US senators introduce new UAS legislation

By Emily Aasand | February 09, 2015

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., recently introduced the Safe Skies for Unmanned Aircraft Act of 2015, to support research and the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at facilities similar to Grand Forks, North Dakota’s UAS Test Site.

Heitkamp’s bill, which was introduced with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., encourages the safe use of UAS, the removal of bureaucratic red-tape for UAS research and testing and open the door to opportunities for more commercial investments and use of technologies. The bill would also direct the FAA to implement procedures to allow for safe, beyond-line-of-sight flights to conduct this research.

“In Grand Forks, we’re proud to be innovating this exciting technology that’s on the cusp of flourishing commercially across the country,” said Heitkamp. “That’s why I proposed bipartisan legislation to remove unnecessary research and commercial use barriers, and set guidelines for its safe use in public and private sectors. This technology is already helping to grow businesses and thousands of jobs nationwide, adding to the economic vitality of our communities and has the potential to strengthen our agricultural and energy production, as well as provide important developments in search and rescue techniques.”

Heitkamp’s Safe Skies for Unmanned Aircraft Act of 2015 would require the FAA to provide clear guidance for UAS technologies, remove regulatory barriers preventing necessary research, redefine UAS technologies for more autonomy, and open the door to more investments in UAS research.

“Legislation such as this is much needed; perhaps well overdue,” said Michael Corcoran, assistant director of the University of North Dakota’s UAS Center of Excellence. “For the United States to remain competitive within the international UAS industry, regulatory processes that facilitate unimpeded research and industry growth must exist—at some point, regulations will need to evolve at the same speed of UAS technology itself. Senator Heitkamp’s collaborative leadership to this end-state does exactly that, and will prove to be critical to our future success as we support the FAA during this time of growth.”

Oregon is home to three UAS test ranges: the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in central Oregon and airspace outside Pendleton and Tillamook, which are part of the Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site in Alaska. Oregon State University partners with the University of Alaska to develop new implementations for UAS and is researching civilian uses for unmanned aircraft in natural resources such as tracking wildfires.

“Oregon State University is actively working with industry, government and academia to help drive a new area of remote-sensing capabilities using autonomous systems for natural resource applications, such as precision agriculture, forest management and ocean health monitoring, that are critical to advancing Oregon’s economy,” said Ron Adams, interim vice president of research at Oregon State University.

“When it comes to commercial unmanned aircraft, the sky is the limit,” said Wyden. “This exciting technology can be applied in ways that haven’t even been dreamed up yet, and with the valuable research underway at institutions like Oregon State University, great things are on the horizon for UAS to safely and efficiently contribute to Oregon’s economy.”  


For more on the UAS Industry, follow us on Twitter @UASMagazine