Category Archives: UAS

A Drone is Not a Toy…It’s an Airplane

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has just released an important decision in the case of Taylor v. FAA, regarding regulation of unmanned aircraft operated for recreational purposes. 

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UPDATE: FAA Reauthorization Webinar Postponed!

“Congress Kicks the FAA and our Webinar Down the Road…..Again!!” The seemingly endless FAA reauthorization process looks like it will continue for yet another month.  At the beginning of May, it looked like the bill had finally generated enough momentum for easy passage in the Senate.  The House had already dropped its controversial plans for privatization of air traffic control and passed their version of the Reauthorization Act by a wide margin.  The Senate put their version of the bill on the calendar on May 8, and it appeared to be on an easy road to passage in June. Unfortunately, …


National Academies of Sciences to FAA: “You’re Being Too Conservative!!”

According to a new Report from the National Academies of Sciences, the FAA’s commercial drone rules are too strict and the FAA’s zero tolerance policy towards commercial air accidents is stifling development of the industry. This report comes on the heels of recent 95-page report by the US Government Accountability Office criticizing UAS policy as being based largely on guesswork over the risks to the airspace, rather than hard facts. The GAO’s Report noted that, while the FAA has collected over 6,000 reports of UAS sightings near manned aircraft or airports. These reports are almost entirely unverified, as the pilots …


Airplanes Helping Airplanes – Drones in the Aircraft Maintenance World

Given how few airline accidents have occurred over the past 20 years, people rarely give a second thought to whether or not the aircraft they are boarding is mechanically reliable.  If they did look into the matter, they would likely be surprised to see how much work goes into making sure the aircraft is in working order.  Maintenance of an airliner is both time and manpower intensive, and results in each aircraft being unavailable for revenue generation for an extended period of time.  As a result, any technology that can reduce either the amount of personnel or the amount of …


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The State of Aviation Safety and Congress: Part I

The Subcommittee on Aviation of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure conducted a February 27 hearing on the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS), including progress made and challenges that still need addressing. Officials form the following organizations provided testimony at the hearing: FAA, NASA, NTSB, the USDOT Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA). Although the following link to the hearing is available on Committee’s website – – we are pleased to provide the following summary for our Plane-ly Spoken readers.

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2017: The Year of Much Ado…But Nothing!

In terms of major UAS rulemaking efforts, 2017 could best be described as “the year that wasn’t”.  While the FAA had big plans to push forward the new rules for flight over people and finalize the Interpretation of the Special Rules for Model Aircraft, neither of those initiatives saw the light of day. Now, however, it appears that the FAA is gearing up the rulemaking process for 2018.  It is reported that in a recent speech at the Singapore Airshow, FAA Acting Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson announced that the UAS remote identification regulations would be out this year. 

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Drone v. Helicopter: And the loser is…

The NTSB Report into the midair collision between a DJI Phantom and an army Blackhawk helicopter has been released and not surprisingly, the probable cause of the accident was sUAS pilot error. On September 21, 2017, an army UH-60 helicopter was operating in class G airspace at an altitude of 300 feet near Staten Island, New York.  The pilot saw the UAS and took evasive action, but it was insufficient to avoid the collision.  The helicopter suffered a 1.5 inch dent in its main rotor and cracks in the composite fairing and a window frame.  The Phantom was destroyed with …


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“Sir/Madam, Show Me Your License and Registration”

The long and tortured path to mandatory registration of all hobby aircraft appears finally to be at an end.  After a seven month hiatus, the law is changing once again, and the registration requirement is being reinstated. As most of you will remember, the FAA unexpectedly issued regulations on an emergency basis just before Christmas 2015 that required all hobby aircraft under .55 pounds to be registered with the FAA. 

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UAS: Preemption Means Preemption!!

State and local governments have not been shy about attempting to regulate almost every aspect of drone operations.  Some of these efforts have been completely appropriate and aimed at areas subject to local control, such as prevention of stalking and voyeurism.  However, all too often, state and local governments have also turned their attention to issues completely under federal control. One example of just such an ill advised ordinance was passed by the City of Newton, Massachusetts in December 2016.  This law:

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