Small UAV Coalition approves of new U.S. DOT policy

By Patrick C. Miller | May 09, 2018

The Small UAV Coalition—an organization representing consumer and technology companies—is commending the Department of Transportation’s move to speed up drone delivery operations in the U.S.

On April 30, DOT published a notification in the Federal Register to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators proposing to engage in air transportation. The new rule states:

“In order to engage directly or indirectly in air transportation, a citizen of the United States is required to hold economic authority from the Department pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 41101, either in the form of a ‘certificate of public convenience and necessity’ or in the form of an exemption from the certificate requirement. This authority is separate and distinct from any safety authority required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Companies proposing to operate UAS to engage in air transportation, including the delivery of goods for compensation, must first obtain certificate or exemption authority from the Department prior to engaging in the air transportation. The Department intends to use its existing regulatory procedures for processing UAS operators' requests for economic authority.”

A statement from the Small UAV Coalition said, “The coalition has long encouraged DOT to take this step and is pleased that it will be available to operators as the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) gets underway.”

The organization noted that the new DOT policy reflects provisions in the bipartisan FAA reauthorization recently passed by the U.S. House, as well as bipartisan legislation pending before the Senate. The coalition said it worked closely with lawmakers “to ensure that operators are subject to a uniform set of economic and safety regulations that make the United States’ airspace the safest in the world.”

Previously, the Small UAV Coalition pointed out that the lack regulations tailored to UAS delivery operations jeopardized the U.S. role “as the world’s leader in innovative commercial UAS applications.” The coalition thanked DOT for taking steps to ensure U.S. leadership in UAS technology and the country’s ability to compete in the global market.