Law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice head Brendan Schulman has filed with the Federal Aviation Administration a formal Petition for Rulemaking (“Petition”) on behalf of the UAS America Fund, LLC (“UAS Fund”), proposing a new “micro” unmanned aircraft (“mUA”) rule. The proposed regulation would govern all commercial operations for unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”) that are extremely lightweight — three pounds or less — operated at low altitudes (below 400 feet), at least five miles away from airports and by pilots with a demonstrated level of aeronautical knowledge.
The Petition, filed on December 18, includes a complete, self-contained set of UAS regulations for commercial and other non-recreational uses and is supported by a safety study conducted by Dr. Adam Dershowitz of Exponent Engineering using the FAA’s own data.
“This study, which is based on an analysis of 25 years of safety data rather than conjecture, shows that there is no significant added risk to other airspace users posed by this type of commercial drone operation,” said Brendan Schulman, attorney for the UAS Fund. “The regulatory proposal balances an informed understanding of risk with the tremendous benefits our nation stands to gain by adopting this technology safely and quickly across countless industries.”
“This is only the first step in the UAS Fund’s plans to develop and propose technical and regulatory standards across all segments of the UAS market,” said Matthew Bieschke, president of the UAS Fund. “We tackled the safest and most straightforward category first, involving very lightweight, low altitude, close-proximity operations. Our next UAS segments will add weight and operational complexity as we continue to work in cooperation with other industry stakeholders and regulators to unlock the domestic UAS market.”
The safety study supporting the proposal, believed to be the first of its kind, was completed by an aviation safety subject matter expert at Exponent Engineering P.C. and is based upon decades of the FAA’s wildlife strike data. It establishes that in the past 25 years, within the operational parameters set out in the petition, there have been no reported fatal aircraft collisions involving small or medium birds and only six injuries — despite the presence of 10 billion birds in the United States.
From this analysis establishing the basic parameters for the safe operation of a “micro” unmanned aircraft, the petition adds additional safety features that are both sensible and achievable for small business. For example, the proposal takes into account that commercial drone operators can, and should, use their sense of hearing to avoid other air traffic, and should carry liability insurance.
The mUA category framed by the Petition embraces immediately beneficial applications such as aerial photography, real estate, infrastructure inspection, news gathering, agriculture, search and rescue, firefighting, training and certification, and many others. Most importantly, it will enhance aviation safety compared to the current environment by establishing a specific set of operational safety parameters and pilot knowledge requirements in place of the current absence of any standards.
UAS Fund has developed complete risk-based market segmentation for UAS operations allowing an incremental regulatory approach so as not to overly burden the safest operations today, while also ensuring adequate regulatory, technical, and certification requirements for more complex operations in the future. UAS Fund plans to propose additional regulatory frameworks for larger and more complex commercial drone operations.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com