Tuesday, March 15, 2016

S 2670 Introduced – Micro UAS

Last week Sen. Vitter (R,LA) introduced S 2670, the Micro Drone Safety and Innovation Act of 2016. The bill would establish the legal framework for the minimal regulation of micro unmanned aircraft system (micro UAS).

Micro UAS Exemptions

The bill adds a new §337 to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 USC 40101 note). It defines micro UAS as “an unmanned aircraft system the aircraft component of which weighs not more than 4.4 pounds, including payload” {new §337(f)}.

Under clearly specified operating conditions, it would exempt the operator of a micro UAS from any “provision of a statute, rule, or regulation relating to airman certification” {new §337(b)}. It specifically exempts micro UAS operators from requirements:

• To pass any aeronautical knowledge test;
• To meet any age or experience requirement; or
• To obtain an airman certificate or medical certificate.

Under the same operating conditions, the bill would exempt the micro UAS from airworthiness standards under 49 USC 447 and specific sections of 14 CFR part 91 regulations pertaining to operations of aircraft. The bill would specifically allow, again within the specified conditions, micro UAS to “be operated by any person without a certificate of authorization or waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration” {new §337(d)(2)}. The bill would also exempt micro UAS from subsequently adopted drone regulations.

The specified conditions which the bill requires for all of the above exemptions to FAA statutes and regulations are that the micro UAS will be operated {new §337(a)(1)}:

• At an altitude of less than 400 feet above ground level;
• At an airspeed not greater than 40 knots;
• Within the visual line of sight of the operator;
• During the hours between sunrise and sunset; and
• Not less than 5 statute miles from the geographic center of an airport

Moving Forward

Vitter is not a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the committee to which this bill was referred for consideration. Thus it is unlikely that he would have the pull to have this bill considered in Committee. The most probable way that this bill could move forward would be for it to be considered as an amendment to another bill that would require Vitter’s cooperation for passage.


This bill would throw the recent FAA interim final rule (IFR) on small UAS registration into all sorts of confusion. First, it ignores any differences between commercial operation and model aircraft operation; which plays a major part in differentiating how small UAS will be registered. Secondly, the small UAS definition in this bill falls within the boundaries of the definition of the IFR as far as aircraft size. The IFR sets the weight limit as being between 0.55-lbs and 55-lbs. Thirdly, the bill does not exempt the small UAS from marking requirements, but the only way of fulfilling those requirements is to obtain a registration number.

While the bill does restrict operation around airports (and does include provisions for obtaining permission to operate within the 5-mile airport limit) it does not provide any restrictions on the operation of the small UAS near critical infrastructure, over crowds, near aerial fire-fighting operations, or any other ‘reasonable’ flight area restrictions.

In general, this bill would create more confusion than would be outweigh any benefit that would accrue to the owners of the small UAS defined in this bill.

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