FAA tweaks rule making process for private drones


Registration of privately owned drones has jumped to almost 400,000 from 180,000 registrations in January, according to Michael Huerta Federal Aviation Administration administrator. The quick implementation of the B4UFLY registration portal has prompted the agency to take a more flexible look at how it's drawing up subsequent operational rules for privately owned tiny drones, he said.

In a March 14 presentation at the South by Southwest festival, Huerta said the agency's high-speed efforts to tap input from commercial drone manufacturers and unmanned aerial system users in the run-up to the 2014 Christmas season was so successful the FAA is using that process as a model for how it drafts rules for "microUAS" vehicles, which weigh 4.4 pounds and under.

The idea for a microUAS task force gelled, said Huerta, after conversations with industry partners involved in the registration task force took place during the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"The idea was that we shouldn't treat all UAS the same," he said. "Some might be carved out and considered differently because they would pose less of a hazard due to their size, shape, weight or materials."

According to Huerta, the agency decided in late February to stand up an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to develop recommendations for how to safely allow certain UAS to be operated with people below. The goal, he said, is to create a performance-based regulatory framework that addresses potential hazards, rather than a classification that is based only on weight and speed.

The approach departs significantly from the agency's traditional approach to safety rules, he said, but noted the FAA is trying to be more flexible and open-minded in integrating new technologies into the national airspace.

The MicroUAS aviation rulemaking committee, Huerta said, began meeting the week of March 7.  A final report is due on April 1, and the FAA will use those findings to draft a proposed rule.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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