Congressman Bill Shuster’s (R-Hollidaysburg) 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act) passed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday. The AIRR Act will now be considered by the full House of Representatives.
The AIRR Act would privatize the Air Traffic Control operations of the FAA, among other measures. The integration of drones into the national airspace is another priority of the act.
“The legislation recognizes that maintaining the status quo will result in more setbacks and soaring costs of failed federal ATC modernization efforts, a bureaucracy that continues to stifle American innovation, and a system that is incapable of handling growing demand “says Schuster’s statement announcing the Act’s progress. “The AIRR Act seeks to move U.S. aviation into the modern era and beyond.”
Shuster said that the committee considered approximately 75 amendments: more than half of them were approved. Several amendments relating to drones were among those passed. An amendment proposed by Texas Rep. Brian Rabin would increase penalties for drones flying near to chemical plants; another would increase penalties for drones interfering with wildfire suppression, a reaction to this year’s earlier problems with drones near wildfires in California.
Another proposal would strike the liability insurance requirement from risk-based permitting of drones; but the big win for the commercial drone industry is the inclusion of Illinois Representative Davis’ amendment proposing a “micro drone” classification. The micro drone classification could allow an easier process for any commercial applications utilizing a small drone.