It is rare that industries come to Washington begging for more regulation. But that is how we in the unmanned systems business find ourselves with respect to small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS). A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) has been on the shelf for years. We need to move forward before a serious accident occurs.
The issue of how to safely integrate the myriad sizes and classes of UAS into the national airspace is complex. But it is clear that in at least one category, small UAS (under 55 lb.), we have a good idea how to start. The FAA convened a SUAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which had broad participation from many communities and completed its work in 2009. Many of us expected an expedited release of draft regulations. We are still waiting.
These regulations would impact three distinct communities. First are hobbyists, whose interests are represented by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Since 1936, the AMA has set voluntary safety standards for models under which hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts have flown millions of flight hours with an admirable safety record. The AMA takes the not unreasonable position that voluntary standards have worked so far, so modelers should be exempted from FAA regulations. They convinced Congress to include language to this effect in the FAA’s 2012 reauthorization bill.