A Senate committee has approved legislation that gives the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) two years to develop comprehensive regulations for commercial delivery drones. Senator Dean Heller of Nevada says the provision calls on the FAA to develop protocols by the time technology for drone deliveries is more widely available.
“I think this is an opportunity for technology to advance in this country,” Heller said in an official statement after the committee’s approval. “I’d hate to think we’re in a caveman mode here.”
The mandate was part of the proposed 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act that was evaluated by the Senate Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation. Under the act is an amendment that mandates certification for operators of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), the formal name for drones.
The bill also would allow for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight, stating that it should be made a “top priority” by the FAA. Current regulations state that drones cannot be flown beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. The bill states that “BVLOS operations of unmanned aerial systems have tremendous potential to enhance research and development both commercially and in academics, and to spur economic growth.”
The bill would also require, as requested by the Airline Pilots Association, that drone operators pass an online FAA regulations test before flying and maintain official documentation confirming the passage. The Senate foresees the test as a companion step to drone owner registration, a process that officially began in December and now includes 400,000 owners that are officially listed under the FAA’s UAS Registration.
Under the legislation, the federal government would be in control of drone policy, asserting that states may not pass their own drone laws.
The committee approved the entire bill by voice vote, and it’s now expected to be on the Senate floor in April.