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David Hook, Tuesday, 2-17-15 February 18, 2015

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David Hook, Tuesday, 2-17-15


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Guest:  David Hook  Topics: UAVs and proposed FAA UAV regulations.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Dave Hook back to the show to discuss the newly proposed FAA Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) rules.  Please note that Dave summarized the 195 page FAA report in a document you will find posted to the blog for this show titled “Small UAV Regulations Proposal.pdf.”  This document is available for your download.  In the first segment of our 101 minute program, Dave provided us with a short overview of the UAV environment as far as regulations were concerned, pointing out why sensible regulations were needed and wanted by the industry.  Dave explained the FAA proposed rule process, the commentary period, and then the process for evaluating the comments and eventually publishing final rules.  Dave went over some of the more significant proposed regulations in the 195 page document including the proposal for the operator to have an airman certificate based on a written test with a possible $150 fee.  Another requirement would require the UAV operator to check the NOTAMS and to be accountable. Operators were defined as were visual observers.  The class of UAV was described in the proposed rules.  There may also be a potential issue about the UAV and its cargo, especially controlled substances legal in a state but illegal by the feds given the airspace is controlled under federal law.  Dave had some interesting comments about this. Kris called from Wyoming and talked about Ultralight aircraft outside of controlled airspace not being regulated.  Dave and Kris talked about the airspace classifications, what is regulated, what is not.  They also spoke about the approximate 20,000 registered  airports in the country of which roughly 15,000 are on private property and what this means regarding law enforcement.

In the second segment, Dave mentioned the proposed $150 fee and the proposed rule to register the UAVs with an N number.  Dr. Jurist called in to talk about potential opposition to the rules from the academic community and how the proposed rules might inhibit academic and other UAV R&D.  Dave and John cited examples of how the rules might adversely impact the academic & R&D community.  Near the end of our discussion, Ft. Worth John called to talk about UAVs and their possible use as a terrorist weapon.  Since the purchase of the UAV was not being regulated, both John and Dave pointed out that someone with the intent to misuse a UAV would not likely care about the regulations, proposed or final.  In summary, Dave said the proposed rules were a good first effort and encouraged concerned people to give the FAA comments during the 60 day comment period which starts when the rules are published in the Federal Register.

If you have comments/questions please post them on TSS blog above.  You can reach David Hook through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com.


1. Gordon Collyer - AMA914638 - February 21, 2015

It is important to recognize the history of unmanned air vehicle regulation by the FAA. Prior to the FAA modernization law that directed the FAA to address UAVs, these type of vehicles were addressed only through two channels. First were model aircraft loosely addressed by a 1980’s Advisory Circular, and secondly as vehicles for commercial use which were regulated like manned aircraft. As always the FAA did and continues to note that unsafe operations in the national airspace are prohibited. For example, a permanent Notice to Airmen prohibits any model aircraft flight within a 30 mile radius of Washington D.C. So from the FAA’s point of view, the recent NPRM for commercial operation of UAVs is a liberalization that streamlines commercial use of UAVs. Also the FAA has indicated that they are taking an incremental approach to commercial UAVs, that is for example, night flights are not currently permitted, but may be in latter FAA rules.

The FAA modernization act also specifically exempted model aircraft from FAA regulations as long as a small number of statutory (as opposed to regulatory) stipulations are met. So now model aircraft operations are defined by law for the first time. Several key ones consider flight within five miles of an airport, weight limits, flight within visual range, avoidance of people and buildings, recreational or hobby use only, giving way at all times to manned aircraft, and operation within the context of a recognized safety program. This latter statutory requirement means that organizations like the Academy of Model Aeronautics which publish and holds its members to operate within its safety program, are or will soon be accepted by the FAA as having acceptable safety guidelines for model airplanes (again per the statutory definition).

Unspoken in all this is the fact that the technology supports, and many operators are experimenting with flights with autopilots, closed-loop GPS navigation and on-board TV links that permit both autonomous flight, but also flight beyond visual range. As things stand now these types of operations are prohibited in any context useless sanctioned by the FAA through traditional certification processes.

Finally one of the callers suggested that the possible use of UAVs or model aircraft for terrorism might warrant some stricter form of registration since they are so cheap and easy to use. I would reject such thoughts, and note that renting a truck can be cheaper and easier to operate than a UAV/model airplane and that a truck can carry a much more destructive payload, for which unfortunately there are many precedents. – Gordon C.

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