Tuesday, October 9, 2018

S 3513 Introduced – UAS Restricted Areas

Last month Sen Cortez-Masto (D,NV) introduced S 3513, the UAS Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. The bill would amend provisions in the 2016 FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (PL 114-190) that would allow facilities to petition the FAA to be declared restricted flight zones for unmanned aircraft.

UAS Restricted Areas

Section 2 of the bill would add ‘railroad facilities’ to the limited list of facilities that should be authorized to request that the FAA “prohibit or restrict the operation of an unmanned aircraft in close proximity” {PL 114-190 §2209(a), (130 STAT. 634)} to the facility.

The bill would also establish a deadline of March 31, 2019 for the FAA to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to carry out §2209 and a requirement to publish the final rule within one year of that date.

Moving Forward

Both Cortez-Masto and her single cosponsor {Sen. Fischer (R,NE)} are members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. Earlier in the session this might have allowed for their influence to ensure that this bill was considered in Committee. It is certainly less likely now, however, that this bill will receive any additional attention in the closing days of the session. The bill is likely to be re-introduced in the 116th Congress.

The original authorization bill that this bill amends received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. There is nothing in this bill that would raise the prospects for significant opposition. If the bill were to be considered in this session it would likely pass in both Committee and on the floor with bipartisan support.


The practical problem with this bill and the underlying requirement for establishing critical infrastructure ‘no fly zones’ is that there is currently no way to enforce the restrictions. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are typically too small to have readily identifiable identification numbers while they are in flight and it is currently illegal for anyone in the private sector or non-federal law enforcement to interfere with the operation of UAS or intercept the communications between the UAS and its controller. Even the recent authorization (sent to the President on October 4th) for DHS or DOJ physical action against UAS would not apply at these facilities.

The inclusion of a new deadline for the FAA to take regulatory action on the requirements of §2209 is interesting. The original legislation already required the FAA to establish the facility registration program within 180-days of the enactment of HR 636 (July 15th, 2016). The only way that Congress has of forcing compliance with such deadlines is by restricting funding for Department operations until the requirements are met, something for which there is very little political will to support.

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