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What the FAA Reauthorization Extension means for drones

The U.S. House passed legislation last week that calls for putting safety standards for drones.

The House passed legislation to extend the FAA reauthorization bill, which calls for putting in place consensus safety standards for drone designs developed by industry representatives. It also calls for further study of local and state governmental authorities to oversee drone operations under certain scenarios.

The House earlier in the week failed to pass a bill, but on Thursday  sent the measure to the Senate on a 264-155 vote, three days after it failed on the House floor due to widespread opposition from Democrats, according to The Hill.

House GOP leaders then returned the bill to the floor under a rule needing only a simple majority.

And most of the drone groups seem to like it.

“The new FAA extension provides continuity for the aviation community, including model aircraft operating within a community-based organization like AMA,” said Academy of Model Aeronautics spokesperson Chad Budreau in a prepared statement.

However, many are calling for Congress to pass a long-term bill.

“The FAA extension provides some short-term stability for the civil and commercial UAS industry,” said AUVSI CEO Brian Wynne in a prepared statement. “However, it is critical that Congress pass a long-term bill with provisions for expanded research, development, and operations that will allow the country to recognize the full societal and economic benefits of UAS, including the tremendous job creation potential of the industry.”

Drone registration

AUVSI’s Wynne has been calling for a drone registration program, something he says is an “immediate need” that “this extension measure overlooks.”

The FAA previous had a drone registration requirement, but that was struck down in a federal appeals court in May of 2017.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of John Taylor, a drone hobbyist who had challenged the legality of the FAA’s drone-registration program.

The program, which was instituted in December 2015, required hobby drone owners to register through an FAA website for a $5 fee. Drone hobbyists were then issued a unique identification, which they were required to mark on their drones. Within the first month, nearly 300,000 drone owners had registered.

The court struck down the FAA’s registration rule, referencing the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. That rule stated that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.”

“The UAS registry promotes accountability and responsibility, and creates a culture of safety that deters careless and reckless behavior,” Wynne said. “Without this simple legislative fix, additional regulations that are needed to enable the UAS industry’s growth may continue to be stalled.”

 

 

 

“However, a longer-term reauthorization of the FAA is still needed,” the AMA’s Budreau said. “We look forward to working with Congress on a full FAA reauthorization bill that strengthens the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and affirms the role of community-based organizations in educating and managing hobbyists.”

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