Washington, D.C. – In a major move to streamline the approval process for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights and make the U.S. competitive in the drone industry, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) have introduced the Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act of 2023. This comprehensive legislation will help clear the way for drones to be used for commercial transport of goods across the country and keep the U.S. ahead in a rapidly growing industry.
Currently, each aircraft and BVLOS operation that takes flight requires unmanned aerial system (UAS) operators to seek waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but the process is slow and unpredictable due to the lack of consistent criteria for granting these waivers. The Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act will require the FAA to issue a new rule allowing BVLOS operations under certain circumstances.
The bill requires the FAA to establish a “risk methodology” that will be used to determine the level of regulatory scrutiny required for each UAS operator. Small UAS under 55lbs will only need to declare that they conducted a risk assessment and meet the standard, subject to audit compliance by the FAA. UAS between 55lbs and 1320lbs must submit materials based on the risk assessment to the FAA to seek a “Special Airworthiness Certificate.” UAS over 1320lbs must undergo the full “type certification” process.
In addition, the bill would create the position of “Associate Administrator of UAS Integration” as well as a UAS Certification Unit to issue all rulemakings, certifications, and waivers. This new structure would create a central rulemaking body for UAS, allowing for a more uniform process.
Leading organizations such as the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), The Small UAV Coalition, and The Commercial Drone Alliance have expressed their support for this legislation. Sen. Warner has been a strong supporter of research and investment in unmanned systems, including drones, and has previously introduced legislation to advance the development of UAS and integrate them into the National Airspace System.
This legislation comes at a critical time for the drone industry, as reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs is required by September 30, 2023. The Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act of 2023 provides the U.S. with the opportunity to regain its position as a global leader in advanced aviation and compete more effectively in the global economy.
Full text of the legislation is available here.