Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Recent UAS Developments
In the small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) arena, the continued absence of promised regulations is wearing on the patience of everyone in the industry.
This frustration (and the stifling of UAS commerce and testing in the U.S. because of excessive restrictions) has not gone unnoticed in Washington D.C. Another commercial UAS bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives Feb. 3 as a rider to the Aviation Innovation Reform and Reauthorization Act, the bill that will privatize the air traffic control system and will likely garner discussions during this conference.
Currently, entrepreneurs, cops and firemen simply want to fly drones to make money or save lives, yet many don’t wish to experience the bureaucracy of the current system that requires a petition for a Section 333 exemption or a public safety COA. The long-awaited FAR Part 107 won’t be available for lift-off until June, but rumors are flying that delay it until after the November elections.
Drone operators in America are not the only ones pushing full throttle for new regulations. The Canadian Aviation Regulations Advisory Council (CARAC) published a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) on Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV ) on May 28, 2015. Under the proposal, UAVs weighing at most 25 kg are divided up into three different categories: very small UAV, small UAV (limited operations) and small UAV (complex operations). Each category will have different aircraft identification and piloting requirements. Conditions under which they can fly will differ with each category. Complex operations, for instance, will be allowed to operate at night, over people and in proximity to an aerodrome. Also, complex UAV operators must be certificated and must purchase liability insurance. Within months, new drone regulations are expected to come to Canada.
Late last year, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation tasked the understaffed FAA with the responsibility of registering every drone in the U.S. before Christmas. A tall order, which hobbyist and drone bloggers never expected to happen. But to everyone’s surprise, the FAA on Dec. 21 opened an efficient web site for registration.
The process is quick and easy, and all that is needed is a valid credit card. Within minutes, hobby RC and drone owners receive a number to affix to every machine they own. Existing hobbyists were required to register by Feb. 19, 2016. The fee ($5) is the same as that for any manned aircraft registration, but in order to encourage registration, the fee was refunded to registrants who applied by Jan. 21.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (boasting 188,000 members) was upset with this move because the FAA didn’t choose its member number system, so its discouraged registration. The AMA claims registering hobby aircraft is contrary to the intent of Congress in Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. But less than a week prior to the refund deadline, members were advised to take advantage of the free registration period.
As of Feb. 8, according to the FAA, 325,000 drone registrations eclipsed the number of manned aircraft registrations by 5,000.