A swiftly finalized rule will be an essential step in enabling this transformative industry.
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are poised to be one of the fastest-growing industries in American history. According to AUVSI’s Economic Impact Report, which is currently the most comprehensive study ever performed on the UAS industry, within 10 years of UAS integration into the National Airspace System (NAS), the industry will represent an $82 billion segment of the U.S. economy and generate more than 100,000 new high-paying jobs.
AUVSI, which represents more than 7,500 individual members and 600 corporations, has been anticipating this rule for several years and designing industry-wide best practices for implementing UAS into the commercial sector safely and efficiently. While many prospective users wait for the regulatory framework to catch up, the UAS industry has largely remained grounded. The NPRM is a good first step in an evolutionary process that brings us closer to realizing the many societal and economic benefits of UAS technology. However, we need to permit more expansive uses of UAS than those contemplated in the draft rules, otherwise we risk still-nascent industry, and restricting the many great uses of this technology.
Since the publication of the NPRM, AUVSI staff and members have been collaborating with technical and industry leaders to provide the most comprehensive and well-researched feedback to the FAA. Based on our exhaustive analysis, AUVSI, its members and the two million jobs they represent urge that the final rule take on a risk-based, technology-neutral approach to approving operations. By risk-based, technology-neutral, AUVSI means that regulations should be based on the risk profile of a particular UAS operation instead of solely regulating the platform being flown. This philosophy reflects a global trend that has been proven in nations with growing commercial UAS industries.
For example, low-risk operations such as aerial surveys above rural farmland and operations with micro UAS that weigh less than 4.4 pounds would be granted access to the airspace with minimal regulatory barriers. In practice, this approach would require looking at a variety of factors in a UAS operation to determine the operation’s risk value. If the computed risk value of an operation is below an acceptable threshold, the operation should be regarded as “safe,” regardless of the specific technology used.
AUVSI recommends the FAA establish a regulatory framework that is able to promote UAS innovation by providing flexible standards for responsibility, reliability, security and compliance, rather than continually putting forth new rules for individual UAS platforms, technologies and operations. Without this framework, the FAA risks stunting this emerging industry at the cost of over $27 million dollars each day rulemaking is delayed.
AUVSI’s recommendations will not only support the immediate and sustained growth of the UAS industry, but will encourage innovations that will directly improve other industries. Healthcare, graphic imaging, remote sensing and even manned aviation will quickly benefit from technologies developed for UAS. These systems are capable of saving time, saving money and most importantly, saving lives. AUVSI supports the safe and responsible integration of UAS in order to unlock the tremendous potential the technology holds while helping to boost local economies and create jobs.