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UAS Law Alert – FAA Launches UAS Pilot Program

On November 1, 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration formally announced a new pilot program that allows state, local, and tribal governments to explore new approaches to safely integrating drones into low-altitude airspace. Under the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program, select local governments may partner with public or private sector operators to collaboratively develop new models for conducting advanced UAS operations with the support of their local communities.

In addition to testing and evaluating cutting-edge operational concepts—such as beyond visual line of sight, detect-and-avoid capabilities, and direct flights over people—the Program is intended to identify the most effective means of balancing local and national interests in managing UAS operations and explore concepts for shared management of the National Airspace System. The FAA will permit applicants to request “reasonable time, place, and manner limitations” on low-altitude UAS operations, limited to the duration of the Program. Because federal funding has not been identified for the Program, each successful applicant and its partners will be responsible for the costs of implementing its proposal.

The deadline is tight. In order to participate, state or local governments must submit a notice of intent to participate no later than November 28, 2017. Thereafter, the FAA will send the applicant an invitation to formally apply to the Program by January 4, 2018.

At least five proposals will be selected based on factors such as the degree of public/private collaboration and support, the diversity of proposed models of government involvement, and the commitment of governments and UAS operators to the FAA/DOT policy objectives. The selected entities will enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the FAA to define the parameters of the pilot program and the responsibilities of participating parties and the FAA.

For the past few years, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell has worked extensively with state and local governments to develop innovative approaches to the local integration of UAS under existing legal frameworks. We are excited about the opportunity created by this Program, and the FAA’s recognition of the importance of community and local government involvement. If you have any questions about the program, or would like further information when it is available, please contact John Putnam, Peter Kirsch, Eric Smith, Allison Fultz, or Steven Osit.

Additional information about the Program and application procedures may be found in the Federal Register Notice announcing the Program and the FAA’s Screening Information Request.