June 12, 2015

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) offer great promise for a variety of applications in many areas, however, with FAA regulations still in development, their use is largely restricted. NBAA’s new resource, “Petitioning for an FAA Commercial UAS Exemption,” provides guidance for businesses that wish to begin operating UAS before the FAA’s final rule is published.

“NBAA represents companies that use general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful,” said Sarah Wolf, NBAA senior manager, security facilitation. “UAS will be another business tool available to an even broader range of companies.” The new resource released can help NBAA Members and others to operate UAS safely, efficiently and legally under the FAA’s current regulations.

The resource, written by Connie Lahn, of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, indicates that the FAA may grant exemptions to the general ban on commercial UAS use if certain safety standards are met. Exemptions are typically granted to operators for specific types of UAS, and considerations for each petition include size, weight, speed and the area in which the UAS will be operated.

The FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on Feb. 15, 2015, which will make it easier to use UAS for business purposes once it is finalized.

“In the meantime, the petition process may still be a viable option for businesses that would like to use unmanned aircraft as soon as possible and do not want to gamble on the quick finalization of the proposed rule,” the resource explains. “Even after the NPRM is finalized, companies will need to petition for any exemption outside the scope of the NPRM.”

NBAA has long maintained that it is imperative that any introduction plan for UAS be thoughtful, deliberative and focused on safety. This means UAS should not share the same airspace with manned aircraft until they have equivalent certification and airworthiness standards as manned aircraft, including the ability to take timely directions from air traffic control, and to sense and avoid other aircraft and UAS.

NBAA personnel have been involved in UAS working groups (through RTCA) since 2006. The Association has also expanded the presence of UAS-related materials and seminars, with the 2014 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2014) featuring two well-attended sessions devoted to the subject. Additional sessions regarding UAS operations will be featured at NBAA2015, coming Nov. 17 to 19, 2015 to Las Vegas, NV.

For more information on issues related to UAS, please contact uas@nbaa.org.