Secretary Chao decided to use the platform of the Transportation Research Board to announce three major new proposals on the regulation and development of Unmanned Aerial Systems:
On January 14, 2019, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced proposed new rules and a pilot project to allow unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or more commonly called drones, to fly overnight and over people without waivers under certain conditions and to further integrate drones safely into the national airspace system.
DRAFT NPRM–Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems over People (PDF)
These proposed changes to Part 107 would attempt to balance the need to mitigate safety risks without inhibiting technological and operational advances.
DRAFT ANPRM–Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PDF)
The FAA will seek public input to identify major drone safety and security issues that may pose a threat to other aircraft, to people on the ground or to national security as drones are integrated into our national airspace.
Both the NPRM and ANPRM will be published in the Federal Register at a later date.
Drone Traffic Management Pilot Project Selectees
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management System Pilot Project will be distinct, but complementary to, the traditional FAA’s air traffic management system.
The pilot project, through September 2019, is intended to develop and demonstrate a traffic management system to safely integrate drone flights within the nation’s airspace system. Also, the pilot project will create a shared information network and gather data that can be used for future rulemakings.
Through a stringent application and evaluation process, the following providers were selected based on the strength of industry partnership, the maturity of the technology offered, and overall cost: Nevada UAS Test Site Smart Silver State; Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site; and, Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.
These contracts have been awarded to mature technologies for unmanned aircraft traffic management including, flight planning, communications, aircraft separation and weather services for these drones, which will operate under 400 feet.
Developing drone traffic management was initiated as a research project by NASA and subsequently became a major joint effort between the FAA and NASA. In April 2017, through Congressional direction, the agencies combined their respective technology research and began defining the scope of the pilot project.
For more information:
Here are some of the articles on the substance of this proposal:
It also wants to allow them to be flown at night by trained pilots
The merits of these proposals will be debated when the Federal Register is reopened.
Technically these documents are not NOTICES OF PROPOSED RULEMAKINGs in that there is not official place to announce them to the public, which is a requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act.
This NOTICE OF PUBLICIZED RULEMAKING, an anomalous action, has some other different, if not unique, features.
- The documents were carefully drafted, revised and redrafted (usually multiple iterations) by
- FAA attorneys, economists, safety experts and policy analysts
- DOT attorneys, economists, safety experts and policy analysts
- OMB attorneys, economists, safety experts and policy analysts
? was all of the work completed before the shutdown
? if yes, why wasn’t it promulgated then
? if not, were the FAA/DOT/OMB personnel deemed “ESSENTIAL” to complete these documents
- It is likely, if not probable, that someone will claim that they did not see the Secretary’s speech. They will demand that they be granted extra time to comment, thus delaying the final rule. To quote a favorite rulemaking scribe “when you want it badly, you’ll get it bad.”
- Nevada UAS Test Site Smart Silver State; Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site; and, Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership were “awarded” contracts. There may be other sites which sought the same assignments. If they can appeal this loss, what is the date of award which sets their time to seek redress.
A regulatory pundit called the Secretary’s speech a shutdown rulemaking. It will be interesting to see if the next Administrative Law Textbook will analyze NOTICE OF PUBLICIZED RULEMAKING and/or SHUTDOWN RULEMAKING in the next edition?
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