Sens. Hoeven, Booker introduce Commercial UAS Modernization Act

By Emily Aasand | May 14, 2015

U.S. Senators John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have unveiled the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, a piece of legislation that sets interim operating guidelines for small commercial unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).

“We’re on the frontier of a whole new era of aviation, when remotely piloted aircraft will improve crop production, provide valuable aid for first responders and even deliver packages to our doorstep,” said Hoeven. “We need to design safe pathways for the UAS industry to deliver these benefits to consumers, and our bill, through the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration test sites, does just that.”

The Commercial UAS Modernization Act creates an interim rule that provides basic guidelines for commercial use and testing of small UAS during the period the FAA finalizes rules covering commercial UAS. It builds a framework for the registration and use of UAS for commercial purposes prioritizing safety while lessening unnecessary burdens on responsible commercial UAS operators. The legislation also strengthens the FAA’s oversight authorities by creating a deputy administrator position exclusively responsible for the safe integration of UAS in U.S. airspace, while also streaming regulations that currently slow the industry’s ability to innovate new aircraft technologies. And finally, it ensures that FAA test sites are being used to the maximum extent to facilitate research into new technologies, in partnership with industry and other relevant government entities.

“There’s so much potential that can be unlocked if we lay the proper framework to support innovation in unmanned aircraft systems,” said Booker. “But right now, the U.S. is falling behind other countries because we lack rules for the safe operation of commercial UAS technology. The Commercial UAS Modernization Act sets up clear and immediate rules of the road, helping to lay a foundation that will allow us to make cutting-edge progress in a rapidly emerging field.”

The Small UAV Coalition commends the two senators for introducing the bill, saying, the Commercial UAS Modernization Act would allow operators in the U.S. to take advantage of this technology now, instead of waiting one year or longer for the FAA to publish its final rule.

The bill states that no later than 30 days after the day of the enactment of the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, the Administrator of the FAA shall develop an initial aeronautical knowledge test that meets the requirements published in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It also requires commercial operators to register the aircraft and have a liability insurance policy that covers the operation of the aircraft.

The suggested appointment of a Deputy Associate Administrator for Unmanned Aircraft, would report to the Administrator and Secretary of Transportation. Duties would include developing procedures for registering small unmanned aircraft, collecting reasonable fees, in an amount determined by the deputy associate administrator, from the owner or operator of the small unmanned aircraft as part of the registration process, and shall help create an comprehensive research and development plan for the safe integration into the NSA.

“AUVSI appreciates the efforts of Senators Booker and Hoeven to accelerate the safe integration of UAS in the National Airspace System,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “Their proposed legislation elevates UAS as a national priority, ensuring the industry can quickly and safely take off in the U.S. and keep pace with other countries that already have more permissive UAS regulations. The sooner we allow the broader use of this technology, the more quickly the U.S. will realize the many societal and economic benefits of UAS.”

According to AUVSI’s economic impact report, within 10 years of integration, the UAS industry will represent an $82 billion segment of the U.S. economy and generate more than 100,000 new high-paying technical jobs.

“We cannot allow other countries to outpace us at what we do best,” Booker said. “This legislation is essential to ensuring our legacy as a country that leads the globe in technological innovation.”


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