On May 12, 2015, the Commercial UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems –i.e. drones) Modernization Act was introduced to the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, which sets forth interim drone operating rules while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalizes permanent regulations. Senator Cory Booker and Senator John Hoeven presented this bill to prevent the U.S. from falling behind this quickly growing industry. Booker said in a statement, “There is so much potential that can be unlocked if we lay the proper framework to support innovation in unmanned aircraft systems. But right now, the U.S. is failing behind other countries because we lack rules for the safe operation of commercial UAS technology.” Booker and Hoeven believe that commercial UAS operation could yield improvements in crop production, emergency services, and environmentally-friendly delivery of packages.

Under the proposed bill, small commercial UAS operators would be permitted to operate a UAS without an FAA certificate as long as the drone is insured and registered. Additionally, UAS operators would need to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and conduct a demonstration flight at one of the FAA testing centers in the U.S. While the bill seeks to expand commercial UAS operation, it does include some restrictions as well.Under the proposed bill, operators could only fly drones to a maximum height of 500 feet, during the daytime hours only, within the operator’s line of sight, and outside of controlled airspace. An operator could face a civil action if he or she does not follow these strict requirements.

The proposed bill also seeks to create a new FAA deputy administration position called a “associate administrator for unmanned aircraft” which would exclusively handle the integration and oversight of UAS into U.S. airspace. We will track the bill to see if it takes off.