NAAA Actions Regarding UAS

NAAA has actively engaged aviation stakeholders over its concerns with UAS integration. NAAA staff have met with the Aviation Subcommittees in both the House and Senate to urge them to utilize the 2017 FAA reauthorization as a chance to require NAAA’s aforementioned safety recommendations. Thankfully, Congress heeded some of NAAA’s advice and included several beneficial UAS provisions in the 2016 FAA extension bill. These provisions include:

  • A requirement that all sUAS manufacturers make available at the time of purchase a safety statement informing the buyer about laws and regulations applicable to sUAS and recommendations for safe use of the sUAS. The safety statement is also supposed to include FAA-approved language regarding FAA regulations and warn buyers that there may be penalties for violating these regulations.
  • A ban on operating UAS in a manner that knowingly or recklessly interferes with a wildfire suppression effort. Anyone in violation of this ban may be fined up to $20,000.
  • A requirement that FAA allow applicants to petition to prohibit or restrict operation of UAS in close proximity to a fixed site facility. This could potentially include agricultural airports, meaning you could apply for your airport to be a no-drone zone.
  • A directive to FAA to convene industry stakeholders to facilitate development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of UAS, and gives the FAA the ability to require remote identification of UAS. This will greatly increase accountability among UAS operators.
  • A $6 million grant for a pilot program for airspace hazard mitigation at airports through UAS detection systems.
  • A UAS-manned aircraft crash test program to determine what effect a UAS would have on aircraft in a collision.
Updates since Fall 2018 Board Meeting: NAAA has long sought to give the FAA the authority to regulate recreational UAS. As such, the 2018 FAA Reauthorization gives the FAA the authority to regulate all UAS and also requires recreational UAS users to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. Additionally, the provision gives the FAA the authority to impose tracking and ID requirements on hobbyist UAS users so they can be properly identified.

In November of 2018 NAAA submitted comments on a draft version of the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Standardization Collaborative (UASSC) Standardization Roadmap for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Version 1.0). In December of 2018 many of NAAA’s suggestions were incorporated into the final document, bringing clarity and specificity to many of the gaps described.

NAAA made known that UAV application efficacy, and drift potential needs to be studied and modeled and labeled accordingly before a crop protection product manufacturer and EPA approve that a pesticide be applied by drone. Presently the drift characteristics and efficacy of applications made by UAVs are largely unknown and require extensive research and development to ensure environmental, crop and human safety. Currently, USDA’s AgDRIFT model is the industry standard for calculating drift risk for ag aircraft, ground sprayers and air blasters. This model has been developed over the years through extensive research and smaller unmanned aircraft do not fit properly into the AgDRIFT model. At a recent meeting with the EPA, NAAA recommended the development of a committee to accurately study the drift characteristics of applications made by UAVs. This research could then be incorporated into the Ag DRIFT model.  The ANSI UASSC report mirrors these application issues as they pertain to UAVs.

In January 2019, the FAA released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) flights at night and flights over people. This NPRM only applies to what the FAA refers to as a “small UAS,” meaning UAS under 55 pounds. NAAA plans on submitting comments regarding night operations when the comment period opens. Under the proposed rule, flights at night may occur if:
  1. The UAS has an anti-collision light that is visible for 3 statute miles, and
  2. The remote pilot in command has completed an updated knowledge test or recurrent training as applicable, to ensure familiarity with the risks and appropriate mitigations for nighttime operation
Additionally, flights over people may be conducted by aircraft under 0.55 pounds with no restrictions. A UAS weighing over 0.55 pounds and under 55 pounds can operate over people if:
  1. It is designed to have no exposed rotor blades that could lacerate human skin
  2. The UAS does not have an FAA-identified safety defect
  3. The weight and speed of the UAV does not transfer more than 11 ft-lbs. of kinetic energy upon impact with a person
A UAS weighting over 0.55 pounds but under 55 pounds can transfer up to 25 ft-lbs. of kinetic energy upon impact with a person if:
  1. It is designed to have no exposed rotor blades that lacerate human skin
  2. The UAS does not have an FAA-identified defect
  3. It does not operate over an open-air assembly of people, such as a stadium
  4. Operations are conducted within or over a closed- or restricted-access site and anyone within that site would have to be notified that a small unmanned aircraft may fly over them
  5. For operations not within or over a closed- or restricted-access site, the UAS may transit but not hover over people.
The FAA has selected the 11 and 25 ft-lbs. kinetic energy thresholds after careful consideration of an ARC convened to study the issue. The UAS manufacturer must demonstrate compliance with kinetic energy thresholds through a process it is currently formulating. Additionally, weight restrictions would apply from takeoff to landing, meaning the total weight includes all fuel and cargo.  

NAAA is awaiting the FAA’s release of proposed regulations from input from the 2017 Aviation Rulemaking Committee on UAS Identification and Tracking of which NAAA hopes and recommended and will continue to urge tracking and identification of all UAS over half a pound. 

Updated February 2019
This document is intended for NAAA members’ review only. It is not intended for publication. NAAA requests that should any party desire to publish, distribute or quote any part of this document that they first seek the permission of the Association.