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First Fix: Regulation is necessary to advance drone operations

Experts discuss GNSS/PNT news, trends, obstacles and opportunities

Guest column by Brian Wynne
AUVSI President and CEO

Brian Wynne, AUVSI president and CEO

Brian Wynne, AUVSI president and CEO

A recent analysis found that just 10 percent of the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) included in the Unmanned Systems and Robotics Database maintained by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) can operate beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of its operator.

While the technology for BVLOS operations has existed for years, under current federal regulations, only the military is permitted to use it. The absence of federal regulation allowing BVLOS operations hinders the full value and benefits that the UAS industry has to offer.

Regulations that provide guidance and rules for operating unmanned systems are necessary for the industry’s advancement. Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a proposed rule for UAS operations over people, and the UAS community is eagerly anticipating the agency will offer an additional rule requiring UAS to be equipped with remote identification.

“Remote ID is a crucial next step to gain the confidence of federal defense and security agencies, manned aviation users and the public.”

However, the rulemaking process for remote ID has been delayed by the FAA twice this year and is now slated to be released in December. The need for remote ID cannot be overstated, as the advancement of the UAS industry depends on identifying and tracking UAS flying in the airspace.

Furthermore, remote ID is a crucial next step to gain the confidence of federal defense and security agencies, manned aviation users and the public. With this confidence, UAS can further integrate into the national airspace to perform important BVLOS operations such as inspection of utility rights of way, widespread search-and-rescue missions, and package delivery.

A clear, national regulatory framework and the support of the federal government is needed to drive the adoption of unmanned systems technology and its applications. Currently, the UAS industry is working with our government partners on remote ID and tracking standards, but we recognize that more needs to be done and at a faster pace than the regulatory process allows. That is why the UAS industry is stepping up to explore near-term solutions before remote ID regulations are finalized and published.

In May, AUVSI and the Airports Council International-North America commissioned a Blue Ribbon Task Force on UAS Mitigation at Airports. The task force is working to refine procedural practices and provide a policy framework to address the timely and critical issue of incursions by unauthorized UAS at airports and how best to mitigate this threat, including industry and government recommendations for remote ID. The task force will release a report this year.

Applications of unmanned systems aren’t limited by technology or imagination; they’re only limited by regulations. We need a streamlined regulatory environment that allows for the safe deployment of unmanned systems into our nation’s transportation infrastructure so we can begin to reap the full benefits of this technology.

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