Groups Protest Push for Commercial UAS Ops Regulation

Ten aviation organizations are appealing to U.S. lawmakers to block an effort that would open the door to state and local regulation of commercial unmanned aircraft operations. The organizations, representing manufacturers, carriers, pilots, the helicopter community, and the UAS community, among others, wrote to members of the U.S. Senate this week, expressing opposition to an amendment that is expected to be offered to comprehensive Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

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The amendment is believed to be among those that Senate leaders are assessing as they hope to move the FAA bill to the floor shortly. However, when and whether that might happen remains uncertain with debate looming over potential non-germane amendments.

According to the associations, the Lee amendment “would not only jeopardize the growth and success of the commercial UAS industry in the U.S., but would also set a dangerous precedent for the continued safe and efficient use of the national airspace.”

With the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), Congress preempted state and local government regulation of rates, routes, and services of commercial air carriers, the associations noted. “This preemption is also important to the UAS industry. Walking back this standard threatens the continued efficiency of our national airspace and would create undue burdens on those who operate within it.”

The groups fear the amendment would pave the way for thousands of state and local governments to impose their own restrictions on commercial UAS air carrier operations. This, they said, would create “inefficiencies that will stifle innovation and discourage investment and competition. This will inhibit the U.S. from embracing the economic potential and consumer benefits of drone delivery.” And they say such a patchwork of regulation could dampen the “immense humanitarian potential” of the technology.

While specific to operations, the groups further worry it would have a chilling effect on the development of the technologies and that the amendment jeopardizes the success of the Department of Transportation’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP), in which state and local entities are working with private-sector partners on integration demonstration projects.

Signing the letter were the Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Consumer Technology Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Carrier Association, National Business Aviation Association, Small UAV Coalition, and U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center.

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