Published October 3rd, 2018
The Senate passed H.R 302, the highly anticipated Reauthorization Act of 2018 with a strong majority vote of 93-6. This bill outlines the new provisions for Commercial & Recreational Drone Pilots, and also provides insight into the FAA’s funding for the next 5 years.
Since the Reauthorization Act has been published, there has been confusion in the industry as to what all of these new provisions actually mean for the average drone pilot. In this article, I’m going to break down the FAA’s Reauthorization Act, address Section 336 and its effect on Recreational Drone Pilots, and give a quick summary of what this means for the industry.
There are a few major changes discussed in the Reauthorization Act of 2018 that will provide a new direction for the FAA’s efforts to control the National Airspace System moving forward. The most apparent change discussed was the repeal of Section 336 which previously prohibited the FAA from issuing regulations for recreational or hobby drone pilots who were strictly flying for fun.
Since there is a mix of Recreational and Commercial Drone Pilots that read our blog, let’s quickly review Section 336 and its importance for recreational/hobbyist pilots.
Section 336 is the Special Rule for Model which states the FAA can not create any rules or regulations surrounding model aircraft if it adheres to the following conditions
These conditions were designed for hobby or recreational pilots that fly their drones for fun. (Non-Commercial Use).
Section 336 was a roadblock for the FAA’s efforts to implement new regulations surrounding commercial and recreational drone use, and just to reiterate, Section 336 has recently been repealed.
One of the first sections discusses Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations, which is an important component of our industry as drones provide value to operations like inspection, package delivery and even transportation. The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to carry out a program that will enable the safe integration of drones into the national airspace through the use of test ranges. Below are the applications being explored…
As these applications are tested, you can expect to see others added to the list that identify as critical research priorities to advance the industry.
This section addresses the concerns that the Federal Aviation Administration had with small unmanned systems being built and manufactured that did not comply with general drone safety standards. Manufacturers are now authorized to self-certify their drones if they directly comply with consensus safety standards laid out in detail by the FAA. In short, manufacturers will receive direct orders from the FAA regarding what technology needs to be built into their drones before they can be distributed.
Moving forward, recreational drone pilots will be required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test, and register their drone before flying. The key to this section, is that all individuals flying recreationally will be required to maintain proof of passing this Aeronautical Knowledge & Safety Test at all times, and must have it available to show to local authorities when flying recreationally. All hobby pilots, creative photographers and recreational pilots will now be required to show proof of their status as non-commercial drone pilots. In addition, the FAA will now be able to choose who can administer the Aeronautical Knowledge & Safety Test which will provide proof for anyone flying drones outdoors. If you are interested in becoming a commercial drone pilot, check out our Online Part 107 Training Course we’ve developed alongside industry experts.
Another important topic discussed, is a Pilot Program established by the Federal Aviation Administration that will require the development of a reporting system that government and local authorities can use to report incidents in our community. As the database continues to develop, congress has requested an annual report that will provide them with a report summarizing illegal drone use, accidents, and enforcement actions taken by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Basically, what this means for commercial and recreational drone pilots, is that authorities will now be able to monitor the sky and issue reports on illegal drone use that will be tracked through a universal database reviewable by congress on an annual basis. As you can tell, these initiatives are tracking both drone technology and manned aircrafts. The steps being taken at this time are progressing towards the development of a Universal Traffic Management System that will allow authorities to manage all commercial and recreational drone use. Controversially, the FAA has been granted access to remotely identify any owner or operator of a drone including their location and registration information.
For those of you who have requested any form of waiver throughout your commercial operator career, you know the FAA does not provide much insight into where you stand in the application process and can sometimes take up to 90 days to hear back. There has been an update to this process, and the FAA is making it a priority to provide more transparency to the process by including electronic notifications for pilots throughout the process.
Know Before You Fly is a great resource for beginner, intermediate and advanced pilots that educates individuals on the safe and responsible operations of unmanned aircraft systems. In the Reauthorization Act, Know Before You Fly has requested $1,000,000 each fiscal year to further develop their app, which is intended to broaden awareness.
Finally, the last item discussed in the Reauthorization Act of 2018 was the need for a universal remote identification system that will track registration, privacy reporting and utilization of drones in the national airspace. This pilot program will determine how to carry out remote detection technology. As more drones take off, a system will need to be established where the FAA can govern safe flight and positive awareness. The drone industry is still in its infancy phase, and the sooner we develop systems to effectively manage safe flight, the more valuable this tool will be to the industries that need it.
The last section we will be reviewing discusses Airport Safety and Airspace Hazard Mitigation, which is a topic that has been most apparent in the public news. The FAA will be testing sUAS mitigation techniques at five different airports, including one large airport with some of the top passenger boarding data to safely remove any illegal drone use before it becomes a problem. As a side note, any technology that exists to mitigate a drone, should not cause trouble for individuals in the area, which leads to the last statement that allows for The Department of Justice & The Department of Homeland Security to take/shoot down any drones that are flown within the vicinity of one of their facilities. As you can see, the language in this bill does not fully define the parameters with regards to counter UAS technology which is why the media has given so much attention to this Reauthorization Act of 2018.
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