The drone industry has started to wonder if the Small UAS Rule will ever be published: Mother’s Day has passed, graduation rapidly approaches, and it seems that the expected “late spring” release may be a very late spring release.
Part of the industry’s frustration stems from the fact that the process started so long ago; while drone registration was implemented at breathtaking speed – despite the more than 4,000 comments received! – the Small UAS Rule has moved at a glacial pace. The timeline that we’ve outlined below is a distressing reminder of how slowly drone integration is proceeding in the U.S.
The FAA’s Small UAS Rule Deadlines
2012: Section 332(a) of The FAA Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2012 called for safe integration of civil UAS into the NAS by 2014. Specifically, Section 332 (b)(1) called on the FAA to publish a final rule on small UAS by August 14, 2014; Section 332(a)(3) specified a “No later than date” of drone integration of September 30, 2015.
2013: On November 6, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx delivers the UAS Comprehensive Plan to Congress, which states: “A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on small UAS is under development with the intent to provide safe small UAS access to the NAS. The NPRM for small UAS is being drafted and is targeted for release in 2014.”
2014: By May, Congress seems to realize that the FAA has no hope of making its deadlines. The Small UAS Rule has not been released even in proposal form. The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee grants the FAA about $3 million in additional funds for testing, saying: “The Committee is concerned that the FAA may not be well positioned to manage effectively the introduction of UAS in the United States…” August 14 – the first deadline put forth in the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act is missed.
2015: February 15 – The FAA announces the Small UAS NPRM, accepting public comments as required by law. April 24 – The public comment period closes. 4,669 comments are received. June 17 – FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker says that the overwhelming number of comments mean that the rule may not be released for a year. September 30 – the second “No later than” deadline for UAS integration is missed. October 19 – FAA announces recreational drone registration program. December 20 – FAA implements recreational drone registration program.
2016: The 2012 FAA Reauthorization package is due to expire- having been extended – in July. New Reauthorization packages are under debate in Congress. FAA says Small UAS Rule released “late spring.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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