After a February 2015 proposed rulemaking (the “NPRM”) faced a firestorm of comments, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has determined “that further engagement with industry and stakeholders is needed” before any attempt is made to finalize regulations for very small unmanned aircraft systems, also known as “Micro UAS.” In response, the FAA chartered the Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) to continue the review process and prepare recommendations to the FAA for future rulemakings. As originally conceived by the NPRM, Micro UAS are drones weighing less than 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) that are constructed of malleable materials that will break, bend or “yield on impact so as to present a minimal hazard to any person or object.” The Micro UAS ARC was formed amidst pressure from drone manufacturers and commercial users to appropriately balance safety and privacy concerns with wider drone use.
The Micro UAS ARC is charged with “consider[ing] recommendations for a performance-based standard that would allow for micro UAS to be operated over people” or “under a covered structure.” Critically, the FAA requires that the Micro UAS ARC address human injury thresholds and hazard and risk to passersby. The FAA stated that Micro UAS ARC members will consist of “aviation community” members, industry associations, manufacturers, researchers and consensus-standards organizations. The members, formally announced days after the formation of the ARC, include GoogleX, Intel, GoPro and other industry stalwarts. Earl Lawrence, Director of UAS Integration Office at FAA, and Nancy Egan, General Counsel at 3D Robotics, will co-chair the committee. It will submit its report by April 1, 2016.
Nearly five months ago, the FAA sought similar recommendations regarding its proposed drone registration process, largely adopted by the FAA, requiring individuals and firms to register drones in active use. The new Micro UAS ARC looks to fill a comparable role, offering industry expertise and recommendations for very small drone regulations.