May 21, 2009
By Ian J. Twombly
Operators of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) will be required to fly the craft within line of sight and undergo training to integrate into the national airspace system if recommendations recently proposed by the Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Aviation Rulemaking Committee go through as written. The rulemaking committee, a diverse cross-section of industry, advocacy groups, and government agencies, was convened by the FAA to provide recommendations for the integration of small UAS into the national airspace system. The FAA will now consider the committee’s recommendations when writing a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR).
The recommendations focus on UAS weighing fewer than 55 pounds and flown below 1,200 feet in day VFR conditions. They address the see-and-avoid issues surrounding traffic separation by recommending only line-of-site operations limited to certain classes of airspace. Additionally, when flying certain UAS close to an airport, both the system and the operator will have to undergo certification on things such as proper communication procedures and airport operations.
Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, represented the association on the committee. He said that although the group didn’t reach a full consensus, everyone’s primary goal is the safe integration of small UAS into the national airspace system.
“As GA is the primary user of much of the airspace where these small UAS are anticipated to operate, AOPA remains committed to ensuring they do so in a way that allows for the continued safe operation by all existing users, as well as new users,” Hackman said.
Next up is for the FAA to work on the proposed rules, which will be released for public comment as a notice of proposed rulemaking. Hackman said the agency is not bound to use the working group’s recommendations. AOPA will continue to be engaged in the issue as the rulemaking process continues to ensure that the interests of GA will be considered.
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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