According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Subcommittee on Aviation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), will hold a hearing next week on issues related to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) safety.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first authorized civil UAS operations in U.S. airspace in 1990. Recent and rapid advancements in technology have made UAS more accessible and resulted in many new applications across industries. However, increases in reported UAS sightings by pilots and air traffic controllers have raised safety questions among stakeholders and the public. This hearing will enable the Subcommittee to better understand the nature and extent of safety issues posed by the growing use of UAS in the national airspace.
At the moment, the governing law and regulation in section 336 defines “model aircraft” as any unmanned aircraft that are capable of sustained flight, flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft, and flown for hobby or recreational purposes. Section 336 prohibits FAA from issuing any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft, provided: 1. the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization; 2. the aircraft is limited to less than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified; 3. the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and 4. notice is given to an airport operator or airport air traffic control tower if flown within 5 miles of an airport. If an operator of an unlawful UAS operation is identified, the FAA and other agencies can pursue civil penalties for careless and reckless operations or criminal penalties for other legal violations. To date, the FAA has initiated 20 legal enforcement actions related to unlawful UAS operations. The FAA is also working with state and local law enforcement agencies to address unlawful UAS operations.
The Subcommittee hearing, entitled, “Ensuring Aviation Safety in the Era of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 7, 2015, in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.