in Europe and the U.S.”
Indeed, matching the standards of the existing 14 CFR Part 23 may be difficult for many of the design elements, which accommodate both road and air operations, to match those existing criteria. Perhaps the revised standards for certification of these out-of-the box aircraft will benefit from the new Part 23 with its more “criteria fits proposed function” approach. Administrator Huerta characterized the revised orientation in a recent speech:
“We knew we needed to find a better way to increase safety, certify more efficiently, and help bring more products to market. We quickly realized that the answer was to change our mindset. Instead of being prescriptive, we needed to be performance-based.
Instead of requiring certain design elements on specific technologies, we knew we needed to define the safety outcomes we wanted to achieve. This approach recognizes that there’s more than one way to deliver on safety – and it provides room for flexibility and innovation in the marketplace.”
Once past the safety approval stage, the already pressed FAA staff will have to figure out how to surveil these bimodal vehicles. Developing allowable procedures for take-off and landing will require regulatory ingenuity since these aircraft do not need airports to operate. The FAA staff will have to devise rules to assure safety for the host of operations of which these “carcrafts” are capable. This regulatory conceptualization will test the FAA’s regulatory schemes.
If the demand for these plane/autos is great, the FAA will have to figure out how its limited resources can cope with the certification of the vehicles and of the pilots as well as the coverage of flights which neither have to land nor take off from an airport.