On May 12, 2015, Senators Cory Booker and John Hoeven introduced a piece of legislation called the “Commercial UAS Modernization Act” LINK. It’s 11 pages long and is really nothing more than a Congressional attempt to pre-empt the ongoing FAA rulemaking process.
While almost everyone agrees the FAA has moved slowly, maybe too slowly, this proposed bill is Congressional grandstanding and was probably written by a lobbyist or a lawyer whose client is unhappy.
We’re all unhappy. The FAA started way too late and spent way too long spinning its wheels. But the process is moving forward. An NPRM is out there. The FAA has received 4500 comments, which are currently under review. Exemptions are being granted. Research into beyond-line-of-sight operation is going forward. Companies are flying UAS for commercial purposes.
Admittedly, none of this has occurred on any sort of accelerated timetable, but the pace has picked up.
If Congress really wanted to assist, give the UAS effort at the FAA more money so they can get more people to move things through the system more quickly.
The incredible level of safety we have achieved in the aviation industry in the United States is not a result of a race to the finish line. It’s no accident and it wasn’t achieved because Congress passed laws or mandated that it be achieved. It came about because the FAA, working with the industry, in a methodical fashion, created, over time, a system which is the envy of the rest of the world.
It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s even okay to be upset. But it’s all about safety. Most of you probably don’t remember the history of the DC-10 and how McDonnell Douglas, knowing they were behind Lockheed, rushed to the finish line. They got the DC-10 out before the L-1011, but they also experienced a series of catastrophic accidents, which many have attributed to their rush to the market.
While certainly a UAS or drone is not a DC-10, none of us want to find out what happens if a UAS encounters a DC-10 or any other aircraft.
There have already been too many airspace incursions by unauthorized UAS. Rushing to market or, in this case, rushing the regulatory process might just tell us, to the regret of everyone, what happens when UAS meets airplane.
(Originally posted May 19, 2015)