An amendment to H.R 4441, also known as the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016, is a common sense step in the right direction.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today [2/12/2016] will offer an amendment to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR Act), that would benefit small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drone, manufacturers like Horizon Hobby in Champaign, IL. The amendment would create a new exemption for small UAS from regulation under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Davis will offer this amendment, along with U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), at today’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of H.R. 4441, a bill to reform and reauthorize the FAA.
“U.S. policy regarding drones has not kept up with technology and lags behind that of other countries,” said Davis. “This commonsense amendment will remove bureaucratic red tape and allow for the responsible use of small drones. This new classification will spur innovation and help small manufacturers like Horizon Hobby, which specializes in manufacturing drones for agriculture use, expand and create jobs.”
Currently, several countries including Canada, Mexico, and Australia have exemptions for small UAS and Europe has proposed a similar classification. This amendment creates a new classification that would exempt micro UAS weighing up to 4.4 pounds from regulation under the FAA but would still require the UAS to be operated within line of sight, less than 400 feet above the ground, and more than five miles from any airport.
The Micro UAS was originally proposed by Brendan Schulmann for the UAS america Fund in a petition to the FAA on December 18, 2014. The FAA chose to dismiss that petition as they felt it overlapped with the Part 107 NPRM.
The Section 442 amendment states that any operator of a UAS under 4.4 pounds (2Kg) shall be exempt from obtaining an airman’s certificate, flight test, or age and experience requirements. It also states that the aircraft itself will not be required to obtain airworthiness certification, nor a Certificate Of Authorization to operate commercially or otherwise in the NAS. This is big, really big for operators that want to earn money with their small drones.
4.4 pounds puts operators the very popular DJI Inspire out of luck and they still need to go through the FMRA Section 333 Exemption Process. But the DJI Phantom series of small drones would be included.
Most of the commercial users of Phantom and similar aircraft would still be restricted to 400 ft AGL, 40 knots (46 MPH) max airspeed, in VLOS, daytime only, and notify ATC if within 5 miles of the center of a charted airport.
We can hope that the amendment goes through as written (it’s already passed the Transportation Committee). This will mean that anyone can buy a Phantom-sized drone and start selling photos. I think the FAA will still want the aircraft to be registered