Plane-ly Spoken continues its look at the Senate’s version of the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR). As we saw in part one, the Senate has a wide range of proposals that establish new standards and requirements for UAS manufacturers and hobbyists. Today, we add new fees on UAS operators into the mix.

If the Bill becomes law, manufacturers will have to include “safety statements” with every aircraft sold in the US. The Statements must include:

  1. Information about laws and regulations applicable to unmanned aircraft systems;
  2. Recommendations for using unmanned aircraft in a manner that promotes the safety of persons and property;
  3. The date that the safety statement was created or last modified; and
  4. Language approved by the Administrator regarding the following:
    1. A person may operate the unmanned aircraft as a model aircraft (as defined in the Bill) or otherwise in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration authorization or regulation, including requirements for the completion of the aeronautical knowledge and safety test as defined in the Bill.
    2. The definition of a model aircraft as defined in the Bill.
    3. The operating limitations spelled out in the model aircraft section of the Bill.
    4. The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may pursue enforcement action against a person operating model aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.

This “safety statement” requirement, however, might prove beneficial to the industry. Under some circumstances, if the government mandates a specific warning with a product, the Courts have held that this preempts any claim by injured persons that the warning was inadequate or that a different warning should have been issued.

Another significant provision allows the FAA to set up a “fee system” to cover the costs of regulating and administering all of the new requirements for commercial UAS operators. The unique aspect of this provision is that it allows the FAA to keep the funds in house, rather than sending them to the general fund where most other agency fees go. It is unclear how much these fees will be or what activities they will be attached to, as the FAA will have to conduct a formal rulemaking to implement this provision.

Finally a significant portion of the Bill deals with privacy and civil liberties issues relating to UAS use. Mostly they apply to government operators, but one provision requires commercial operators to have and abide by a privacy policy that meets the consensus standard being developed in the NTIA.

So, as we can see, the Senate is definitely more focused on the hazards of UAS operations to the National Airspace System and seems to want the FAA to proceed more slowly. In fact, because almost all of these new requirements would need additional notice and comment rulemaking to implement, the drag on the speed the FAA moves towards full UAS integration could be substantial.