Feb. 26, 2016

The FAA has announced the formation of the Performance Standards and Requirements for Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The ARC’s recommendations could increase the potential commercial uses of micro UAS.

Drone Operator

“Of significant interest to business aircraft operators wanting to use drones that qualify for the micro UAS classification, this ARC is specifically tasked to consider recommendations for a performance-based standard that would enable micro UAS to be operated above people who are not directly participating in the operation of the UAS or under a covered structure,” said Bob Lamond, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “This could dramatically increase the opportunities for commercial use of micro UAS.”

The ability to operate above people would be a major step forward for commercial operators of UAS in the micro category, which is defined as less than 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms). To be considered “micro,” the UAS must also be constructed of frangible materials “that break, distort, or yield on impact so as to present a minimal hazard to any person or object.”

“Any change in rules that allow for flight above people must be done is such a way to insure the continued safety of those people. ‘Frangibility’ is an important safety consideration in this process,” said Lamond.

NBAA has long maintained that integration of UAS into the National Airspace System must be a thoughtful, deliberate process. That is, UAS should not share the same airspace with manned aircraft until they have equivalent certification and airworthiness standards as manned aircraft. NBAA will closely watch developments as a result of this ARC to ensure the interests of businesses using UAS are represented.

After reviewing comments received from the small UAS (s-UAS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released last year, the FAA decided not to proceed with a micro UAS classification in the s-UAS Operation and Certification Part 107 Rule, which was published in 2015. Rather, the agency determined that further discussion with industry and stakeholders was needed before conducting rulemaking to address the regulatory framework for micro UAS.

This new ARC will recommend a performance-based standard for classification of micro UAS, as well as operational requirements for micro UAS. The ARC will follow the fast-track model of the late 2015 s-UAS Registration ARC in that the committee will first meet in March, with a final report due to the FAA administrator on April 1. What is not known is if the FAA will then go right to a “final rule” or submit the recommendations to the normal NPRM process.

View the ARC’s charter. (PDF)