By John Vernon, DroneUp CTO
The BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) Aviation Rulemaking Committee’s (ARC) final report that the FAA published in early March was in the works for many months. It is the culmination of the UAS BVLOS ARC research into broadening safe, scalable, economically viable, and environmentally-friendly UAS BVLOS operations that are not under positive air traffic control.
The final recommendations made by the UAS-BVLOS ARC membership committee will allow the FAA to adopt a common and consistent set of regulations and guidance, giving drone operators the flexibility to meet an acceptable level of risk through qualitative or quantitative methods, or a hybrid approach.
While there were participants who had concerns, everyone had an opportunity to voice their concerns and supply comments. With such a large group, it can be challenging to give everyone opportunities to provide feedback directly to the larger group, but ample opportunities were given to provide feedback in a variety of formats and venues.
Creating new economic and societal opportunities
Unlocking BLVOS will have a positive impact on the world, opening up opportunities we could have only previously imagined in areas such as infrastructure inspections, medical supply and package delivery, public safety missions, wildfire mitigation, agriculture surveying, equitable access to medicine and other necessities, and more.
DroneUp has been operating under the existing legal framework and we are excited about the new opportunities and expansion that this new report could offer in terms of structure. This report creates and expands on economic and societal opportunities without sacrificing safety, which we can all appreciate.
There are provisions in the report that may prove to be overreaching and there will be concessions down the road, but overall, the spirit of the report offers a way to move forward. We are not limited by technology; we’re limited in our ability to define a regulatory path.
I commend the BVLOS ARC for its work, and the FAA for undertaking this effort because a rules-based implementation of these recommendations will help us realize the tremendous benefits of broader UAS operations.
The existing waiver process for even the most mundane drone flights and their exceptions process is onerous, as the FAA can only get to so many, but we now have defined a path for moving forward.
I want to be careful not to sensationalize the report as game-changing. If adopted as exactly written, then sure, it could be, but I’m not sure that is likely to happen. However, it does offer a first step in creating opportunity.
This report is about mitigating and figuring out a way for us who share this space to share safely.
Roughly 98% of the air space in the United States is uncontrolled, so it’s important to focus on broader issues than just drone-to-aircraft collisions when it comes to safety. A risk proportional approach can allow operations to begin and operators continue to evolve safety and performance benchmarks and allow standards to evolve.
There are many operators out there that operate extremely professionally and have the capability to continue to work in an integrated airspace. And the technology is always improving, therefore when it comes to drone safety, we’re moving in the right direction.
This report’s common-sense proposals represent the best from the technology, aviation, municipal, and societal leaders and provide a solid list of recommendations to rule-makers. We are eager to see how these recommendations will shape regulations that will propel this industry forward by providing a clear pathway to BVLOS.