Yet another piece of drone legislation is in circulation; the Safe DRONE Act of 2017 was recently introduced by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, John Hoeven, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Dean Heller. The Act proposes the following for unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drones) in the U.S.:

  • Develop a trained UAS workforce: Directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) secretary to designate a consortium of community and technical colleges to expand the capacity of those colleges to train students for career opportunities in the UAS industry.
  • Coordinate federal UAS spectrum policy: Establishes an interagency working group – with a broad array of stakeholders who will be tasked with developing a cohesive federal policy to address communications needs to facilitate safe integration of drones into the National Airspace.
  • Advance unmanned traffic management (UTM): Directs the DOT secretary, in coordination with NASA, to develop an implementation plan within one year to achieve full operational capability of UTM.
  • Enhance UAS safety and security: Establishes an interagency working group involving relevant federal security agencies to develop recommendations for enhanced safety and security of expanded small UAS operations beyond visual line of sight and over people. It requires that the FAA release rules within one year of enactment.
  • Provides UAS registration authority: Gives congressional authorization for the FAA to continue its registration and marking requirement for small UAS but provides certain exemptions for the model aircraft community.
  • Extends research opportunities at test sites: Extends congressional authorization of the FAA-designated UAS test sites through fiscal year 2024 and allocates $14 million in federal funding for research and development through the sites.
  • Supports emergency operations guidelines: Emphasizes congressional support for clearly defined FAA rules allowing for civil and public operators to deploy UAS to assist emergency response operations.
  • Continues the development of the UAS industry: Exempts rules primarily related to UAS operations from Trump’s “one-in, two-out” executive order to allow for the continued development of the UAS industry through establishing new federal rules for operations.

The Act’s aim is to help ensure that the U.S. is well positioned to keep up with the rapidly developing drone industry. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI); the Small UAV Coalition; and Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), which operates one of the seven FAA-designated UAS test sites, all support the Act. We will keep an eye on this new legislation, which if passed, could give a great boost to the UAS industry and the regulations revolving around it.