US legislation proposes DoD review UAS categories and examine impact on integration into national airspace

A bill introduced to the US House of Representatives proposes changes in the official categorizing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Review Act requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to initiate a review of the current system to determine whether modifications should be made to five broad UAS categories. If this re-categorization was enacted, it would impact:

  • The future capability and employment needs to support current and emerging warfighting concepts;
  • advanced systems and technologies available in the current commercial marketplace;
  • the rapid fielding of unmanned aircraft systems technology; and
  • the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System.

The bill requires the Under Secretary to submit to the congressional defense committees, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report that includes a description of:

  • The results of the review initiated under subsection (a);
  • any revisions planned to the system used by the Department of Defense for categorizing unmanned aircraft systems as a result of such review;
  • the costs and benefits of any planned revisions; and
  • a proposed implementation plan and timelines for such revisions.

According to a report published by Nextgov:

Rep. Don Bacon said: “Unmanned systems have revolutionized warfare over the past several decades and we expect these changes to continue accelerating. This provision seeks to balance the safe regulation of unmanned aircraft with recent advances in technology.”

Bacon is concerned DOD’s UAS group definitions aren’t on pace with commercial advances around elements including propulsion, automation, sensor, and flight control technologies, a press official in his office told Nextgov. The definitions, in some cases, “could place unhelpful and expensive requirements” on military users and potentially slow down the department’s adoption and integration of future-facing drone technologies, they argued.

Text of the 4-page legislation, shared with Nextgov, would require the defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment to initiate a process to review DOD’s system for categorizing drones as described in its Joint Publication 3-30, titled Joint Air Operations. That document groups drones into five broad categories—and the intent of the proposed analysis would be to determine whether modifications are needed regarding those groupings.

The bill would direct officials to consider how revising those categories might impact multiple areas, including future capability and employment needs to support evolving military concepts, industry-made systems currently available, the rapid fielding of drones and their integration into the national airspace.

Find Bill HR6245 information here

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