At InterDrone, the last major virtual drone exhibition of 2020, FAA Executive Director Jay Merkle had an open discussion with viewers about the future of drone regulation in the US
When will rules for remote ID and operations on people be published?
US drone regulation has focused on remote ID for drones and operations over humans for more than a year – and the FAA has promised that both decisions on both will be released before the end of the year. One of the first questions the audience asked was whether this time frame was still feasible.
“Absolutely,” says Merkle. “We deleted the last few comments … we think we are at the end of all these comments and solutions … We made adjustments.”
“I believe the FAA administrator will sign both rules either next week or in the week between Christmas and New Years,” says Merkle. “They’ll be signed in December … it was quite a way to get those signatures.”
Flight Beyond Line of Sight (BVLOS)
The next question was about another important issue for drone regulation in the US. Will a rule for BVLOS come into effect shortly after Remote ID is implemented?
Merkle says the FAA is definitely working hard to make the BVLOS flight possible. “We believe the biggest challenge for UAS integration is out of sight,” says Merkle. “With remote ID and human operations, we have most of the regulations we need to operate within visual line of sight. Now our focus is outside of visual line of sight.”
Merkle says public safety, industrial inspections, and the delivery of small commercial packages are the main uses based on the BVLOS flight. and the FAA is working with these companies to set regulations. “What we are doing right now in our BEYOND program is working with companies that want to perform this type of operation and understanding through disclaimers and exceptions what the guidelines should look like and what the data about the operations in relation to the type and ways state the performance standards. “
“The next big regulatory move we’re going to take on UAS operations will be to enable beyond line of sight. We believe the next step will be mainly public safety or commercial inspection in industry. This is where we have the greatest demand and we believe we understand it best. “
The biggest obstacle to the BVLOS flight is safety on the ground and in the air, explains Merkle. “Since there is no pilot on board, it is a challenge to see and avoid other aircraft,” says Merkle. “… We have seen innovative concepts where there is no integrated sensor… and we are open to them. The main aim, however, is to reduce the air risks to other aircraft. The other risk is for the local people. If you want to fly, you need an aircraft that is reliable and durable. “This is where the concept of aircraft type certification comes into play: another area that the FAA is working hard to codify.
Another question for the US drone industry – and commuters everywhere – is when will urban air mobility become a reality. It’s not very far away, says Merkle. “[Drone taxis will be a reality] When safe aircraft are certified and safe operation is certified and the operators find demand and services, ”says Merkle.
These pieces could come together in a relatively few years based on discussions the FAA is having with UAM and AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) providers. “You expect a sales service of 24. Some anticipate a year or two after that … I think we’re really looking to the next 3-4 years. Several companies are very advanced in their design and type certification. “
While UAM is often discussed in the context of drones, Merkle says that drone regulations in the US don’t really cover the sector. “We treat urban air mobility very differently from drones … these are passenger planes,” says Merkle. “We treat them like passenger planes.”