Industry calls for an easing of FAA’s drone rules

House's Small Business subcommittee drone hearing

[Editor’s Note: Gabriel Dobbs, Vice President of Business Development and Policy at Kespry, shared that it’s critical for waivers to be processed quickly or for a system to be created where waivers aren’t necessary.]

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Industry representatives on Tuesday called on Congress to make it easier for companies to have their commercial drone use plans approved by the federal government, and said current delays are making it harder for them to use drones for time-sensitive projects.

“It’s critical that these waivers be processed quickly or we even create a system where these waivers aren’t necessary,” Gabriel Dobbs, vice president of Kespry Inc. of California, said at a House’s Small Business subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. He said because drones are often used for time sensitive projects like tracking construction progress or inspecting homes after a severe storm, “it is a real concern that we’re watching.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 gives the Secretary of Transportation the power to determine which unmanned aerial systems are allowed to fly in U.S. airspace. A new federal rule for drones under 55 pounds in August includes safety requirements like requiring operators to be within the line-of-sight of their drones, bans flying them over people, and limits operation during daylight or twilight hours. Operators can petition for a certificate of waiver from some of these requirements as long as safety isn’t compromised.

The panelists approved of the reform, testifying that it has streamlined the approval process as technological developments have outpaced the older regulations.

However, Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., expressed concern that the Federal Aviation Administration is taking too long to approve the waivers, and Dobbs agreed.

“We are concerned that … it will take quite a bit of time for these waivers to work their way through the system,” said Dobbs. The FAA is currently so overwhelmed with requests from the booming domestic drone industry that the federal agency’s website features an apology for the processing delays associated with the older framework.

Brian Wynne, President & CEO Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, testified that the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) office charged with issuing the new certificates pulling in resources from the entire agency to meet demand may have resulted in initial bureaucratic confusion.

“It’s easier for them to identify at this point who is not working on UAS than who is,” said Wynne of the FAA.

Wynne remained hopeful that the process will “accelerate over time,” and predicted that “it will be clearer to those that are requesting waivers and permission to fly under certain circumstances what the mitigation are they need. That will be communicated to the public at large and this process will move quicker.”


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