The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has issued a blog following a joint statement made with Consumer Technology Association (CTA) at the end of April about ‘avigation easements’ by some US states. The organisations expressed concern over legislation that has been introduced in multiple states to roll back federal authority of the airspace, restrict and tax drone operations, and upend years of industry-government collaboration towards unlocking the full potential of drone technology for commercial use.
AUVSI’s blog says it has a long record of challenging efforts to weaken federal authority of the airspace, including opposition to federal and state attempts to give states and/or local government the ability to regulate drones. That is a nonstarter for the drone industry and the emerging Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)/Urban Air Mobility (UAM) industry. A patchwork of 50 states with 50 different sets of rules would be a disaster for industry, weakening strong federal safety standards and imposing tremendous costs on consumers and drone operators.
AUVSI says it vigorously opposes any and all attempts to harm safety and remove airspace regulatory authority from the FAA. That issue puts AUVSI directly at odds with legislative proposals like those from Senator Lee at the federal level and a number of state bills currently introduced including proposals in Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia and Mississippi. Some of the state bills, however, go much further than simply addressing federalism and also propose state and local control though so-called “avigation easements,” or what are essentially toll lanes in the sky for drones. This is not an entirely new concept – it is derived from a report written by a DC think tank – but since its inception, aviation toll lane proposals have been universally opposed by the UAS and AAM industries. The drone toll model is perhaps a money-maker for some companies that want to get in on the front-end of airspace management and charge taxes or fees for access, however, it is a poison pill for the nascent commercial UAS industry, and the yet-to-be realized AAM marketplace. Taxing industry for access to low-altitude airspace before the industry has yet to engage in widespread commercial operations, and for most companies, turn a profit, would kill the industry and its innovative approach to revolutionizing business.
AUVSI and its members believe the best way to accelerate the commercial drone industry is to create a streamlined, uniform, federal regulatory framework that allows everyone to fly under the same set of rules, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they are operating. Not only would it would be difficult for drone operators to navigate according to different state and local rules, but such an environment would also pose real risks to aviation safety.
The drone industry is on the right path forward for success. The lessons learned from the FAA’s Integrated Pilot Program (IPP), and what we are learning now during BEYOND, which is focused on enabling more complex and scalable beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, are meaningful and inform our work going forward. The recently released Remote ID rule supports drone safety and security by transmitting critical information to those on the ground that need it and is a building block to more complex UAS operations. The operations over people and at night rule allows these operations to be conducted routinely without an additional step of obtaining a waiver. Continued innovation from industry is evolving drone technology forward at a rapid pace. As an industry, we cannot afford to upend all this progress with regressive proposals like those in the aforementioned states.
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