FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016: What Drone Operators Need to Know

May 18, 2016

The new FAA Reauthorization Act, proposed earlier in 2016, reauthorizes FAA and related programs until the end of the 2017 fiscal year. This section-by-section analysis issued by the Senate gives an overview to the bill’s many provisions.

Where UAS are concerned, the FAA Reauthorization Act includes many provisions concerning UAS. Here are just some of the proposed provisions:

  • Require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to provide Congress by July 31 with a report on the multi-stakeholder process for UAS privacy best practices;
  • Reauthorize the six FAA-designated UAS test sites;
  • No later than one year after submitted report, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) along with the FAA to convene with stakeholders to develop standards for remote identification;
  • Require the FAA to work with an executive committee to work on a research plan for UAS integration;
  • Reauthorize the FAA’s authority to give Section 333 exemptions for commercial operations, as well give the agency the authority to approve operations at night and beyond the visual line of sight;
  • After completion of the small UAS rule, direct a further risk-based approach to UAS integration, including “recognizing the value of micro UAS” (4.4 lbs. and under);
  • “Codify and amend the definition of ‘model aircraft’”;
  • Develop an aeronautical knowledge and safety exam for all UAS users;
  • Make underground UAS operations not subject to FAA rules;
  • Codify authorities and develop policies for data collection and appropriately limit the retention and dissemination such data;
  • Establish an FAA senior advisor for UAS integration; and
  • Establish a pilot project for UAS hazard mitigation for airports and critical infrastructure.

The goal of this and other FAA regulations aimed at drones are said to be an effort to expedite integration and commercialization of UAS.

As the FAA and other organizations finalize the role commercial UAS in the American and world economy, policies and regulations will be in flux.