News and Commentary. It’s time for drone operators in the U.S.- both commercial and recreational – to start paying attention as regulation heats up. On July 31, the Small UAV Coalition, AOPA and other industry advocates signed a letter opposing an expected amendment from Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) to the FAA Reauthorization package, concerning UAS delivery; on August 1, the Small UAV Coalition and a slightly different group of supporters including the Commercial Drone Alliance penned yet another letter voicing their support for proposed revisions to Section 336, which would require recreational operators to take an aeronautical knowledge test.
Agree or disagree with their content, the letters are at the very least providing an industry voice into the conversation. It’s a voice that needs to be heard.
FAA Reauthorization (we’ve written about it here and here, for reference) is up this week (or maybe next) in the Senate. What we do know, as reported by AIN online, is that “The U.S. Senate has begun circulating an initial block of nearly four-dozen amendments expected to be offered as a package to the comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill, signaling that the chamber is progressing toward a possible vote on the legislation. Senate Republican and Democrat leaders met in recent weeks to discuss potential amendments, and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Bill Nelson (Florida), told the Washington insider publication Politico that at as long as “we don’t have people trying to attach controversial amendments to it, we should be able to get it through because the basic FAA bill is now all agreed to.””
Of course, “people are trying to attach controversial amendments.” While the privatization of Air Traffic Control – one of the controversial aspects that prevented agreement on a package last year – is no longer on the table, drone amendments are a significant part of the discussion.
It’s bad timing for the drone industry. With the Department of Homeland Security focused on security issues surrounding drones in an effort to get authorization to detect and disable, the conversation about drones on Capitol Hill lately has been less about economic benefits and more about potential terrorism. In addition, as the current administration makes an effort to grant states more power, FAA preemption – the idea that the FAA should have sole regulatory authority over the airspace – is being threatened, another potential barrier to the drone industry.