UAS organizations raise concern over jurisdiction of nation’s airspace

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and 13 other organizations have sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to consider the potential consequences for the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry if legislation was enacted affecting the federal sovereignty of the airspace. The letter was signed by a diverse group of organizations, industries and companies that represent UAS manufacturers, commercial and recreational users, and aviation stakeholders.

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In the letter, the organizations say “legislation is premature and lawmakers should wait until efforts such as the [Federal Aviation Administration’s] Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) have created consensus recommendations – with input from stakeholders – before considering changes to long-standing federal governance of the [National Airspace System]. Legislating changes before consensus is reached may have dramatic unintended consequences that could stifle innovation, restrict economic growth and interstate commerce, and potentially compromise safety.”

The industry representatives point out that “the FAA directed the DAC to ‘evaluate and analyze state or local government interests,’ which ‘could form the basis for recommendations to the DAC reflecting a consensus view that could be used to inform future agency action related to the relative role of state and local governments in regulating aspects of low-altitude UAS operations.’ The tasking statement directs the group to issue a report on its findings in 2017.”

The letter also states that “a consistent framework, agreed upon by all parties involved, is essential for the future regulatory system governing one of the fastest-growing areas in the aerospace and technology sectors. We appreciate your willingness to allow a multi-stakeholder process to proceed and prevent any legislation from moving forward that would jeopardize ongoing and collaborative efforts.”

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Legislation was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate that seeks to empower state and local authorities to regulate hobbyist and commercial UAS. Airspace jurisdiction is likely to be an issue when congressional committees start considering the FAA Reauthorization bill, which is expected later this month.

An AUVSI economic report forecast that the expansion of UAS technology will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy in the first decade following full integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace.

The letter may be found here.

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