Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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LETTER 27 unmanned systems inside June/July 2017 not want to register or comply with new f light restrictions. Though the court kept the flight re- strictions in place, saying Taylor was too late to challenge them, they agreed with his complaint about registration. Taylor's lawyer argued the registration requirement specifically violated the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which said the FAA "may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft." "Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler," said the court in its opinion, add- ing that "Congress is of course always free to repeal or amend its 2012 prohibition on FAA rules regarding model aircraft. Perhaps Con- gress should do so. Perhaps not. In any event, we must follow the statute as written." As of press time the FA A had not decided how to respond to the May 19 decision, though it continued to encourage registration for all drone operators. "We are carefully reviewing the U.S. Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registra- tions," the agency said in a statement posted on its website for unmanned aircraft. "We are in the process of considering our response to the deci- sion as well as any registration implications for non-commercial users. Please check this website regularly for further updates and instructions." The registration issue feeds back into the security issue mentioned earlier. Not only are there many commercial and hobby drones in the same weight class, sometimes they are the same model of drone. "It's not about the vehicle itself, it's about how it's used—and that's how these systems are regu- lated," said Gretchen West, co-executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. "So it can be the same exact drone, but if you're not using it for compensation the rules are very different." All those who spoke with Inside Unmanned Systems agreed lawmakers might deal with the issue by giving the FA A the power to require registration of model aircraft. That could rile up the modeling community, which is opposed to new mandates and, politically speaking, very well organized. Perhaps more problematic, however, is the legislation most mentioned as the vehicle for establishing that new authority— the FAA reauthorization bill. Out of the Frying Pan Congress is dealing with the FAA reauthoriza- tion again this year because, as has often been the case, they could not agree on a final bill in time. In June 2016, just two days before the agency's authority to operate expired, the Sen- ate approved a stopgap measure keeping the FAA open through September. And what was the issue that thwarted the passage of reauthorization in 2016? Air traffic control (ATC) privatization. " AFTER SEEING HOW DRONES CAN BE USED FOR ILL-INTENT OVERSEAS, HOW CAN WE ENSURE SIMILAR INCIDENTS DON'T HAPPEN HERE?" Michael Huerta, administrator, Federal Aviation Administration Opponents of privatization are worried about the fees and service they will get from an opera- tion that is likely to be dominated by airlines— an organization over which elected lawmakers will have far less sway. There are also objections to turning over tax-funded infrastructure, for free, to a profit-driven entity. Proponents of getting ATC out of the FAA's hands describe it as more of a practical neces- sity driven by the agency's funding woes. The FA A relies on the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which gets its dedicated money from ticket taxes and other mostly travel-relat- ed fees. That means the amount of money avail- able rises and falls with the economic tides. "The funding for the FAA has cycles based on the taxes that are taken in," Jim Williams, the first head of the FAA's UAS Office, told our sis- ter publication Inside GNSS last year. "So, any time there's a dip in the economy and there's less air travel, then there's less money available.

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