Authority for drone registration would return to the FAA if the National Defense Authorization Act is signed into law. Airbus subsidiary A³ is building full-scale demonstrators of an electric single-seat tilt-rotor VTOL aircraft for a fleet of autonomous self-piloted taxis, LAANC is starting at four airports, AT&T deploys their Cell on Wings, and AOPA holds their first Drone Talk webinar.
H.R. 2810: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 contains a measure that would give the FAA authority to bring back drone registration. A committee resolved differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, and the House approved the committee report. The Senate is expected to vote, and if passed the bill would go to the President for signature.
The legislative language is on page 829 of the National Defense Authorization Act conference report [PDF]:
(d) RESTORATION OF RULES FOR REGISTRATION AND MARKING OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.—The rules adopted by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in the matter of registration and marking requirements for small unmanned aircraft (FAA-2015-7396; published on December 16, 2015) that were vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Taylor v. Huerta (No. 15-1495; decided on May 19, 2017) shall be restored to effect on the date of enactment of this Act.
Track the progress of the bill at GovTrack.us.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) are in favor of drone registration. The AMA FAQ answers some questions about the resumption of drone registration.
Airbus is building two full-scale demonstrators of an electric, single-seat tilt-rotor VTOL aircraft. Their goal is first flight by the end of 2017 at their flight test center in Pendleton, Oregon. Airbus’ A³ subsidiary envisions a fleet of autonomous multi-rotor aircraft acting as self-piloted taxis, with a production-ready version by 2020.
Concept video: Vahana: Airbus entwickelt selbstfliegendes Lufttaxi
Part 107 commercial drone operators can obtain automated authorization to fly in controlled airspace. This is under the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program and applies to four U.S. airports: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG) Airport, Lincoln Airport (LNK) in Nebraska, Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) in Nevada, and California’s San Jose International Airport (SJC). AirMap and Skyward will provide the service via smartphone and as many as 49 more airports will be added by 2018.
AT&T is using a COW (cell on wings) in Puerto Rico where connectivity is still out in many areas after Hurricane Maria. They say this is the first time an LTE cell site on a drone has been successfully deployed to connect residents after a disaster. The drone is tethered 200 feet above the ground with the tether providing power and data transmission. The COW can stay airborne for several hours.
AOPA Director of Regulatory Affairs Justin Barkowski, Senior Director of UAS Programs Kat Swain, and Legal Services Plan attorneys Jared Allen and Chad Mayer offer expert advice for navigating current federal regulations, along with a growing number of state and local rules and regulations that drone pilots should be aware of (or risk fines and penalties) in AOPA’s first Drone Talk webinar, recorded Nov. 10, 2017.
Watch the webinar: AOPA Drone Talk Series: Drones and the Legal Landscape
See also the AOPA YouTube channel: AOPA | Your Freedom to Fly
Lisa Ellman and Matt Clark from Hogan Lovells were joined by CNN Senior Counsel Emily Avant to talk about Part 107 waivers, the CNN waiver for flights over people, the UAS Integration Pilot Program, LAANC, and a few notable aspects of drone activity in 2017.