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U.S. Regulation

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The FAA recently announced the release of its new vertiport design guidelines, Engineering Brief No. 105 for Vertiport Design (“Guidance”). The Guidance marks a significant milestone in the FAA’s efforts to support the development of infrastructure required for Advanced Air Mobility. The Guidance provides interim safety standards for eVTOL take-off and landing facilities, which are commonly referred to as “vertiports” or “vertistops.” Incorporating FAA research, collaboration with industry, and public feedback, the new Guidance provides key resources to infrastructure facilities and developers as they plan for the integration of eVTOL aircraft into mainstream use. Ultimately, the FAA expects the guidance to evolve into a performance-based design standard in the form of an Advisory Circular, which may be influenced by design standards developed by other stakeholders, including standards development organizations and other jurisdictions’ aviation authorities. The Guidance provides interim guidelines for civil vertiport designers to establish an acceptable level of safety,…

In a recently issued enforcement policy, the FAA announced a discretionary approach to its enforcement of Remote ID Rule requirements applicable to the production of unmanned aircraft, to account for the delay in the FAA’s recent acceptance of a means of compliance (“MOC”) required by the Remote ID Rule.  This discretionary policy will apply to the requirement that drone manufacturers submit a declaration of compliance with an FAA-accepted MOC on or before September 16, 2022.  Under the policy, the FAA will exercise discretion whether to take enforcement action for any noncompliance with this requirement on or before December 16, 2022.  The FAA will consider all circumstances when exercising its discretion, including, in particular, the delay in the FAA’s recent acceptance of an MOC.  Affected manufacturers are encouraged to coordinate closely with the FAA. Under 14 C.F.R. Part 89 (“Part 89”), established by the Remote ID Rule, designers and manufacturer of…

The FAA has selected the New York UAS Test Site at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York for a project supporting safe drone integration and the development of a new traffic management system for unmanned aircraft systems.  The project is designed to test and evaluate new applications for use in future UAS traffic management (“UTM”) systems.  The selected test site is part of New York’s 50-Mile Drone Corridor, which facilitates beyond visual line of sight (“BVLOS”) testing and advanced uncrewed aircraft operations.  The project will be managed by the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (“NUAIR”), a nonprofit organization that manages the New York UAS Test Site, and will also involve the participation of several other partners, including NRA Technologies, OneSky, AX Enterprize, Cal Analytics, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, and Oneida Indian Nation. This project represents the FAA’s continued recognition of the need to support and integrate…

With the FAA’s final Engineering Brief for Vertiport Design anticipated to be released within the next few months, this summer has seen an uptick in congressional activity to support the development of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) infrastructure necessary for eVTOL and UAS operations. Following the House’s passage of the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act (AAMCLA), in 2021, the Senate passed a companion bill in March 2022 that was recently approved (and amended) by the House in June 2022. The bill has since been referred back to the Senate. The Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act Both the Senate and House versions of the AAMCLA seek to establish an inter-agency working group that would be tasked with developing recommendations regarding federal support of AAM “safety, operations, security, cybersecurity, [and] infrastructure” development. The working group would consist of representatives from the FAA, Departments of Transportation, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security…

According to a FAA statement reported by multiple media outlets last week, the FAA has decided to modify its regulatory approach and certify electric vertical take-off and landing (“eVTOL”) aircraft as a “special class” aircraft using the existing “powered-lift” aircraft category. As discussed previously, the FAA has been deciding between two approaches to the type certification of eVTOLs—either (a) type certification using airworthiness standards in 14 C.F.R. Part 23 for “Normal Category Airplanes,” which normally fly only horizontally, combined with special conditions for eVTOLs (e.g., vertical flight), or (b) certification under the FAA’s aircraft certification procedures for “special classes” of aircraft in 14 C.FR. § 21.17 (b) (“Special Class Framework”), whereby airworthiness standards derived from other FAA regulations are incorporated as appropriate. The ultimate direction will have significant implications for both eVTOLs’ route to market and future operational requirements (e.g., pilot requirements, infrastructure, etc.). In light of the industry’s expectation…

On November 17, the FAA announced that it has completed the second and last phase of its Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (“UTM”) Pilot Program (“UPP”), conducted in partnership with NASA. The conclusion of the drone demonstration phase is a significant milestone in paving the way for operations beyond visual line of sight (“BVLOS”). The lessons learned from UPP will support ongoing policy and technology advancement efforts toward enabling BVLOS operations. In the near term, the FAA is expected to release its final rule on the remote identification of drones (“Remote ID”) and a proposed rule for operations over people and at night by the end of this year or early in 2021. These rulemakings will incorporate information and data developed during the UPP. Remote ID is viewed by the FAA as a critical step in the development and deployment of UTM systems to enable routine BVLOS operations. Established in…

Innovation has been at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with multiple industries adapting to provide essential goods and services. Following the widespread adoption of social distancing measures earlier this year, the UAS industry has demonstrated the potential of expanded drone operations through the delivery of critical supplies. In light of COVID-19, the U.S. federal government has expressed interest in helping the UAS industry bring new drone applications to market through expedited regulatory approvals under the current framework and accelerating the implementation of a broader regulatory framework for expanded drone operations. Drone deliveries of critical supplies in response to COVID-19 have been made possible through the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (“IPP”), under which the FAA has granted waivers from the operating limitations prescribed by 14 CFR Part 107. Currently, expanded drone operations such as flights at night, beyond visual line of sight, and over people,…

The FAA recently issued a request for public comment on a policy for the type certification of certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS” or “drones”). The policy applies to both large UAS (55 pounds or more) and certain small UAS weighing less than 55 pounds (“sUAS”) operating outside the limitations imposed by 14 CFR Part 107. sUAS operating under Part 107 (or with a waiver under Part 107) are not required to have airworthiness certification, but all other civil UAS must receive airworthiness certification from the FAA or an exemption from such requirements. The FAA specifies UAS used for package delivery as those affected by the policy; type certification for these drones would streamline the process for manufacturing and airworthiness certification, accelerating commercial deployment within the U.S. While the FAA contemplates a future rulemaking, the proposed policy is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing legal requirements and…

On December 26, the FAA released its long-anticipated proposed rule that would require the remote identification (“Remote ID”) of unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS,” or “drones”) in the United States. The proposed rule is an important step in advancing UAS policy-making in the U.S. and addressing emergent safety and security issues, such as close encounters between drones and manned aircraft and unlawful drone operations in places such as airports, military bases, outdoor events and civil infrastructure. As addressing these safety and security issues is critical to the advancement of new and innovative commercial drone applications, UAS stakeholders will wish to comment on the proposed rule and its benefits, burdens, costs, viability and any issues not addressed. The proposed rule had been delayed on three separate occasions, most recently in September, and is viewed by federal authorities and industry stakeholders as a linchpin to further UAS integration and expansion of operations currently…

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced earlier this month that the long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on remote identification for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drones) has been delayed for a third time. The NPRM is now projected to be issued in December 2019. Remote identification is the ability of a drone to transmit identifying information while in flight to other parties, such as the FAA, federal security agencies, and law enforcement. Current UAS regulations do not provide a way for federal and state authorities to determine a drone’s identification except by physically inspecting the registration number, which often is not possible. As a result, many UAS operations can be conducted anonymously, including those that violate the FAA’s regulations. Remote identification would greatly enhance the ability of state and federal authorities to respond when a drone is flown in an unsafe or unlawful manner. The FAA has described…