On October 5, 2018, President Trump signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act which establishes new conditions for the recreational use of drones and immediately repealed the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. The FAA is currently evaluating the impact of this change and how the organization will implement these changes.

In addition to continuing to support the $36 million NextGen program and paying the FAA’s 14,000 air traffic controllers, the FAA is instructed to provide greater regulation of drones—that is, the Act allows the government to shoot down or take down by other counter-UAS means a drone that is “identified as high-risk and a potential target for unlawful unmanned aircraft activity.”

Specifically, Subtitle B of the Act (which deals with drones) sets forth the following:

  • The FAA is tasked with developing regulations to expand the operation of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) (currently operating under Part 107) to operations beyond-visual-line-of-sight, at night and over persons;
  • Requires the FAA to update existing regulations within one year to permit the carriage of packages by small commercial UAS operators within the United States;
  • The development of a framework to establish a standard for regulating UAS operations, whether operated for commercial purposes or for recreation. Drone hobbyists will now have to complete aeronautical knowledge testing and comply with other operating requirements currently applicable only to commercial drone operators;
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)to review the privacy issues and concerns associated with the operation of UAS; and,
  • Requires the FAA to consult with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), which are authorized to take countermeasures against a UAS posing a danger to federal facilities and assets (see above).

We will follow the FAA’s implementation of the new Act and any guidance related to these changes.