On May 13, 2015, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced the “Commercial UAS Modernization Act” (S.1314), a bill that would establish a set of interim operating guidelines for commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or “drones”) and make other changes to the law intended to promote the safe integration of drones into the national airspace system. The bill would preserve the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rulemaking authority in this area and anticipates the issuance of final regulations by the agency. According to the sponsors’ public statements, one motivation for the legislation is a concern that other countries are surpassing the U.S. in developing safety and operability rules for drones.

S.1314 would: (1) set forth interim guidelines for commercial use and testing of small UAS during the time that the FAA is finalizing rules; (2) build a framework for registering and using UAS for commercial purposes; (3) establish a deputy administrator position at the FAA with responsibility for safely integrating UAS in U.S. airspace and evaluating the impact of existing regulations; (4) establish a means of assessing the research and partnership capabilities of FAA test sites. The bill, which incorporates several provisions of the FAA’s proposed rulemaking released in February,1 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, where it awaits further action.