On February 3, 2016, Representatives Bill Schuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (“AIRR Act”). The AIRR Act is a six year re-authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and addresses, for example, reforms to air traffic control, FAA’s certification processes, and funding for airport infrastructure. The full text of the AIRR Act can be found here, and a summary prepared by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee can be found here. Importantly, the AIRR Act also contains a number of proposed reforms to facilitate the greater introduction of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) into the national air-space system. Specifically, the AIRR Act includes provisions to:
- Expedite safe deployment of commercial UAS by creating a risk-based permitting process;
- Promote greater utilization of UAS test ranges by permitting flights of UAS equipped with sense-and-avoid technologies, and allowing civil operation of small UAS;
- Establish a streamlined process for the FAA to permit the operation of small UAS for certain uses;
- Direct the FAA to conduct a pilot program to evaluate UAS detection and mitigation technology;
- Facilitate utilization of UAS in support of firefighting operations;
- Direct the Department of Transportation Inspector General to assess the FAA’s small UAS registration system and require FAA to develop and track metrics to assess compliance with and effectiveness of the system;
- Establish a government-industry advisory committee to assess the necessity and feasibility of a low altitude unmanned aircraft system traffic management system; and
- Direct DOT to conduct a study on the privacy implications of UAS operations.
Please keep in mind that the proposed text of the AIRR Act is only a draft and it remains to be seen which provisions, if any, may eventually be approved.