Drones Figure Prominently in New FAA Reauthorization Bill

The newly announced H.R. 4441, the “Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthroization Act of 2016” (#AIRR) contained a lengthy section relating to “unmanned aircraft systems,” or drones, as most people know them.  Most of the legislation concerned codifying existing law.  That is, sections that concerned drones in the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 have been given their own chapter (Chapter 455 – Unmanned Aircraft Systems) within title 49 of the United States Code.

Although Congress wants the FAA to keep track of its registration process that it put online on December 21, 2016 (see Sec. 441), AIRR codifies the provision that exempts model aircraft, which includes drones flown for hobby or recreational use, from FAA regulation (Sec. 432, § 45507).  This provision is currently the subject of a Petition for Review filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  John Taylor v. Michael Huerta, Case No. 15-1495 (D.C. Cir.).

AIRR also sets up several review boards and requires reports to Congress on FAA’s progress with integrating drones into civil airspace.

Subtitle B—Unmanned Aircraft Systems

SEC. 431. DEFINITIONS.

Except as otherwise provided, the definitions contained in section 45501 of title 49, United States Code  (as added by this Act), shall apply to this subtitle.

SEC. 432. CODIFICATION OF EXISTING LAW; ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Subtitle VII of title 49, United States Code, is amended by inserting after chapter 453 the following:

‘‘CHAPTER 455—UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS

‘‘Sec.

“45501. Definitions.

‘‘45502. Integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into national airspace system.

‘‘45503. Risk-based permitting of unmanned aircraft systems.

‘‘45504. Public unmanned aircraft systems.

‘‘45505. Special rules for certain unmanned aircraft systems.

‘‘45506. Operation of small unmanned aircraft.

‘‘45507. Special rules for model aircraft.

‘‘45508. Safety information for operation of covered unmanned aircraft.

‘‘§ 45501. Definitions

‘‘In this chapter, the following definitions apply:

‘‘(1) AERIAL DATA COLLECTION.—The term

‘aerial data collection’ means the gathering of data by a device aboard an unmanned aircraft during flight, including imagery, sensing, and measurement by such device.

‘‘(2) ARCTIC.—The term ‘Arctic’ means the United States zone of the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Bering Sea north of the Aleutian chain.

‘‘(3) CERTIFICATE OF WAIVER; CERTIFICATE OF AUTHORIZATION.—The terms ‘certificate of waiver’ and ‘certificate of authorization’ mean a Federal Aviation Administration grant of approval for a specific flight operation.

‘‘(4) MODEL AIRCRAFT.—the term ‘model aircraft’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

‘‘(A) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

‘‘(B) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

‘‘(C) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

‘‘(5) PERMANENT AREAS.—The term ‘permanent areas’ means areas on land or water that provide for launch, recovery, and operation of small un-manned aircraft.

‘‘(6) PUBLIC UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM.—The term ‘public unmanned aircraft system’ means an unmanned aircraft system that meets the qualifications and conditions required for operation of a public aircraft (as defined in section 40102(a)).

‘‘(7) SENSE-AND-AVOID CAPABILITY.—The term ‘sense-and-avoid capability’ means the capability of an unmanned aircraft to remain a safe distance from and to avoid collisions with other airborne aircraft.

‘‘(8) SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.—The term ‘small unmanned aircraft’ means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds, including everything that is on board the aircraft.

‘‘(9) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.—The term ‘unmanned aircraft’ means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.

‘‘(10) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM.—The term ‘unmanned aircraft system’ means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the unmanned aircraft) that are required for the pilot in command to operate safely and efficiently in the national airspace system.

‘‘§ 45502. Integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into national airspace system

‘‘(a) REQUIRED PLANNING FOR INTEGRATION.—

‘‘(1) COMPREHENSIVE PLAN.—Not later than November 10, 2012, the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with representatives of the aviation industry, Federal agencies that employ unmanned aircraft systems technology in the national airspace system, and the unmanned aircraft systems industry, shall develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

‘‘(2) CONTENTS OF PLAN.—The plan required under paragraph (1) shall contain, at a minimum, recommendations or projections on—

‘‘(A) the rulemaking to be conducted under subsection (b), with specific recommendations on how the rulemaking will—

‘‘(i) define the acceptable standards for operation and certification of civil unmanned aircraft systems;

‘‘(ii) ensure that any civil unmanned aircraft system includes a sense-and-avoid capability; and

‘‘(iii) establish standards and requirements for the operator and pilot of a civil unmanned aircraft system, including standards and requirements for registration and licensing;

‘‘(B) the best methods to enhance the technologies and subsystems necessary to achieve the safe and routine operation of civil unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system;

‘‘(C) a phased-in approach to the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system;

‘‘(D) a timeline for the phased-in approach described under subparagraph (C);

‘‘(E) creation of a safe airspace designation for cooperative manned and unmanned flight operations in the national airspace system;

‘‘(F) establishment of a process to develop certification, flight standards, and air traffic requirements for civil unmanned aircraft systems at test ranges where such systems are subject to testing;

‘‘(G) the best methods to ensure the safe operation of civil unmanned aircraft systems and public unmanned aircraft systems simultaneously in the national airspace system; and

‘‘(H) incorporation of the plan into the annual NextGen Implementation Plan document (or any successor document) of the Federal Aviation Administration.

‘‘(3) DEADLINE.—The plan required under paragraph (1) shall provide for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.

‘‘(4) REPORT TO CONGRESS.—Not later than February 14, 2013, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a copy of the plan required under paragraph (1).

‘‘(5) ROADMAP.—Not later than February 14, 2013, the Secretary shall approve and make available in print and on the Administration’s Internet Web site a 5-year roadmap for the introduction of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system, as coordinated by the Unmanned Aircraft Program Office of the Administration. The Secretary shall update the roadmap annually.

‘‘(b) RULEMAKING.—Not later than 18 months after the date on which the plan required under subsection (a)(1) is submitted to Congress under subsection (a)(4), the Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register—

‘‘(1) a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems that will allow for civil operation of such systems in the national airspace system, to the extent the systems do not meet the requirements for expedited operational authorization under section 45506;

‘‘(2) a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement the recommendations of the plan required under subsection (a)(1), with the final rule to be published not later than 16 months after the date of publication of the notice; and

‘‘(3) an update to the Administration’s most recent policy statement on unmanned aircraft systems, contained in Docket No. FAA–2006–25714.

‘‘(c) EXPANDING USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS IN ARCTIC.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than August 12, 2012, the Secretary shall develop a plan and initiate a process to work with relevant Federal agencies and national and international communities to designate permanent areas in the Arctic where small unmanned aircraft may operate 24 hours per day for research and commercial purposes. The plan for operations in these permanent areas shall include the development of processes to facilitate the safe operation of unmanned aircraft beyond line of sight. Such areas shall enable over-water flights from the surface to at least 2,000 feet in altitude, with ingress and egress routes from selected coastal launch sites.

‘‘(2) AGREEMENTS.—To implement the plan under paragraph (1), the Secretary may enter into an agreement with relevant national and international communities.

‘‘(3) AIRCRAFT APPROVAL.—Not later than 1 year after the entry into force of an agreement necessary to effectuate the purposes of this subsection, the Secretary shall work with relevant national and international communities to establish and implement a process, or may apply an applicable process already established, for approving the use of unmanned aircraft in the designated permanent areas in the Arctic without regard to whether an unmanned aircraft is used as a public aircraft, a civil aircraft, or a model aircraft.

‘‘§ 45503. Risk-based permitting of unmanned aircraft systems

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall establish procedures for issuing permits under this section with respect to certain unmanned aircraft systems and operations thereof.

‘‘(b) PERMITTING STANDARDS.—Upon the submission of an application in accordance with subsection (d), the Administrator shall issue a permit with respect to the proposed operation of an unmanned aircraft system if the Administrator determines that—

‘‘(1) the unmanned aircraft system and the proposed operation achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to—

‘‘(A) other unmanned aircraft systems and operations permitted under regulation, exemption, or other authority granted by the Administrator; or

‘‘(B) any other aircraft operation approved by the Administrator with similar risk characteristics or profiles; and

‘‘(2) the applicant for the permit has adequate liability insurance based on the criteria specified in subsection (c).

‘‘(c) SAFETY CRITERIA FOR CONSIDERATION.—In determining whether a proposed operation meets the  standards described in subsection (b), the Administrator shall consider the following safety criteria:

‘‘(1) The kinetic energy of the unmanned aircraft system.

‘‘(2) The location of the proposed operation, including the proximity to—

‘‘(A) structures;

‘‘(B) congested areas;

‘‘(C) special-use airspace; and

‘‘(D) persons on the ground.

‘‘(3) The nature of the operation, including any proposed risk mitigation.

‘‘(4) Any known hazard of the proposed operation and the severity and likelihood of such hazard.

‘‘(5) Any known failure modes of the unmanned aircraft system, failure mode effects and criticality, and any mitigating features or capabilities.

‘‘(6) The operational history of relevant technologies, if available.

‘‘(7) Any history of civil penalties or certificate actions by the Administrator against the applicant seeking the permit.

‘‘(8) Any other safety criteria the Administrator considers appropriate.

‘‘(d) APPLICATION.—An application under this section shall include evidence that the unmanned aircraft system and the proposed operation thereof meet the standards described in subsection (b) based on the criteria described in subsection (c).

‘‘(e) SCOPE OF PERMIT.—A permit issued under this section shall—

‘‘(1) be valid for 5 years;

‘‘(2) constitute approval of both the airworthiness of the unmanned aircraft system and the proposed operation of such system;

‘‘(3) be renewable for additional 5-year periods; and

‘‘(4) contain any terms necessary to ensure aviation safety.

‘‘(f) NOTICE.—Not later than 120 days after the Administrator receives a complete application under subsection (d), the Administrator shall provide the applicant written notice of a decision to approve, disapprove, or request a modification of the application.

‘‘(g) PERMITTING PROCESS.—The Administrator hall issue a permit under this section without regard to subsections (b) through (d) of section 553 of title 5 and chapter 35 of title 44 if the Administrator determines that the operation permitted will not occur near a congested area.

‘‘(h) EXEMPTION FROM CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS.—To the extent consistent with aviation safety, the Administrator may exempt applicants under this section from paragraphs (1) through (3) of section 44711(a).

‘‘(i) WITHDRAWAL.—The Administrator may, at any time, modify or withdraw a permit issued under this section.

‘‘(j) APPLICABILITY.—This section shall not apply to small unmanned aircraft systems and operations addressed by the proposed rule on small unmanned aircraft systems issued pursuant to section 45502(b)(1) or any final rule based on such proposed rule.

‘‘(k) EXPEDITED REVIEW.—The Administrator shall review and act upon applications under this section on an expedited basis for unmanned aircraft systems and operations thereof to be used primarily in, or primarily in direct support of, emergency preparedness, response, or disaster recovery.

‘‘§ 45504. Public unmanned aircraft systems

‘‘(a) GUIDANCE.—Not later than November 10, 2012, the Secretary of Transportation shall issue guidance regarding the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems to—

‘‘(1) expedite the issuance of a certificate of authorization process;

‘‘(2) provide for a collaborative process with public agencies to allow for an incremental expansion of access to the national airspace system as technology matures and the necessary safety analysis and data become available, and until standards are completed and technology issues are resolved;

‘‘(3) facilitate the capability of public agencies to develop and use test ranges, subject to operating restrictions required by the Federal Aviation Administration, to test and operate unmanned aircraft systems; and

‘‘(4) provide guidance on a public entity’s responsibility when operating an unmanned aircraft without a civil airworthiness certificate issued by the Administration.

‘‘(b) STANDARDS FOR OPERATION AND CERTIFICATION.—Not later than December 31, 2015, the Administrator shall develop and implement operational and certification requirements for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system.

‘‘(c) AGREEMENTS WITH GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than May 14, 2012, the Secretary shall enter into agreements with appropriate government agencies to simplify the process for issuing certificates of waiver or authorization with respect to applications seeking authorization to operate public unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system.

‘‘(2) CONTENTS.—The agreements shall—

‘‘(A) with respect to an application described in paragraph (1)—

‘‘(i) provide for an expedited review of the application;

‘‘(ii) require a decision by the Administrator on approval or disapproval within 60 business days of the date of submission of the application; and

‘‘(iii) allow for an expedited appeal if the application is disapproved;

‘‘(B) allow for a one-time approval of similar operations carried out during a fixed period of time; and

‘‘(C) allow a government public safety agency to operate unmanned aircraft weighing 4.4 pounds or less, if operated—

‘‘(i) within the line of sight of the operator;

‘‘(ii) less than 400 feet above the ground;

‘‘(iii) during daylight conditions;

‘‘(iv) within Class G airspace; and

‘‘(v) outside of 5 statute miles from any airport, heliport, seaplane base, spaceport, or other location with aviation activities.

‘‘§ 45505. Special rules for certain unmanned aircraft systems

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other requirement of this subtitle, and not later than August 12, 2012, the Secretary of Transportation shall determine if certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system before completion of the plan and rulemaking required by section 45502 or the guidance required under section 45504.

‘‘(b) ASSESSMENT OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.—In making the determination under subsection (a), the Secretary shall determine, at a minimum—

‘‘(1) which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as a result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and populated areas, and operation within visual line of sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and

‘‘(2) whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

‘‘(c) REQUIREMENTS FOR SAFE OPERATION.—If the Secretary determines under this section that certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system, the Secretary shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.

‘‘§ 45506. Operation of small unmanned aircraft

‘‘(a) EXEMPTION AND CERTIFICATE OF WAIVER OR AUTHORIZATION FOR CERTAIN OPERATIONS.—Not later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall establish a procedure for granting an exemption and issuing a certificate of waiver or authorization for the operation of a small unmanned aircraft system in United States airspace for the purposes described in section 45501(1).

‘‘(b) OPERATION OF EXEMPTION AND CERTIFICATE OF WAIVER OR AUTHORIZATION.—

‘‘(1) EXEMPTION.—An exemption granted under this section shall—

‘‘(A) exempt the operator of a small unmanned aircraft from the provisions of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, that are exempted in Exemption No. 11687, issued on May 26, 2015, Regulatory Docket Number FAA–2015–24 0117, or in a subsequent exemption; and

‘‘(B) contain conditions and limitations described in paragraphs 3 through 31 of such Exemption No. 11687, or conditions and limitations of a subsequent exemption.

‘‘(2) CERTIFICATE OF WAIVER OR AUTHORIZATION.—A certificate of waiver or authorization issued under this section shall allow the operation of small unmanned aircraft according to—

‘‘(A) the standard provisions and air traffic control special provisions of the certificate of waiver or authorization FAA Form 7711–1 (7–12 74); or

‘‘(B) the standard and special provisions of a subsequent certificate of waiver or authorization.

‘‘(c) NOTICE TO ADMINISTRATOR.—Before operating a small unmanned aircraft pursuant to a certificate of waiver or authorization granted under this section, the operator shall provide written notice to the Administrator, in a form and manner specified by the Administrator, that contains such information and assurances as the Administrator determines necessary in the interest of aviation safety and the efficiency of the national airspace system, including a certification that the operator has read, understands, and will comply with all terms, conditions, and limitations of the certificate of waiver or authorization.

‘‘(d) WAIVER OF AIRWORTHINESS CERTIFICATE.— Notwithstanding section 44711(a)(1), the holder of a certificate of waiver or authorization granted under this section may operate a small unmanned aircraft under the terms, conditions, and limitations of such certificate without an airworthiness certificate.

‘‘(e) PROCEDURE.—The granting of an exemption or the issuance of a certificate of waiver or authorization, or any other action authorized by this section, shall be made without regard to—

‘‘(1) section 553 of title 5; or

‘‘(2) chapter 35 of title 44.

‘‘(f) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section may be construed to—

‘‘(1) affect the issuance of a rule by or any other activity of the Secretary of Transportation or the Administrator under any other provision of law; or

‘‘(2) invalidate an exemption or certificate of waiver or authorization issued by the Administrator before the date of enactment of this section.

‘‘(g) EFFECTIVE PERIODS.—An exemption or certificate of waiver or authorization issued under this section, or an amendment of such exemption or certificate, shall cease to be valid on the effective date of a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems issued under section 45502(b)(1).

‘‘(h) APPLICABILITY.—

‘‘(1) DEFAULT.—The requirements of this section shall apply beginning on the date that is 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act unless the Administrator issues, before such date, a final rule based on the notice of proposed rulemaking issued on February 23, 2015, entitled ‘Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ (80 Fed. Reg. 9543).

‘‘(2) EXPIRATION.—The requirements of this section shall not be effective beginning on the date on which the Administrator issues a final rule based on the notice of proposed rulemaking issued on February 23, 2015, entitled ‘Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ (80 Fed. Reg. 20 9543).

‘‘§ 45507. Special rules for model aircraft

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if—

‘‘(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

‘‘(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a community-based organization;

‘‘(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

‘‘(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

‘‘(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air  traffic facility is located at the airport)).

‘‘(b) COMMERCIAL OPERATION FOR INSTRUCTIONAL 5 OR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES.—A flight of an unmanned aircraft shall be treated as a flight of a model aircraft for purposes of subsection (a) (regardless of any compensation, reimbursement, or other consideration exchanged or incidental economic benefit gained in the course of planning, operating, or supervising the flight), if the flight is—

‘‘(1) conducted for instructional or educational purposes; and

‘‘(2) operated or supervised by an eligible not-for-profit organization.

‘‘(c) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section may be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.

‘‘(d) ELIGIBLE NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATION DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘eligible not-for-profit organization’ means an entity that—

‘‘(1) is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;

‘‘(2) is exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;

‘‘(3) the mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;

‘‘(4) provides a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation addressing the assembly and operation of model aircraft and that emphasize safe aeromodeling operations within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of individuals and property on the ground;

‘‘(5) provides programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and

‘‘(6) provides assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites.

‘‘§ 45508. Safety information for operation of covered unmanned aircraft

“Beginning not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall make available to the public, through electronic or other suitable means, information developed jointly by the Federal Aviation Administration and appropriate non-governmental organizations relating to the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in United States airspace that includes—

‘‘(1) notice of the existence of airspace boundaries, designated navigational routes, and navigable airspace;

‘‘(2) the requirements for entry into and operation within class A, B, C, D, and E airspace, as defined in subparts A through E of part 71 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (or any successor provisions);

‘‘(3) notice of the existence and a description of Federal aviation regulations applicable to the flight of unmanned aircraft, including regulations prohibiting careless and reckless operation and operation of unairworthy aircraft in part 91 of such title (or any successor provisions);

‘‘(4) notice of sources of aeronautical information and applicable regulations, including publicly available resources for determining the locations of airports, designated navigational routes, and controlled airspace;

‘‘(5) notice of criminal and civil penalties that may result from unlawful operation of unmanned aircraft; and

‘‘(6) examples of the hazards associated with the operation of an unmanned aircraft—

‘‘(A) in a careless or reckless manner;

‘‘(B) in an unairworthy condition; and

‘‘(C) in proximity to other aircraft.’’.

(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.—

(1) REPEALS.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—Sections 332(a), 332(b), 332(d), 333, 334, and 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note) are repealed.

(B) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The items relating to sections 333, 334, and 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note) in the table of contents contained in section 1(b) of that Act are repealed.

(2) PENALTIES.—Section 46301 of title 49, United States Code, is amended—

(A) in subsection (a)—

(i) in paragraph (1)(A) by inserting ‘‘chapter 455,’’ after ‘‘chapter 451,’’; and

(ii) in paragraph (5)(A)(i) by striking ‘‘or chapter 451,’’ and inserting ‘‘chapter 451, chapter 455,’’;

(B) in subsection (d)(2) by inserting ‘‘chapter 455,’’ after ‘‘chapter 451,’’; and

(C) in subsection (f)(1)(A)(i) by striking ‘‘or chapter 451’’ and inserting ‘‘chapter 451, or chapter 455’’.

(3) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The analysis for subtitle VII of title 49, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to chapter 453 the following:

‘‘455. Unmanned aircraft systems ……………………………………….45501’’.

 

SEC. 433. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT TEST RANGES.

 

(a) EXTENSION OF PROGRAM.—Section 332(c)(1) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note) is amended by striking ‘‘5 years after the date of enactment of this Act’’ and inserting ‘‘5 years after the date of enactment of the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016’’.

(b) SENSE-AND-AVOID TECHNOLOGIES AT TEST RANGES.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—To the extent consistent with aviation safety, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall permit and encourage flights of unmanned aircraft systems equipped with sense-and-avoid technologies at the 6 test ranges designated under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

(2) WAIVERS.—In carrying out paragraph (1), the Administrator may waive the requirements of section 44711 of title 49, United States Code, including related regulations, to the extent consistent with aviation safety.

(c) PROVISIONAL CIVIL OPERATION OF SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS AT TEST RANGES.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—In carrying out the program established under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and subject to the requirements of paragraph (2), the Secretary shall allow civil operation of small unmanned aircraft systems at the 6 test ranges designated pursuant to that section.

(2) REQUIREMENTS.—The Secretary shall provide that—

(A) operations of small unmanned aircraft systems occur exclusively within airspace designated in an applicable certificate of authorization or waiver; and

(B) notwithstanding section 44711 of title 49, United States Code, operations are conducted, to the extent practicable, pursuant to the proposed rule on small unmanned aircraft systems issued pursuant to section 45502(b)(1) of such title, or any final rule issued based on that proposed rule, except that a passing grade on the aeronautical knowledge test required for a sport pilot certificate described in part 61 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, or more advanced aeronautical knowledge test under uch part, shall be treated as satisfying the aeronautical knowledge testing requirement contained in such proposed rule.

(3) SUNSET.—This subsection shall cease to be effective on the date that is the earlier of—

(A) 5 years after the date of enactment of this Act; and

(B) the date of publication of a final rule based on the proposed rule described under paragraph (2)(B).

(d) DEFINITION OF TEST RANGE.—In this section, the term ‘‘test range’’ means a defined geographic area where research and development are conducted.

 

SEC. 434. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS SENIOR LEADERSHIP AND STAFFING.

 

(a) INTRA-AGENCY LEADERSHIP.—

(1) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS INTEGRATION OFFICE.—There is in the Federal Aviation Administration an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office (in this section referred to as the ‘‘Office’’).

(2) CHIEF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS INTEGRATION OFFICER.—

(A) DESIGNATION.—Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall designate an individual to serve as the head of the Office, to be known as the Chief Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Officer.

(B) DUTIES; REPORTING.—The Chief Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Officer shall—

(i) report directly to the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety (or a successor position);

(ii) have the duties and functions of the position of the Director of the UAS Integration Office, as of the date of enactment of this section; and

(iii) optimize intra-agency efforts to establish a sound technical and safety methodology for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

(b) INTERAGENCY LEADERSHIP.—

(1) DIRECTOR OF UAS EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.— Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall designate an individual to serve as the head of interagency efforts on unmanned aircraft systems integration for the Administration, to be known as the Director of UAS External Affairs.

(2) DUTIES; REPORTING.—The individual designated under paragraph (1) shall—

(A) report directly to the Deputy Administrator;

(B) have the duties and functions of the position of Senior Advisor on UAS Integration, as of the date of enactment of this section; and

(C) focus on external outreach, education, and interagency initiatives consistent with the Administration’s management of unmanned aircraft systems integration efforts.

(c) STAFFING.—The Administrator shall designate a sufficient number of safety inspectors to focus on the safety oversight of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system, taking into consideration the current and anticipated—

(1) budgetary environment; and

(2) volume of unmanned aircraft system operations.

 

SEC. 435. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SAFETY.

 

It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) the unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft near airports presents a serious hazard to aviation safety;

(2) with increasing regularity, pilots are reporting near misses with unmanned aircraft at low altitudes during critical phases of flight, either on final approach or shortly after takeoff;

(3) a collision between an unmanned aircraft and a conventional aircraft in flight could jeopardize the safety of persons aboard aircraft and on the ground;

(4) Federal aviation regulations, including sections 91.126 through 91.131 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, prohibit unauthorized operation of an aircraft in controlled airspace near an airport;

(5) Federal aviation regulations, including section 91.13 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, prohibit the operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another;

(6) the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration should pursue all available civil and administrative remedies available to the Administrator, including referrals to other government agencies for criminal investigations, with respect to persons who operate unmanned aircraft in an unauthorized manner;

(7) the Administrator should place particular priority on continuing measures, including partnerships with nongovernmental organizations, to educate the public about the dangers to the public safety of operating unmanned aircraft near airports without the appropriate approvals or authorizations; and

(8) manufacturers and retail sellers of small unmanned aircraft systems should take steps to educate consumers about the safe and lawful operation of such systems.

 

SEC. 436. UAS PRIVACY REVIEW.

 

(a) REVIEW.—The Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the heads of appropriate Federal agencies, appropriate State and local officials, and subject-matter experts and in consideration of relevant efforts led by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, shall carry out a review to identify any potential reduction of privacy specifically caused by integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

(b) CONSULTATION.—In carrying out the review, the Secretary shall consult with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce on its ongoing efforts responsive to the presidential memorandum titled ‘‘Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems’’ and dated February 15, 2015.

(c) REPORT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on the results of the review required under subsection (a).

 

SEC. 437. PUBLIC UAS OPERATIONS BY TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS.

 

(a) PUBLIC UAS OPERATIONS BY TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS.—Section 40102(a)(41) of title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

‘‘(F) An unmanned aircraft that is owned and operated by, or exclusively leased for at least 90 continuous days by, an Indian tribal government, as defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122), except as provided in section 40125(b).’’.

(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—Section 40125(b) of title 49, United States Code, is amended by striking ‘‘or (D)’’ and inserting ‘‘(D), or (F)’’.

 

SEC. 438. FACILITATING UNMANNED AIRCRAFT AUTHORIZATION IN SUPPORT OF FIREFIGHTING OPERATIONS.

 

The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall enter into agreements with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture as necessary to continue the expeditious authorization of safe unmanned aircraft system operations in support of firefighting operations consistent with the requirements of section 45504(c) of title 49, United States Code.

SEC. 439. LOW ALTITUDE UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF ADVISORY COMMITTEE.—

Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall establish an advisory committee comprised of government representatives and appropriate industry representatives to—

(1) assess the necessity, feasibility, and benefits of establishing unmanned aircraft traffic management systems for airspace between the surface and 400 feet above ground level;

(2) develop recommendations for government oversight of such systems; and

(3) address any other issues the advisory panel considers necessary and appropriate.

(b) REPORT.—Not later than 1 year after the establishment of the advisory committee under subsection (a), the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on the findings of the advisory committee.

(c) SUNSET.—The advisory committee shall terminate upon transmission of the report pursuant to subsection (b).

 

SEC. 440. UAS DETECTION SYSTEMS PILOT PROGRAM.

 

(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall establish a pilot program to deploy and evaluate the effectiveness of unmanned aircraft detection systems in maintaining the safety of air commerce and navigable airspace in light of aviation safety hazards posed by unauthorized operations of unmanned aircraft in proximity to airports.

(b) PARTICIPATING AIRPORTS.—The Secretary shall select not fewer than 3 airports in the United States with scheduled commercial air service that the Secretary determines to be suitable locations for participation in the pilot program.

(c) DETECTION CAPABILITIES.—In carrying out the pilot program under subsection (a), the Secretary may utilize unmanned aircraft detection systems to—

(1) detect, locate, and track unmanned aircraft;

(2) detect, locate, and track operators of unmanned aircraft; and

(3) mitigate unauthorized operations of unmanned aircraft in any airspace in which they may pose an aviation safety risk.

(d) LIMITATION.—The Secretary shall ensure that the unmanned aircraft detection systems used in carrying out the pilot program do not interfere with or harm airport operations, essential navigation systems, wireless communications, or the general public.

(e) REPORT.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on the results of the pilot program established under subsection (a).

(2) CONTENTS.—The report submitted under paragraph (1) shall include the following:

(A) The number of unauthorized unmanned aircraft operations detected at each participating airport, together with a description of such operations.

(B) The number of instances in which unauthorized unmanned aircraft were mitigated pursuant to subsection (c)(3), together with a description of such instances.

(C) The number of enforcement cases brought by the Federal Aviation Administration for unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft detected through the pilot program, together with a description of such cases.

(D) The number of any technical failures in the pilot program, together with a description of such failures.

(E) Recommendations for safety and operational standards for unmanned aircraft detection systems.

(F) The feasibility of deployment of the systems at other airports.

(3) FORMAT.—To the extent practicable, the report prepared under paragraph (1) shall be submitted in an unclassified format. If necessary, the report may include a classified annex.

(f) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT DETECTION SYSTEM DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘unmanned aircraft detection system’’ means a system that can carry out the activities described in subsection (c).

(g) SUNSET.—The pilot program established under subsection (a) shall cease to be effective on the earlier of—

(1) the date that is 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act; and

(2) the date of the submission of the report under subsection (e).

(h) AUTHORITY.—After the pilot program ceases to be effective, the Secretary may use unmanned aircraft detection systems to detect and mitigate the unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft that pose a risk to aviation safety.

 

SEC. 441. EVALUATION OF AIRCRAFT REGISTRATION FOR SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.

 

(a) METRICS.—Beginning not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall develop and track metrics to assess compliance with and effectiveness of the registration of small unmanned aircraft systems by the Federal Aviation Administration pursuant to the interim final rule issued on December 16, 2015, entitled ‘‘Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft’’ (80 Fed. Reg. 78593) and any subsequent final rule, including metrics with respect to—

(1) the levels of compliance with the interim final rule and any subsequent final rule;

(2) the number of enforcement actions taken by the Administration for violations of or noncompliance with the interim final rule and any subsequent final rule, together with a description of the actions; and

(3) the effect of the interim final rule and any subsequent final rule on compliance with any fees associated with the use of small unmanned aircraft systems.

(b) EVALUATION.—The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation shall evaluate—

(1) the Administration’s progress in developing and tracking the metrics set forth in subsection (a); and

(2) the reliability, effectiveness, and efficiency of the Administration’s registration program for small unmanned aircraft.

(c) REPORT.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation shall submit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report containing—

(1) the results of the evaluation required under subsection (b); and

(2) recommendations to the Administrator and Congress for improvements to the registration process for small unmanned aircraft.

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