Tuesday, February 16, 2016

HR 4432 Introduced – Commercial Drones

Earlier this month Rep. Blumenauer (D,OR) introduced HR 4432, the Commercial UAS Modernization Act. The bill would provide interim rules for the use of commercial unmanned aircraft while the FAA is completing their rule making initiated in February of last year. It also provides special treatment for non-commercial drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds.

The bill would add three new sections to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (PL 112–95):

Sec 337. Operation of small unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes;
Sec 338. Micro UAS operations; and
Sec 339. Deputy associate administrator for unmanned aircraft.

Commercial Drones

The new §337 would put interim rules in place while the FAA was completing its current rulemaking process. It would establish the following general requirements for commercial operators {§337(b)}:

• Liability insurance;
• Aircraft registration;
• Operator aeronautical knowledge test;
• Aircraft certification;

It would also establish accident reporting requirements as well as the following operating limitations {§337(c)}:

• May only be operated under visual line of sight rules;
• May not be operated higher than 500 feet above ground level;
• May not be operated unless the operator has prior authorization from the air traffic control facility having jurisdiction over that airspace;
• May only be operated in daylight conditions;
Shall yield right of way to all other users of the National Airspace System;
• May not be operated by any individual with any physical or mental condition that the individual knows, or has reason to know, would interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft; and
• May only be operated after a preflight inspection.

Micro UAS

The new §338 would establish a new class of aircraft called Micro UAS that would have a gross upper weight limit of 4.4 lbs. These UAS would be exempt from operator aeronautical testing and aircraft certification requirements as long as the Micro UAS was operated:

• Less than 400 feet above ground level;
• At an airspeed of not greater than 40 knots;
• Within the visual line of sight of the operator;
• During daylight; and
• At least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of an airport as denoted on a current aeronautical chart published by the FAA

Moving Forward

Blumenauer is on neither of the Committees that have been designated to consider the bill so it is unlikely that he would have the influence necessary to gain committee consideration of the bill. If the bill were to be considered, I do not see anything that would raise significant opposition to the bill.

In his speech on the House floor introducing the bill, Blumenauer made it clear that there is significant constituent interest in his district for moving the regulation of UAS forward and I am relatively sure that there is similar interest in other areas of the country. If he really wants to get this bill to move forward he is going to have to approach members (from both sides of the aisle) of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee to become co-sponsors of the bill.


The establishment of a Micro UAS category with a weight limit of 4.4 lbs without addressing the issue of commercial vs hobby operation would make this confusing with the recent FAA changes to the registration of small UAVs. That interim final rule establishes the minimum weight of a small UAV at 250 g (1/4 lb) and a maximum weight of 150 lbs. It also provides for different registration requirements for commercial (air craft registered) and hobby (pilot registered) operations.

BTW: Blumenauer had a great line at the end his floor speech that I completely agree with: “The Commercial UAS Modernization Act provides a much-needed update to federal rules, making it clear that flying smartphones should not be regulated like Predator drones.”

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */