FAA forms committee to devise unmanned drone regulations


US aviation regulator the FAA is forming a committee to help devise the regulations that will manage the operation of unmanned drones beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

Head of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administrator) Steve Dickson announced the new Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations (BVLOS) drone operations aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) last week during his keynote at the FAA’s virtual UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Symposium.

He said, “The new ARC will help the agency develop a regulatory path for routine Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations.

“This committee will consider the safety, security and environmental needs, as well as societal benefits, of these operations. Within six months, the committee will submit a recommendations report to the FAA.

“This is a big step forward and it will help pave the way for routine package delivery, infrastructure inspection, and other more complex drone operations beyond the visual line-of-sight of the remote pilot.”

BVLOS, when a pilot flies a drone without physically seeing it, are currently governed by Part 107 Waivers and the recently introduced Operations Over People rule.

The development of a set of specific regulations covering BVLOS drone operations is seen as key to the further development of the commercial drone market and a vital step to fully autonomous drone flights in the USA. Existing commercial applications for BVLOS drones include remote industrial inspections, agricultural operations and small package deliveries.

The FAA is inviting 90 organizations to participate in the ARC, including academic institutions, standards bodies such as SAE International, environmental charities, technology and infrastructure providers and drone manufacturers and associations.

Avionics supplier Iris Automation, which has developed a detect and avoid system that enables autonomous drone operations is participating in the ARC.

Jon Damush, CEO at Iris Automation said, “We are honored to be selected to contribute to this progressive and continued effort by the FAA to work towards establishing real-world guidelines in making UAS operations safe and scalable throughout the United States.

“Building on the critical work already achieved by the FAA’s IPP and now BEYOND programs, we look forward to continuing our participation in this extremely valuable industry/regulator collaboration.”

Beyond is a FAA-led drone flight testing program that is a successor to its UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) which concluded last October. The Beyond program is being run at several sites throughout the USA.

“We’re working with eight of the nine IPP participants and some new partners over the next 3-4 years to advance and expand the scope of repeatable and scalable Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations under today’s rules,” said Dickinson.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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