November 25, 2014

Wyden Asks FAA to Update Unmanned Aircraft Rules

New standards can encourage innovation and ensure safety of unmanned aerial systems

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to speed up approvals for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) test permits, and to ensure the agency’s plans to regulate these aircraft don’t fall behind schedule, in a letter sent today.

The FAA created six test sites across the country to study unmanned aircraft in response to a request from Congress in 2012 to craft regulations that meet the unique safety challenges posed by UAS. The agency, which is responsible for overseeing the safety of U.S. airspace, has until September 2015 to create a strategy to integrate unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace.

“In light of recent reports, I am concerned that proposed regulations on small, commercial unmanned aircraft will be costly, needlessly restrictive and hinder research and development for the growing UAS industry,” Wyden said. “The FAA needs to act quickly to alleviate these concerns and issue guidelines for developers and operators of unmanned aircraft that will give certainty to the UAS industry and ensure the safety and privacy of Americans.”

Wyden, along with Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., asked the FAA to streamline its process for allowing UAS operators to test their aircraft at designated sites. Obtaining a Certificate or Waiver of Authorization can take from two months to a year, according to the FAA.

Oregon houses three UAS test ranges: the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and airspace outside Pendleton and Tillamook.

“We remain concerned about the impacts that continued delays in the process are having on the American UAS industry and the national economy, and the safety risk posed by expanding unlicensed operations,” the senators wrote in the letter.

Commercial unmanned aircraft use is a growing industry with the potential to contribute significantly to the U.S. economy. The senators noted the possible chilling effect on creative developments in unmanned aircraft technologies without clarification from FAA on how to proceed. 

“This industry cannot continue to grow without further direction and guidance from the FAA on its planned regulations,” they wrote.

Read the full letter here.

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