We recently wrote about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bills that would allow funding to the FAA to continue beyond Fall 2017. Now, it is likely that as Congressional leaders seem unlikely to reach a compromise on the FAA reauthorization bills before the end of September, a short term extension on these bills will occur. While committees in each chamber approved separate long-term reauthorization legislation in July, the unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drone) provisions may be delayed due to the lack of consensus on other manned aviation issues (e.g., air traffic control privatization and pilot training requirements). However, if the extension occurs, and the legislation does advance, these bills will address some key issues in the UAS space, including privacy protections, carriage of property, UAS traffic management, risk-based permitting, UAS defense (and counter defense), recreational drone registration, and public aircraft operations. For specific details of these bills, check out our prior post on this topic.
Until the bills progress, many of these issues are at a standstill. And while this legislation does represent progress, there are other important issues outstanding. Many industries want Congress to address the issue of preemption regarding UAS regulations; states continue to legislate in this area without any clear boundaries on the states’ authority which creates a patchwork of inconsistent laws and regulations. Also, many UAS operators want Congress (and the FAA) to be more lenient about the approval process for certain UAS operations, like operations at night and over people. And, while the bills do address privacy and cybersecurity, they only scratch the surface of this very important area for safe UAS operations. For now, we will continue to monitor these bills.