Congressman Bill Shuster’s (R-Hollidaysburg) 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act) passed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 11th, 2016. The AIRR Act will now be acknowledge by the full House of Representatives.
This AIRR Act would privatize the Air Traffic Control operations of the FAA, among other measures. The incorporation of drones into the national airspace is another significant priority of the act.
Shuster said that the committee considered approximately 75 amendments: more than 50% of them were approved. A variety of amendments relating to Aerial Drones were among those passed.
Representative Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Representative LoBiondo, Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, have proposed a six-year reauthorization of the FAA ( Federal Aviation Administration ) – with some drastic changes likely to happen within the next few weeks.
Additionally, an amendment recommended by Texas Representative Brian Rabin would raise penalties for Aerial Drones flying near chemical plants; while another amendment would increase penalties for Drones interrupting with wildfire suppression, a response to this year’s earlier problems with Aerial Drones near wildfires in California.
The big win for the commercial drone industry notably is the embracement of Illinois Representative Davis’ amendment proposing a “micro drone” classification. The micro drone classification could allow a more effortless process for any commercial applications utilizing smaller Aerial Drones.
The amendment enacts a “micro UAS Classification” of drones weighing under 4.4 pounds including payload and meeting the following operational limitations:
A micro UAS qualifies for the exemptions described under subsection (c) if such micro UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) is operated—
- below 400 feet above ground level;
- at an airspeed not greater than 40 knots;
- within the visual line of sight of the operator;
- during daylight; and
- at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of a tower-controlled airport or airport denoted on a current FAA-published aeronautical chart.
This particular amendment signifies an enormous win for the commercial drone industry. Drone manufacturer DJI has been extremely vocal in their support of a micro Aerial Drone classification, as it eliminates much of the harsh red tape for commercial operators using a small and relatively very low risk drone and will ultimately open opportunities to new applications for small Drones.