FAA Releases Second Edition of its UAS Integration Roadmap
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released the second edition of its “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap.” In addition to providing an update on the FAA’s progress to date, the partnerships and advisory committees it has forged, and identifying key challenges to UAS integration into the NAS, the roadmap details the FAA’s near-term rulemaking and research efforts. The FAA’s ultimate goal—consistent with its statutory mandate in Section 332 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act—remains full UAS integration into the NAS, but a lot has to happen before that is a reality.
The roadmap also discusses in detail the FAA’s near-team rulemaking and research efforts for UAS integration:
- Integration Pilot Program (IPP): In May 2018, Department of Transportation Secretary Chao named the lead participants in the UAS IPP. Under the IPP, State, local, and tribal governments will collaborate with private sector entities to conduct more advanced UAS operations. The program will inform future UAS guidelines and regulations and is intended to foster a dialogue between local and national interests regarding UAS integration into the NAS. In addition, the IPP will consider potential security and safety risks, and will focus on Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) technologies, Command and Control links, navigation, weather, and human factors.
- Drone Delivery Operations: In April 2018, the Department of Transportation published a Notice announcing procedures to streamline economic authorization of drone delivery operations by obtaining authorization to operate as an “air taxi,” which enables relief from some of the more onerous statutory requirements applicable to “air carriers” (operators of aircraft engaged in interstate or foreign transportation of people or property for hire). Under these procedures, UAS operators seeking air taxi authority must: (1) be a U.S. citizen; (2) maintain liability insurance as required by FAA rules; and (3) register with the Department of Transportation.
- Rulemakings: The FAA states that it will continue its phased approach to expanded UAS operations, gradually enabling more complex operations. The FAA will focus on a regulatory framework to address UAS nighttime operations and over non-participating people. While the FCC has permitted nighttime operations via waiver of Part 107, the roadmap states that the FAA will develop an update to Part 107 to permit such operations. With regard to operations over people, the FAA will utilize the recommendations of its Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), lessons learned from the Focus Area Pathfinder Program, as well as information from waivers it has issued to devise new rules. As we have previously discussed, the Department of Transportation has sent a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on small UAS flights over people to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it remains pending.
The FAA’s long-term rulemaking plans will explore opportunities for full integration into the NAS, including issues such as certification of UAS operations for uses such as widespread transportation of property and drone deliveries.
- Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC): The FAA partnered with external service providers to provide a more streamlined low-altitude authorization and notification capability. The FAA will continue to deploy LAANC incrementally at nearly 300 air traffic facilities covering approximately 500 airports.
- UAS identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee: In 2017, the UAS Identification and Tracking ARC provided recommendations on technologies for remote tracking of UAS. The FAA will use the ARC’s recommendations to draft a proposed rule
- Research and Development (R&D): The FAA prioritizes R&D activities that support its regulatory integration path, which is intended to enable increasingly more complex UAS operations over time:
o Operations over People
o Expanded Operations
o Small US Package Delivery Operations
o Non-Segregated Operations
o Routine or Scheduled Operations
o Large Carrier Cargo Operations
o Passenger Transport Operations
Issues being addressed include DAA standards and technologies, “well clear” definition and visual compliance, collision avoidance standards, C2 standards and technologies, human factors, severity thresholds, automation/autonomy, wake turbulence effects, airworthiness requirements, and detection and tracking.
- UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Research and Transition Team (RTT): NASA is leading two research programs: one focused on UAS operating in higher altitude and controlled airspace, and one focusing on operations in low-altitude, managed airspace. Capabilities that must be developed include depicting available airspace and airspace constraints, showing where all aircraft are operating, depicting relevant weather information, and providing continuous flight tracking. Geo-fencing, collision avoidance, and communications technologies also must be developed to support UTM operations. The FAA is focusing on airspace management and operational implementation.