The Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016, which reauthorizes the FAA and related programs through fiscal year 2017. Among other things, the bill, known as S. 2658, advances drone technology. In particular, language in the measure “addresses safety and privacy issues, boosts enforcement, and clarifies federal and local roles regarding drones while creating new opportunities for testing and promoting innovative uses of this technology, subject to FAA approval.”
The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) supports the Senate’s efforts to enhance education and safety in the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), according to Executive Director Todd Schlekeway.
“NATE is extremely interested in the commercial application of Unmanned Aerial Systems technology,” Schlekeway said. “UAS can complement and enhance the safety and well-being of communication tower workers by minimizing the risks associated with climber fatigue, weather, and distractions, while reducing repetitive stress injuries. Moreover, they can cut costs and promote efficiency while assisting with tower inspections and surveys.”
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke in support of removing barriers to innovation in UAS, while addressing safety risks. Specifically, he noted an incident where a Lufthansa Airlines A380 jumbo jet experienced a near miss with a drone that flew just 200 feet over the airliner.
“To keep drones out of the paths of commercial airliners, the Senate bill would implement standards so that existing safety technologies can be built into unmanned aircraft,” Thune said. “This legislation also takes steps to require drone users to learn basic “rules of the sky” so they understand the limits of where and when unmanned aircraft may operate. This is critical as we move into an era where drones share airspace with commercial aircraft, emergency medical flights, low-altitude agricultural planes, and general aviation pilots.”
The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.