Regulations and authorizations for the National Airspace System have been shaped by years of coordination between the airline industry, aircraft manufacturers and pilot groups. Several major accidents highlighted safety holes in the National Airspace System, but federal agencies overseeing airspace have been able to grow with the advancing technology and have shaped aviation safety throughout the world. That trend continues today with the development of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) regulations.

Government agencies have traditionally been able to manage aviation safety through aircraft certification standards, pilot standards and oversight. But as technology has changed, a new challenge has emerged. UAS regulations are needed to manage hundreds of thousands of daily UAS operations. Unfortunately, the traditional mechanisms by which the government regulates safety aren’t yet available. UAS certification standards, pilot requirements and new oversight mechanisms for this emerging technology are still being developed.

UAS Takes Off

The federal government has made UAS a priority, and has developed a special office dedicated to this transition. The office (AFS-80) is tasked with the safe and efficient integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). This office issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small UAS in February of 2015, but is still in the lengthy process of issuing final regulations.

In the absence of final regulations, most commercial operators have received authorization through the use of a Section 333 Exemption. Essentially, this is a process by which a commercial operator requests an exemption from existing regulations, which would normally restrict the commercial use of UAS. While a good first step, these authorizations are extremely limited in scope. The standing blanket authorization received with an exemption allows the operator to fly only during the day, in Visual Flight Rule (VFR) conditions, at least five miles from an airport with an operating control tower and below 200 feet. Additionally, the UAS must stay within sight of the pilot at all times. Operations outside these guidelines must apply for a Standard Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), a process which may take up to 60 days.

Many companies might be tempted to use UAS on their own without proper authorization, but the government has made it abundantly clear that these infractions will not be overlooked. In addition, there has been a sharp uptick in reports of near collisions with airliners as well this year — a disturbing trend which is expected to continue. In fact, federal agencies are so concerned about the risk of collisions that they recently convened a three-day UAS Registration Task Force that was charged with finding ways to ensure that the nearly 1 million UAS expected to be sold this upcoming holiday season will be registered.

Additionally, they support an educational campaign aimed at ensuring that recreational and business operators flying UAS understand the rules meant to protect the safety of the flying public.

Evolving Regulations

The proposed rules, current exemption process and mandatory registration are all positive steps for the further development of small UAS use in business. This technology provides incredible opportunities for businesses across the US, but like any powerful technology, it can be misused if proper safeguards aren’t put in place.

Aviation professionals and enterprises that intend to leverage the capabilities of small UAS technology need to ensure that they are following the guidelines for authorization and use as defined by the FAA. This emerging technology will soon be a part of people’s everyday lives, and today’s operators might someday be seen as the Wright Brothers of this generation. It’s important to understand the gravity of that responsibility.

Comply365 has partnered with Samsung to ensure that new entrants to the UAV market have the tools, technology and perspective that will allow them to successfully and safely use UAS in their businesses. Comply365 partners with businesses to develop their UAS use case, pursue federal authorization and track the data elements necessary for professional UAS operations. Comply365 provides a full suite of UAS solutions, including document management, checklists, operator qualification tracking, learning management solutions and mission data management. When paired with Samsung’s wide range of mobility solutions, operators can be confident that their UAS operations will be legal, safe and ready to advance as quickly as their imaginations can fly.

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Casey Meeks

Casey Meeks is the director of innovation at Comply365 and a commercial pilot with 20 years of experience. He combines his two passions, flying and technology, to bring real-world expertise to Comply365. His role in designing and implementing solutions that improve safety and efficiency for clients has uniquely positioned him to see trends common to airlines transitioning to enterprise mobility. His work has led to the development of some of Comply365’s most innovative products. Follow Comply365 on Twitter: @Comply365

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