Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Brooks Lindsay


The Federal Aviation Administration has done much right in the past few months with its draft small UAS rules, but should add nuance to the draft to avoid draining America’s nascent drone industry. This Article, which was submitted as an official comment to the FAA by the University of Washington’s world-renowned College of Engineering, recommends five essential modifications to enable American competitiveness in this field. First, the FAA should maintain the line-of-sight requirement as a baseline, but allow uses beyond line-of-sight for pilots and aircraft certified to fly with First-Person View or autonomous technology. Second, the FAA should create exceptions to the largely sensible 500-feet ceiling for Small UAS flight, particularly in areas with few low-flying passenger aircraft, and adopt a licensing and certification process for advanced pilots and drones to fly above 500 feet. Third, the FAA should adopt proposed, more relaxed rules for Micro UAS weighing less than 4.4 pounds because different drones present different risks and so should be regulated differently. Fourth, the FAA should adopt an enabling philosophy toward drones, acknowledging that their immense economic potential justifies taking manageable safety risks. Fifth, the FAA should actively grant exemptions to the civil ban in the interim of permanent rules, testing drones in society and allowing the FAA to hone the draft rules before they are made permanent in 2017. If the FAA implements these recommendations, it will provide America’s emerging drone industry the breathing room to innovative, grow, and compete on the global stage.

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