The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act comes with a new set of regulations for drone manufacturers. The FAAs rule is intended to impose safety standards on manufacturers. While drone operators will face stricter scrutiny and enforcement under the Act, the FAA now also wants drone manufacturers to be responsible for implementing safety standards that will essentially force compliance by drone operators. The obligations on drone manufacturers are set forth in Section 345 of the Act and compliance is mandatory. While the process is not yet implemented, the FAA will implement a process by which manufacturers self-certify compliance. The manufacturer must submit a statement of compliance to the FAA which must:
- Identify the aircraft make, model, range of serial numbers, and any consensus safety standards used and accepted by the FAA;
- State that the aircraft make and model meet the consensus safety standards;
- State that the aircraft make and model conforms to the manufacturer’s design data and is manufactured in a consistent way across all units;
- State that the manufacturer will make available to the FAA, operators or customers operating instructions and recommended maintenance and inspection procedures;
- State that the manufacturer will monitor safety of flight issues;
- State that at the request of the FAA, the manufacturer will allow access to its facilities for purposes of overseeing compliance;
- State that the manufacturer ground and flight tested random samples of aircraft, found the sample aircraft performance acceptable, and determined that the make and model of aircraft is suitable for safe operation.
The hurdle for those manufacturers who want to be first to market is that safety standards do not yet exist. The FAA will create these standards over the next few months. However, for now, manufacturers can reasonably predict what some of those standards might be–restricting maximum height above ground level, restricting time of day that a drone can be operated, restricting flight in geo-fenced areas using GPS, etc. And while it hasn’t been on the FAA’s radar yet, hopefully some basic security measures for data transmission will be implemented as well. If the FAA doesn’t make that mandate, maybe the industry will take this important step instead.