Security & Defense


The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) released its recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”).  Despite a lack of consensus on issues, the recommendations should help the FAA develop new rules for drone identification and tracking. Although the FAA was scheduled to publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on identification (“ID”) and tracking requirements in May 2018, the proposed rules remain under review by the Department of Transportation and have missed a February 2018 deadline for the Office of Management and Budget to start its review.  It is unclear when the rulemaking will progress.

Launched in June 2017 to address concerns over “rogue” drones flying in the National Airspace System (“NAS”), the FAA tasked the ARC with providing recommendations regarding UAS remote identification and tracking technologies. Comprised of three Working Groups; Existing and Emerging Technologies, Law Enforcement and Security, and Implementation, its membership represented a broad range of aviation and UAS industry stakeholders.  The ARC met several times to educate the public, gather information, and to discuss and deliberate among members and finalized its report in September 2017. 

Following a public debate regarding the lack of authority for the U.S. military to take down civilian unmanned aircraft systems (also known as drones or “UAS”) over bases—see previous UAS Insights coverage here—the Department of Defense (“DOD”) released new guidance providing additional authority for military bases to protect themselves from potentially threatening drone operations.  This new authority again highlights the complicated legal issue of drone defenses, Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) enforcement of airspace regulations, and the desire of certain entities to prevent UAS overflights.

Following a near-collision between an F-22 stealth fighter and a civilian drone (also known as an unmanned aircraft system or “UAS”), last week a four-star U.S. Air Force (“USAF”) general requested additional authority to combat civilian drone operations threatening USAF facilities and assets. This request highlights the difficulty faced by institutions and businesses wanting to protect critical infrastructure and property while not violating federal law. General Mike Holmes of the Air Combat Command told the Air Force Association about two incidents—in the same day—where unauthorized civilian drones entered airspace over USAF facilities and interfered with operations. In one incident, a drone nearly collided with an F-22 Raptor stealth tactical fighter jet, one of the USAF’s most advanced aircraft, costing in excess of $150 million. According to General Holmes, the USAF needs new legal authorities to down such drones or another means to protect from unlawful incursion. He says the USAF’s…

Last month marked the first meeting of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS” or drones) Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”). The ARC brought together key stakeholders to discuss regulatory issues relating to UAS ID and tracking, air traffic management for drones, and local enforcement concerns. Drone identification and tracking systems could help the FAA and the UAS industry pave the way for more flexible rules, including UAS operations over people and beyond visual line-of-sight.