Hoeven, Booker Introduce Legislation to Support Commercial UAS Innovation

Bill Dovetails with UND's New Center of Excellence Designation from FAA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, legislation that sets interim operating guidelines for small commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, and creates a framework to promote American innovation in the rapidly growing field.

“We’re on the frontier of a whole new era of aviation, when remotely piloted aircraft will improve crop production, provide valuable aid for first responders and even deliver packages to our doorstep,” Hoeven said. “We need to design safe pathways for the UAS industry to deliver these benefits to consumers, and our bill, through the FAA test sites, does just that.”

“There is so much potential that can be unlocked if we lay the proper framework to support innovation in unmanned aircraft systems,” Sen. Booker said. “But right now, the US is falling behind other countries because we lack rules for the safe operation of commercial UAS technology. The Commercial UAS Modernization Act sets up clear and immediate rules of the road, helping to lay a foundation that will allow us to make cutting-edge progress in a rapidly emerging field.”

Last week, Hoeven also announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected the ASSURE team, led by the University of North Dakota and Mississippi State University, as the Center of Excellence for researching the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace. The new center dovetails with the Commercial UAS Modernization Act. It will help to advance the integration of UAS into the National Airspace by researching and developing technologies focused on detect and avoid, command and control, system engineering and pilot training and certification.

The FAA has taken some other encouraging early steps to safely integrate UAS technology into American airspace, but other countries have outpaced the U.S. in developing and finalizing safety rules that allow commercial unmanned aircraft systems to operate. In fact, it could take several years before the FAA completes its work on a governing rule for commercial UAS technology.

The Booker-Hoeven legislation will set interim safety rules, help speed up the process for commercial users seeking to fly small unmanned aircraft and preserve the FAA’s rulemaking authority while providing the agency with the flexibility to make changes in the final rule as necessary.

The Commercial UAS Modernization Act:

  • Creates an interim rule that provides basic guidelines for commercial use and testing of small UAS during the period the FAA finalizes rules covering commercial UAS.
  • Builds a reasonable framework for the registration and use of UAS for commercial purposes, prioritizing safety while also lessening unnecessary burdens on responsible commercial UAS operators.
  • Strengthens the FAA’s oversight authorities by creating a deputy administrator position exclusively responsible for the safe integration of UAS in U.S. airspace, while also streamlining regulations that currently slow the industry’s ability to innovate new aircraft technologies.
  • Ensures that FAA test sites are being used to the maximum extent to facilitate research into new technologies, in partnership with industry and other relevant government entities.

UAS technologies are just starting to be used around the world in various commercial capacities, including: inspecting critical infrastructure and conducting land surveys, fighting forest fires and supporting emergency and disaster response, transporting medical samples and supplies, analyzing and managing crops, detecting oil spills, predicting volcanic eruptions, inspecting remote power lines and delivering high-speed Internet to underserved and remote areas.

The UAS industry expects to produce over 100,000 total U.S. jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in a decade once regulations are finalized.

The Commercial UAS Modernization Act is supported by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.