AUVSI outlines UAS regulatory issues, challenges ahead

By Patrick C. Miller | September 22, 2015

Allowing beyond visual line of sight operations, night flying and getting regulations for small unmanned systems (UAS) implemented as quickly as possible are issues being pursued by the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International (AUVSI).

Mario Mairena, AUVSI senior government relations manager, spoke on key issues for the UAS industry on Tuesday during the 9th Annual UAS Summit and Expo in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He said the list of UAS applications is growing every day and that that there are many yet to be discovered that will help UAS gain societal acceptance.

Mairena referred to an AUVSI study showing that the UAS industry will have a $140 billion global economic impact over the next 10 years. However, he cautioned that each year UAS integration is delayed, it will cost the U.S. $10 billion.

FAA commercial exemptions have passed 1,500, but Mairena stressed that the granting of commercial exemptions is not a long-term solution and urged the FAA to implement its small UAS rule as quickly as possible. He noted that contrary to popular belief, operators with exemptions must still go through the FAA regulatory process to fly.

AUVSI also advocates allowing beyond visual line-of-sight operations and night flying based on a risk assessment approach. He said France has been using UAS for railroad inspections for years and that the U.S. is lagging behind other countries in this respect. 

Marirena commended North Dakota for efforts to expand its COA to include the entire state, allowing flights up to 1,200 feet and flying at night. He noted that a number of companies in the state are already benefitting from UAS uses, from law enforcement to commercial operators.

One of the biggest challenges AUVSI faces is that states are moving to pass laws attempting to regulate airspace in the absence of FAA regulations. He cited the California UAS law recently vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown as an example of a state exceeding its authority to regulate airspace.

On the privacy issue. Mariena said he expects the debate to shift toward the collection, storage and purging of UAS-collected data. AUVSI supports a technology neutral approach that focused on whether the government can collect and use data, not how it is collected.


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