UAS lands on White House grounds and gets POTUS’ attention; will that expedite or slow the FAA NPRM

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The serpentine path from initiation to finalization of major policy statements moves at an uneven pace, but once in a while some seemingly random event escalates the progress of an NPRM. The recent accidental landing of the above sUAS on the White House grounds (see below article) may have had the collateral benefit of moving the UAS rule towards issuance.

The trail from first idea to final rule is tortuous and filled with traps, as described here. The history of the UAS draft NPRM (see October 2014 Significant Rulemaking Report) starts four years ago and has climbed up and down the FAA-DoT-OMB ladder since then. The proposed UAS for small “drones” has been in the lap of the Office of the Secretary for over 6 months and it is the 5th time that the staff there has had the document. Next it will go to OMB, actually OIRA, for that office’s omniscient review.

The second article (below) indicates that the President of the United States was made aware of the landing (accidental) within the security perimeter of 1600 Pennsylvania, his residence. The Commander-in-Chief is quoted as reacting to this incident as follows:

“’You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages… There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.’ Obama said. ‘But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.’”

Not infrequently, such a response by the Chief Policy Officer of the US would cause the bureaucrats at OST and OIRA to scramble to approve and issue the rules as final as soon as possible! Other similar stimuli have caused a quick NPRM result. Odd events do not always result in great policies. The UAS community would applaud the hobbyist ,who interdicted the White House protective cocoon with his sUAS, for his inadvertent collateral effect.

A more negative, skeptical observer might caste this incident to create the opposite result. Those reviewing the UAS NPRM might now be overwhelmed with the potential of these aircraft to elude “nets” protecting the government or private property. Now they will be transfixed with the regulatory task of preventing that possibility, if that goal is achievable in the near term.

We will wait to see which path, accelerated or impeded, will UAS’s review take?

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