On January 31, 2017, the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) – a multi-stakeholder advisory group to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – met in Reno, Nevada to discuss the critical issues affecting the integration unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace. The DAC was formed to allow stakeholders from industry, academia, and government to advise the FAA on the integration of UAS into the national airspace and advise on the prioritization of FAA efforts and rule-making towards that end.

At the second meeting, member participants discussed the work and progress of the DAC's three sub-committees, each tasked with advising the DAC (and ultimately the FAA) on possible solutions to three critical challenges to integration: (i) defining the various roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments in regulating UAS and enforcing of UAS rules and law, (ii) identifying the technological and regulatory mechanisms that will allow UAS operators to gain access to the airspace beyond what the agency currently permits under the 14 CFR part 107 (the Small UAS Rule), and (iii) finding the mechanisms and resources to fund the expanded provision of services needed to support UAS integration.

While the DAC's work is only beginning, the second DAC meeting gives meaningful insight into what issues the DAC and its subcommittees will address in the coming months. Those in the UAS industry or interested in the applications of UAS technology should be mindful of the DAC's priorities and the following developments:

  • The FAA announced the establishment of a certification basis for the AeroVironment Puma UAS – the first certification basis announced for a UAS.
  • DAC sub-committee task group dedicated to defining the roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments will address: (i) identifying specific state and local interests in the regulation of UAS use, (ii) whether or not a portion of the low altitude UAS airspace can be delegated to local and state regulation, and (iii) the mechanisms for enforcement of federal safety and airspace rules and regulations by local and state government and the possibility of parallel and/or complementary enforcement mechanisms.
  • The DAC subcommittee task group dedicated to airspace access will address expedited procedures for UAS airworthiness certification, the appropriate technology and mechanisms to facilitate autonomous command and control functions (such as spectrum allocations, satellite, and wireless cell), and provide recommendations for revised operational requirements which may allow for UAS operations beyond those currently permitted under the Small UAS Rule (i.e., beyond visual line of sight operations).
  • The third DAC subcommittee task group regarding The DAC will address what activities and services are necessary to support the safe integration of UAS into NAS, assess what funding resources are needed, and identify what funding mechanisms should be utilized.

The three DAC subcommittee task groups have numerous scheduled meeting over the coming months ahead of the next DAC general meeting in May of 2017.

A copy of the DAC agenda is available here.