Just a few days before we went to press with this issue of AeroSafety World, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its long-awaited proposed rule governing small (under 55 lb/25 kg) unmanned aircraft systems (UASs). Given the timing of the release — a Sunday morning in the middle of a three-day holiday weekend — and the proximity to our publishing deadline, we have not had the opportunity to thoroughly review the proposed rule, but the release of the notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) marks a significant milestone in the much-clamored-for integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.
The public will have 60 days from the date of the NPRM’s publication in the Federal Register to comment on the proposed regulation. I think it’s safe to assume that the NPRM will garner many comments. The use of UAS is a hot topic in the United States and elsewhere around the world, particularly given the potential economic impact of these new aircraft. An economic study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) “found that the UAS industry is projected to create more than 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade following the integration of UAS,” according to an AUVSI press release. In the same release, AUVSI said the proposed rule is long overdue.
I’ll leave it to others to decide if the rule is, in fact, overdue, and instead, I will urge careful, thoughtful and patient deliberation in reviewing the NPRM, making comments and suggesting changes. All parties need to keep in mind that there is more to this issue than whether retailers can use UASs to deliver holiday gifts in a more timely manner. We’re talking about introducing new aerial vehicles into a well-established airspace system. The vehicles in question here may be “small,” but a 50-lb object traveling at speeds up to 100 mph/87 kt (160 kph) is not insignificant. Risks need to be thoroughly understood and effectively and efficiently mitigated.
We will have more detail on the NPRM and related developments in the April issue of ASW.