Initiative Will Expand Small UAS Horizons
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) today 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.
“Government has some 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
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the initiative
today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems
International Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in
The FAA is working with industry partners on three focus
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
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
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
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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