The Federal Aviation Administration should expedite the rulemaking process regarding unmanned aerial systems in U.S. airspace, and allow limited use of small UAS for commercial purposes, a coalition of industry groups said last week.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International made the request in a letter to the FAA. The American Soybean Association and the Crop Science Society of America, along with several other agriculture groups, also signed the letter.
Groups say FAA's nearly four-year delay in providing rulemaking for small UAS is long overdue.
"The time for resolution has come, and we cannot afford any further delays. The technology is advancing faster than the regulations to govern it," the letter said.
Currently, the FAA says it prohibits operation of UAS for commercial purposes, regardless of the operator's adherence to model aircraft rules. According to an FAA fact sheet, personal recreation flights are allowed, provided the operator flies below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, and away from populated areas.
The question of regulation has already hit the courtroom. A federal judge earlier this year ruled that an FAA fine against a drone operator for flying commericially over the University of Virginia be dropped on the basis that FAA's flight rules weren't part of a formal rulemaking process. FAA last week filed a brief to appeal the decision.
Allow commercial use now
Groups said in addition to expediting the rulemaking process, FAA should allow some commercial flights in the meantime.
"The current regulatory void has left American entrepreneurs and others either sitting on the sidelines or operating in the absence of appropriate safety guidelines," the letter argues.
Groups are pushing community-based safety programming, which they say is already in use, and is effective.
"We highly encourage the FAA to allow similar programming to be used to allow the small UAS industry to establish appropriate standards for safe operation. Doing so will allow a portion of the promising commercial sector to begin operating safely and responsibly in the national airspace," the letter says.
According to AUVSI's economic impact study, the integration of UAS will create more than 100,000 new jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade following integration.
Every year integration is delayed, said AUVSI President and CEO Michael Toscano, the United States loses more than $10 billion in potential economic impact – $27.6 million per day.