Wings Magazine

U.S. senate passes key bill on UAS flights

Feb. 7, 2012, Arlington, Va. - The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) applauds the U.S. Senate for passing the FAA bill conference agreement, following the House’s passage on 3 Feb. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes law.

February 7, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

Once enacted, the bill starts the clock on a number of deadlines the FAA must meet to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system. Chief among them is a deadline for full integration by 30 Sept. 2015.

The UAS industry has made tremendous technological advancements since Congress last passed an FAA bill in 2003, and this legislation recognizes the important role UAS will play in the future air transportation system.  Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee, said, “by setting requirements and deadlines for FAA rules for the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems, the conference report also unlocks the potential for private sector job creation here at home that has so far been stalled by government inaction.”

In praising Congress’s passage of the bill, AUVSI’s President & CEO Michael Toscano said, “UAS are truly a revolutionary-type technology, and I’m confident that once people can fly UAS in the national airspace for civil and commercial purposes, such as oil and pipeline monitoring, crop dusting, and search and rescue, a whole new industry will emerge, inventing products and accomplishing tasks we haven’t even thought of yet.” 

Some of the major UAS provisions AUVSI helped draft and advocate for inclusion in the bill include:


Setting a 30 Sept. 2015 deadline for full integration of UAS into the national airspace;
Requiring a comprehensive integration plan within nine months;
Requiring the FAA to create a five-year UAS roadmap (which should be updated annually);
Requiring small UAS (under 55lbs) to be allowed to fly within 27 months;
Requiring six UAS test sites within six months (similar to the language in the already-passed Defense Authorization bill);
Requiring small UAS (under 55lbs) be allowed to fly in the U.S. Arctic, 24-hours-a-day, beyond line-of-sight, at an altitude of at least 2,000 ft, within one year;
Requiring expedited access for public users, such as law enforcement, firefighters, emergency responders, etc.;
Allowing first responders to fly very small UAS (4.4lbs or less) within 90 days if they meet certain requirements;
The goal is to get law enforcement and firefighters immediate access to start flying small systems to save lives and increase public safety.
Requiring the FAA to study UAS human factors and causes of accidents; and
Exempting model aircraft, so long as the aircraft weighs less than 55lbs and follows a set of community-based safety standards.


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