Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization

The Senate passed their version of the FAA Reauthorization Act, after dropping a few contentious amendments.  It is now back to the House.

Key UAS Highlights:

DRONE SAFETY FEATURES – Directs federal agencies to convene industry stakeholders to develop consensus standards for safety features to be built into drones to protect everyone who uses the national airspace and the public.

PRIVACY PROTECTIONS – Affirms that UAS operations should respect personal privacy, consistent with federal, state, and local law, advances drone identification standards to create operator accountability, and promotes adoption of written UAS privacy policies.

ONLINE SAFETY TEST – Promotes safety by requiring all drone users to pass an FAA-approved online aeronautical safety test before flying. This ensures users understand the national airspace system and avoid manned aircraft. Operators of UAS weighing less than 0.55 pounds could be exempted from the testing requirement.

SAFETY RULE ENFORCEMENT – Authorizes funds for FAA initiatives to better enforce drone laws and reduce risks.

AIRPORT PROTECTION – Authorizes FAA pilot programs and funds to intercept drones near airports and critical infrastructure.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR INNOVATION – Fosters innovation by authorizing expanded case by case

exemptions for beyond visual line of sight and nighttime operations, as well as for research and

development or commercial purposes.

FEDERAL & LOCAL RESPONSIBILITIES – Clarifies responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments with respect to the regulation of drones and directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify remaining gaps in current privacy protections.

UAS TEST SITES – Improves established UAS test sites, first authorized in 2012, by directing research priorities, improving coordination with the FAA, and enhancing protections for proprietary information to encourage more engagement with the private sector.

UAS PACKAGE DELIVERY – Requires the Department of Transportation to establish a UAS delivery air carrier certificate that would allow for package deliveries by UAS.

MICRO DRONE RULES – Directs the FAA to establish operating rules specific to  “micro” drones, which weigh 4.4 lbs. or less.

FOR UNIVERSITY USE – Streamlines the approval process for the safe operation of drones at institutions of higher education.

DRONE NO-FLY ZONES – Establishes a process for the FAA to designate areas where drones may not fly, for example around critical infrastructure, chemical facilities, or amusement parks.