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FAA, industry initiative will expand small UAS horizons

May 7, 2015, Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced a partnership with industry to explore the next steps in unmanned aircraft operations beyond the type of operations the agency proposed in the draft small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) rule it published in February.


May 7, 2015
By FAA

Topics

“Government has some of the best and brightest minds in aviation, but
we can’t operate in a vacuum,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary
Anthony Foxx. “This is a big job, and we’ll get to our goal of safe,
widespread UAS integration more quickly by leveraging the resources and
expertise of the industry.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the initiative today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta, Ga.

The FAA is working with industry partners on three focus areas, including:

  • Visual line-of-sight operations in urban areas
    CNN will look at how UAS might be safely used for newsgathering in populated areas.
  • Extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas
    This
    concept involves UAS flights outside the pilot’s direct vision. UAS
    manufacturer PrecisionHawk will explore how this might allow greater UAS
    use for crop monitoring in precision agriculture operations.
  • Beyond visual line-of-sight in rural/isolated areas
    BNSF Railroad will explore command-and-control challenges of using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure.

“Even
as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft,
we must continue to actively look for future ways to expand
non-recreational UAS uses,” Huerta said. “This new initiative involving
three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the
needs of the evolving UAS industry.”

The three companies reached
out to the FAA to work on research continuing to expand use of UAS in
the nation’s airspace. CNN and the FAA already have been working
together through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement
(CRDA). BNSF has a draft CRDA that is nearly complete and PrecisionHawk
has been working with the FAA on a possible research partnership.

Further
developing these operational concepts supports the FAA’s overall
strategy to expand UAS access, which currently includes rulemaking,
reviewing operational data from the six national UAS test sites,
expanding commercial operations via the Section 333 exemption process,
and issuing operational authorizations for type-certified UAS.

The
FAA published a proposed rule for small UAS on February 23, 2015 and
received nearly 4,500 public comments by the end of the comment period
on April 24. The agency will work as quickly as possible, but must
address all the comments submitted before finalizing the rule. The
number and complexity of the comments will play a role in determining
the timeline for a final rule.


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