April 7, 2016

The Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) has submitted its consensus report to the FAA, and NBAA believes that the report’s recommendations – including establishing four categories of UAS with various performance-based standards for operating over people – will increase the potential business uses of UAS.

“Limitations on the operation of UAS over people are a significant hindrance in the application and effectiveness of the use of UAS by our member companies,” said Bob Lamond, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “NBAA has advocated for reasonable standards to ensure safety of manned aircraft and people on the ground, while not unnecessarily encumbering use of UAS by our members.”

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.

“The government and industry participants of the ARC showed great commitment in completing its work so quickly,” said Lamond. “NBAA appreciates this dedication, as we believe the work of the ARC could dramatically increase the opportunities for further expansion of UAS in support of business and our members.”

Under the ARC’s recommendations, a Category 1 UAS would be allowed to operate over people if it weighs 250 grams or less. Category 2, 3 and 4 UAS would be allowed to operate over people if the UAS does not exceed an impact-energy threshold specified for each category.

Categories 2 through 4 would also be subject to certain operational restrictions, such as distance above people’s heads or lateral distance from people. The ARC recommended that UAS manufacturers declare that each of their UAS meets industry consensus standards for a particular category, submit that declaration to the FAA, label the product accordingly and provide an operating manual to users.

The ARC completed its tasks on a fast-track model of rulemaking, beginning its work in March and submitting the report to the FAA on April 1. The agency will use the ARC’s report to develop a proposed rule, which will be published in a notice of proposed rulemaking and open for public comment for a period of time.

The Micro UAS ARC report focuses solely on the question of UAS operations over people. The recommendations from this ARC will have no effect on current regulations limiting small UAS to below 400 feet, within line-of-sight and outside of temporary flight restrictions. The recommendations will be available for public comment through the standard notice of proposed rulemaking before any new UAS operating rules are implemented.

“The ARCs recommendations are a significant step forward for the micro UAS integration process,” said Lamond. “NBAA will monitor the rulemaking progress, analyze the proposed rule when published and comment accordingly to ensure that the interests of our members that want to use UAS are represented.”

Read the ARC’s final report. (PDF)