August 3, 2021

FAA, White House takes action on drone policy

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DronesBy Katelyn Polantz, From The National Law Journal
Drone lawyers and lobbyists received word from the Federal Aviation Administration and the White House over the holiday weekend that the federal government is closer to regulating commercial unmanned aircrafts.
The FAA announced long-awaited proposed rules for the commercial use of drones, which are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or systems and are commonly called by industry groups UAVs or UAS. The proposals restrict everything from the size of the aircraft (less than 55 pounds) to the time of day they can fly (only during daylight), to where people must be in relations to a drone in flight (with the device in sight, but not directly overhead).
“They’re showing an open-mindedness that is refreshing, yet are keeping in place some stringent limitations that over time are likely to be relaxed,” Kenneth Quinn, a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman aviation partner, wrote in an email to the NLJ.
The White House released its own executive order on how federal agencies may use drones, and how private industries can engage with the federal government on those regulations. The White House memo outlines the processes agencies will use to keep data collected by drones private. It says some of data collected can’t be kept longer than 180 days, and that federal agencies will disclose the drone flights they make every year.
The Small UAV Coalition, led by lobbyist Michael Drobac at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said in a statement it would take part in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration-led engagement process set up by the White House.
The coalition said it was “relieved” the FAA didn’t propose new regulations for drone hobbyists. The group, which represents corporate tech giants incuding Inc. and Google Inc., said it supported some of the FAA’s proposals on certifications for pilots and drones. But the group doesn’t like a number of proposed regulations, including the daylight limitation and altitude restrictions for drones in flight.
“Technology always wins, and today was vital to ensuring that the United States not further cede its competitiveness to other nations,” a Small UAV Coalition statement said.
So far, a few companies have earned special exemptions from the FAA to use drones for business purposes, but hundreds of others await approval.
The proosed rules for commercial drones don’t address using them in the way companies like Amazon and Domino’s Pizza have envisioned for their customers, as robotic delivery services, Quinn added. “They might have to wait months, if not years, for the chance to deliver your packages and pizza via UAS.”
IMAGE: Demonstration of the DJI Inspire 1 drone in flight recording video during the Small UAV Coalition Tech Fair, held at the National Press Club on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ
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