Day Two of the FAA’s 2016 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium built onto the discussions from Day One. Day Two was spent in breakout sessions

intended to allow the FAA to listen to industry and stakeholder concerns, questions and ideas. The breakout sessions were filled with robust dialogue and information sharing.

While the breakout sessions covered multiple topics, including certification, airspace management, and research and technology issues, a few common themes emerged:

  • The forthcoming final Section 107 will provide a number of answers and solutions to many of the common questions and concerns of small UAS operators (although the FAA officials were careful not to identify specifics of the new final rule).
  • The limitations and squeezing of the currently used radio spectrum for communication between the control station and unmanned vehicle is a significant problem that while there are many ideas on potential solutions, there is no concrete solution at this time.
  • Operators complained about the COA process and the hoops that operators have to jump through in order to operate legally. In essence, a number of operators made the argument that because regulations are so onerous, a number of operators operate outside of the regulatory scheme and this makes all operations less safe. At the same time, a number of operators expressed frustration that FAA was doing so little to enforce the current regulatory scheme – this again encourages operators to ignore the regulations.
  • The hodgepodge of local and state regulation is unacceptable. Local and state regulations are often not well thought out and often conflict between states or between cities. Operations in this environment are very difficult.
  • With regard to the interaction between airports and UAS, a number of operators expressed frustration with the 5 mile radius because this makes operations difficult. It is often very difficult to identify how to contact an airport and also whom to give notice at the airport.
  • The industry and FAA will need to work together to solve issues as they arise but those issues will need to be handled one piece at a time.

The two days of conversation between the FAA and the various stakeholders was well received by those in attendance and there was definitely a call for more collaboration as the aviation industry shifts towards integrating non-traditional types of aircraft. Hopefully this symposium is the start to a new relationship between industry and the FAA.