Hoeven Congratulates FAA on Finalizing Small UAS Rule

Senator Continues Push to Make Grand Forks a Hub for UAS Development and Training, New Rule Opens the Door to Industry Expansion

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today congratulated the Federal Aviation Administration on releasing a final rule on flying small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the national airspace system. The rule allows commercial flights of small UAS for the first time.

“This is an important milestone on the path to fully integrating our national airspace with unmanned aircraft flying alongside manned aircraft,” Hoeven said. “The FAA is taking steps to safely allow basic UAS operations that will lead to economic benefits in a variety of industries, from agriculture and transportation to retail sales. It is a particularly exciting day for several entrepreneurs in North Dakota’s high-tech industry, who are prepared to lead the way to safe and profitable UAS activities.”

“With the small UAS rule in place, I look forward to working with the FAA to integrate larger UAS into the NAS and to do so at higher altitudes. I also believe we need to work closely with NASA to develop unmanned traffic management systems that will ensure the safety of the skies as UAS take flight across the country.”

The FAA announced that when the rule takes effect, commercial operations of UAS weighing less than 55 pounds will be permitted under certain conditions, including flights below 400 feet conducted during day time hours and within visual line of sight. The FAA also indicated that UAS operators could apply to the FAA to waive operational limitations on UAS flights if they demonstrate they can conduct safe operations beyond the established rule, such as flying beyond line of sight or at higher altitudes.

The final small UAS rule will be published this week and take effect 60 days after publication. In order to operate a UAS under the rules announced today, a pilot will need either to possess a standard pilot’s certificate or obtain a remote pilot’s certificate from the FAA.

Last year, Hoeven joined Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on legislation that directed the FAA to accelerate consideration of rules on small UAS flights. Hoeven also included funding for UAS research at the FAA, NASA and the Defense Department in Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bills currently before the Senate. In addition, the Senate passed a Hoeven amendment to this year’s FAA authorization bill that extends the authorization of the FAA’s UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota, by five years to conduct additional UAS integration research.