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Officials hope speedy adoption of reauthorisation bill will lead to small UAV ruling

After the US Senate approved an 18-month Federal Aviation Administration reauthorisation bill that benefits unmanned air vehicle use on 19 April, regulators are hoping for a hasty final approval to allow for its proposed ruling on small UAVs to be passed.

The bill will help facilitate further testing of UAVs in national airspace, but a delay in passing it by the House may slow down the adoption of a highly-anticipated ruling on small UAVs.

“It’s very important that we have a clear, long-term authorisation from Congress,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta told the AUVSI Xponential conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. He hopes that the delay in approving the bill will not affect the ruling that the FAA is in the process of defining, which Huerta says will be in the place by “next spring”.

“The rulemaking process is designed to be slow and deliberate,” he says. “But we’re not limited to the rulemaking toolbox.”

However, he adds that rulemaking is “certainly an important part of it”, and while he thinks UAV integration is “very exciting”, the primary concern is still around safety.

Congressman Frank LoBiondo adds that he anticipates that a decision on the bill will be made in the short term, with only a few elements of it being contentious.

“The FAA reauthorisation is something receiving a lot of attention because it affects all of aviation,” he adds.

Huerta encouraged more adoption of unmanned technology, and an even speedier effort to use it more.

“We all know it has only just begun; we are picking low-hanging fruit,” he adds. “We need to become ever-more nimble”

Huerta explained that a next generation advisory committee is due to be established, which will consist of some 30 members and allow industry to have more say in the rule making.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be ahead of industry, but we want to be with it,” he notes.

LoBiondo adds that it is important to speed up the development and adoption of the technology and legislation for its use because he is “concerned that we [the US] are losing our competitive edge”.

This is because there are other places such as Europe where UAV adoption is seemingly more advanced than the US’.

“We have the relationship, drive and energy,” he says. “My goal is to not have Congress dictate to you what to do in your world.”

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