AUVSI, CTA back UAS provisions in FAA reauthorization bill

By Patrick C. Miller | September 27, 2018

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) approve of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provisions in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill passed Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

AUVSI president and CEO Brian Wynne said the House bill will expand the commercialization of UAS technology and help to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace. The organization also released a summary of the UAS provisions in HR 302, which include UAS safety standards, airport safety, certificates for public safety agencies to use small UAS, traffic management and a review of counter-UAS technologies, among others.

Wynne said the bill calls for rulemaking on a UAS traffic management system to ensure the safe and efficient use of the national airspace and enable expanded UAS operations. “There are also provisions for rules concerning carriage of property, a necessary step for allowing UAS package deliveries,” he said. “The bill additionally grants DHS and DOJ the authority to mitigate potentially malicious UAS operations, addressing security concerns, as well as provisions to implement remote identification standards.”

However, an attorney who specializes in aviation regulation has concerns about a portion of the bill intended to deal with emerging threats from UAS. Thaddeus Lightfoot, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and a former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, said the legislation doesn’t define what constitutes a credible threat—the threshold for using the authority to down a drone—raising potential legal issues.

“First, by failing to define a credible threat, Congress is ceding sweeping power to the executive branch,” Lightfoot explained. "Second, the proposed legislation may infringe upon local police power. Authorizing the federal government to shoot down a UAV blurs the line as to where federal preemption ends and local police power begins.”

Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO, said, the bill helps clear the way for the FAA to implement beyond-line-of-sight, flight-over-people and nighttime drone operations for the U.S. to fully realize the benefits of drone technology.

“The UAS title also outlines ways consumers may fly their drones responsibly without being grounded by unreasonable rules,” he said. “The drone portion of this bill provides a boost of clarity and confidence to this growing sector of the tech industry, and we look forward to swift passage by the House and Senate."