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July 18, 2016

New regulations that apply to small unmanned aircraft systems (s-UAS) weighing less than 55 pounds will go into effect in late August. The commercial operation of these small drones is covered by regulations spelled out in the new FAR Part 107.

However, rules that apply to the operation of UAS weighing more than 55 pounds will generally be covered under existing manned aircraft regulations, according to Bob Lamond, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. NBAA personnel have participated in UAS working groups for 10 years, and for the past four years, Lamond has represented the association on an Aviation Rulemaking Committee focused on policies for safely integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace.

Among other things, Lamond said one of the ARC recommendations recommended how to establish “well clear” standards for UAS similar to the requirement for pilots of manned aircraft.

Meanwhile, Lamond, noted, the FAA continues to press ahead with its Pathfinder Program – an effort to develop new technologies that will aid in the operation of UAS in the NAS. One project under the Pathfinder program calls for the development of a system that can detect rogue UAS operations and take action to negate perceived threats.

“One option [to mitigate threats] might be taking control of a rogue UAS and landing it safely, away from airport traffic patterns,” said Lamond. “It might also allow authorities to find the UAS operator.

“There’s also an effort on the part of NASA, in conjunction with FAA, to develop an ATC system strictly for UAS operating at low altitude,” Lamond added. That ATC system would be separate from air traffic control services used by manned aircraft.

Lamond called UAS a “fantastic tool” for NBAA members that may be able to use unmanned aircraft to replace manned aircraft in operations that can be either time-consuming and dangerous. The association is reaching out to current and potential members that are looking to incorporate UAS in their core business.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of engaging both industry and the FAA on developments in the UAS world,” concluded Lamond. “We look forward to continuing to do that in the future.”

NBAA has long maintained that safety be the top priority for any plan to introduce UAS into the NAS, including assurances that unmanned aircraft meet equivalent certification, airworthiness and traffic avoidance standards as manned aircraft.

The association will host several UAS education sessions at NBAA’s 2016 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), to be held Nov. 1 to 3 in Orlando, FL.

Review NBAA’s UAS resources.