As the legal status of commercial drone operation remains murky, U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act to set interim operating guidelines for small commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
“We’re on the frontier of a whole new era of aviation, when remotely piloted aircraft will improve crop production, provide valuable aid for first responders and even deliver packages to our doorstep,” Hoeven says. “We need to design safe pathways for the UAS industry to deliver these benefits to consumers.”
Booker says the U.S. is falling behind other countries because of its current lag in safe commercial implementation. But the Senators say the FAA has taken some encouraging early steps to safely integrate UAS technology in to the American airspace. To date, the FAA has granted nearly 300 Section 333 exemptions, which is a case-by-case process to allow commercial operation of drones until final safety and regulatory standards are put into place.
The proposed Booker-Hoeven legislation would set interim safety rules, speed up the process for commercial user and preserve the FAA’s rulemaking authority (while giving the agency flexibility to make changes to final rules as needed).
Initial industry reaction, including from the Small UAV Coalition, was positive.
“The Commercial UAS Modernization Act would allow operators in the United States to take advantage of this technology now, instead of waiting one year or longer for the FAA to publish its final rule,” writes Small UAV Coalition director of communications Benjamin Harris. “We look forward to working with the Senators to further improve the bill in order to fully realize the economic benefits of Small UAS.
Booker and Hoeven estimate the UAS industry could produce 100,000 U.S. jobs and boost the economy to the tune of $82 billion. According to some estimates, 80% of commercial drone use would occur in the agricultural sector.
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