UAS Advocacy Committee

Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established and implemented rules for commercial and civil use of small unmanned aircraft systems (Part 107), a lot of work has been done to further shape a national UAS policy. In collaboration with industry stakeholders, the federal government has taken steps to advance UAS research, expand commercial operations, and enhance the safety and security of the National Airspace System (NAS). The 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, proposed regulatory rulemakings, and continued government and industry partnerships will help to further move UAS forward. Still more is needed, and the following policies should be a priority for government and industry to ensure our skies remain safe and secure while advancing UAS in the U.S and around the world.

SAFETY & SECURITY: There are several facets to safety and security, including accelerating the rulemaking for remote ID, facilitating the deployment of UAS mitigation technologies and providing law enforcement with the appropriate authorities to mitigate errant or malicious UAS.

  • REMOTE IDENTIFICATION: Remote Identification, acting as an electronic license plate, is a foundational building block needed to unlock the potential of wide-scale commercial drone operations. Remote ID will increase safety, security, and accountability by removing anonymous operators from the system, which will also help address privacy and nuisance concerns. Establishing remote ID and tracking standards will help alleviate safety concerns raised around UAS and their increasing use, as well as facilitate the enforcement of existing state laws. It is also vital for the ultimate realization of a UAS Traffic Management system (UTM). However, the rulemaking process for remote ID is not expected to start until July 2019, and a final rule is still in the distant future. Aviation regulators should prioritize the creation of a globally harmonized remote identification standard. The industry urges our government partners to find a way to expediate this process.
  • UAS MITIGATION: Implementing UAS mitigation policies, technologies, and systems, which the UAS industry has been hard at work developing starts with remotely identifying and tracking drones. Regulators in the U.S. and around the world need to work swiftly to implement these solutions in a safe and effective way. Industry is willing to work with the appropriate government stakeholders to identify technologies that successfully mitigate improper use of UAS while preserving lawful commerce and avoid introducing safety risks to lawful operators.
  • The Role of ENFORCEMENT: Providing law enforcement with the proper authority to mitigate errant or potentially malicious UAS. The industry supported granting additional authorities to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice as part of the recent FAA reauthorization, and will continue to work with our security partners to ensure they have the appropriate authorities to keep our skies secure. Passive tools that can detect and identify UAS and their operators on the ground should be encouraged to be used broadly, in advance of authorization to use active mitigations.

CYBERSECURITY: As use of unmanned technologies expands into new applications and industries, cybersecurity becomes an important consideration for all parts of the ecosystem. During this formative period for unmanned systems, AUVSI supports the development of strong public-private partnerships to foster voluntary, risk-based approaches to data security and operations management, the development of industry-driven consensus on data management best practices and security standards that ensure critical mission information is accessed by authorized parties, and the development of industry-driven consensus security standards. Prescriptive regulation or government-imposed requirements will inhibit the flexibility necessary to effectively address a constantly evolving risk and may result in a check-list approach to security that is ineffective over time. 

SPECTRUM: UAS require swaths of spectrum to function. More spectrum is needed for UAS to one day use command and control technologies at higher altitudes, detect-and-avoid systems, transmit payload data, and strengthen safe operations of UAS in the NAS. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants the use of spectrum. As the FCC issues proposed rulemakings on the use of specific bands, such as 5Ghz and 6Ghz, it needs to consider future UAS operations and rely on more industry conducted research, testing, and analysis of UAS spectrum use taking place.

THE ROLE OF STATE, LOCAL & TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS: As more UAS are integrated into the NAS, state, local and tribal governments are attempting to enact legislation that gives them authority over the airspace. AUVSI acknowledges that states and localities retain their police powers over privacy and nuisance issues. However, Title 49, Part A, Section 1 of the U.S. Code, states: “The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.” This federal control of the airspace—delegated in practice by the U.S. Congress to the Federal Aviation Administration—is a bedrock principle of aviation law that dates back well over 50 years and is one of the reasons that the United States maintains an aviation safety record that is the envy of the rest of the world. AUVSI supports opportunities for state, local, and government entities to help shape national UAS policy without infringing on the FAA’s jurisdiction, such as the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program.

PRIVACY & PROPERTY RIGHTS: The UAS industry is committed to ensuring an individual’s right to privacy. As expanded operations and integration of UAS into the NAS approach, more frequent UAS operations over private property will spur legal action aimed to transfer authority of the airspace from the FAA to states, local governments, tribal governments, and property owners. This transfer jeopardizes the safe integration of UAS into the NAS by creating a patchwork of different rules that operators must navigate.

Opportunities for state, local, and government entities to shape national UAS policy on privacy without infringing on the FAA’s jurisdiction over the NAS exist and should be promoted as the appropriate means of developing and safeguarding privacy concerns. For example, in 2015, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) convened representatives from government, industry, and civil liberty groups to develop a set of best practices for UAS privacy, accountability, and transparency to ensure that UAS operators are flying responsibly. The industry participated in this process, and the resulting best practices build upon the existing legal framework on privacy and provide clear guidance for operators.

COMPETITION & TRADE: Our members drive innovation, and their cutting-edge products and services are revolutionizing the way we live and work. Their innovation enables companies of all sizes to reach new markets, create jobs, and raise the standards of living. Fair and open trade, and free flow of investments, are key to UAS innovation. By opening markets, reducing barriers and regulations, and injecting more certainty and predictability into the marketplace, trade and investment agreements are key catalysts for the innovation progress that drive our global economies and markets. 

A stable and open trade and investment environment further promotes technology transfer and the international harmonization of standards is essential to realizing the full potential benefits of unmanned systems. Updating multilateral arrangements, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and the U.S.’s own International Trafficking in Arms Regulation (ITAR), to reflect the advances in unmanned technology is critical to growing this market. Encouraging continued progress on both fronts will provide the conditions required to ensure adoption of unmanned technologies by today’s pioneers who are laying the groundwork for the many applications of our nascent industry.

INFRASTRUCTURE: America’s aging infrastructure inhibits the potential of the UAS industry, and the industry supports updating infrastructure to enable expanded operations and allow for the development of new technologies such as urban air mobility (UAM). Necessary improvements may range from updating the electrical grid to developing a UTM system to creating UAS-specific infrastructure such as vertiports that will enable takeoffs and landings from existing structures.

Additionally, a UTM system that works alongside the FAA’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) system is necessary to further integrate UAS into the NAS and allow for expanded operations such as fully autonomous flights or beyond visual line of sight. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 calls for rulemaking on a UTM system, though its creation is still in its infancy. The industry urges the FAA to act swiftly to develop this system to unlock the full potential of UAS.