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Opinion: Gravity works. Why fear drones?

There have been countless arguments made in the past several months that drones should not fly above accidents, fires or crime scenes, and even that they should not be permitted to fly at all, because they could “fall from the sky” and injure persons or property.

The very tragic events in Washington on March 18, 2014, make it abundantly clear that anything that flies can suddenly stop flying for any of a number of reasons, including pilot error, mechanical malfunctions or weather.

We all know there are four forces of flight, and when lift and thrust are gone, drag and gravity are all that remain. And in the battle between those two forces, gravity will always win.

Full-size helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are unquestionably useful flying craft. They have occupied and will always occupy a needed place in the air. Any aircraft crash, especially a fatal crash like the one on March 18, make “big news” not because they are common, but because they are rare.

Yet we will hear no nationwide outcry to ground all helicopters because they could “fall from the sky.” Why? Because even despite periodic and tragic accidents, helicopters remain useful. And, just like cars, boats and bicycles the benefits they offer outweigh the risks they present.

So why the fear of drones? In many ways they are no different than full-size helicopters that have been used for decades. Sure, in some ways they are currently not as useful, such as limited flight times and distances. However in other ways they are far better suited, such as for lower-level or confined space flights to name a few.

But what about when they do fall from the sky? That will undoubtedly happen on occasion. Do we then ground all drones? No. Because when that happens one difference between full-size aircraft and drones becomes crystal clear.

When a fuel-filled, 1500-pound JetRanger becomes controlled solely by gravity, the risks, in terms of loss of life, injury and property damage are vastly worse than if the same were to occur with a battery-powered, 3-pound model aircraft.

If people wish to be against drones, that’s fine. Each is entitled to their own opinion. But at least abide by the rules of logic. All flying objects will fail periodically, and gravity will always work. To claim that a falling drone will pose a greater risk than a falling full-size aircraft defies logic.

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FAA’s Myth Busting Page Now Mirrors Losing Pleadings

[Note: This post addresses the second of two revisions of the FAA's Myth Busting page, both of which were published on Saturday, March 8, 2014.]

The FAA received an overwhelming response to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Mythbusters February 26, web item. In response to inquiries, we are providing additional information on UAS operations and the regulations that apply to those operations. Here are some common myths and the clarifying facts. 

If by “overwhelming response” the FAA means backlash, ridicule and oh, a scathing decision against it by an NTSB Administrative Law Judge, then yes, this statement would be true. With this latest version of its Myth Busting page, the FAA has taken its losing pleadings against Raphael Pirker, converted them to HTML, and plopped them on the web, as if doing so would magically lend them some credibility. It doesn’t. And if the FAA hopes to prevail on appeal, it ought to come up with something better than this nonsense, which is the essence of ineptitude.

Most, if not all of it, has already been overwhelmingly and successfully refuted— by Pirker’s Attorney, Brendan Schulman; by NTSB Administrative Law Judge Patrick Geraghty; on this site; and by other legal critics. I must assume that the FAA, knowing it will lose any and all appeals from a thoughtful and well-reasoned decision, is using this revision as a last ditch effort to pretend it has authority over remote-controlled model aircraft, (“RCMA”), and to intimidate RCMA operators who wish to use their craft “commercially.”

Myth #1: Unmanned aircraft are not aircraft.

Fact –Unmanned aircraft, regardless of whether the operation is for recreational, hobby, business, or commercial purposes, are aircraft within both the definitions found in statute under title 49 of U.S. Code, section 40102(a)(6) [49 U.S.C. § 40102(a)(6)] and title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 1.1.[14 C.F.R. § 1.1]. 

Section 40102(a)(6) defines an aircraft as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate or fly in the air.”  The FAA’s regulations (14 C.F.R. § 1.1.) similarly define an aircraft as “a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.”  Because an unmanned aircraft is a contrivance/device that is invented, used, and designed to fly in the air, an unmanned aircraft is an aircraft based on the unambiguous language in the FAA’s statute and regulations. 

In addition, Public Law 112-95, Section 331(6),(8), and (9) expressly defines the terms “small unmanned aircraft,” “unmanned aircraft,” and “unmanned aircraft system” as aircraft.  Model aircraft are also defined as “aircraft” per Public Law 112-95, section 336(c).

Most of this “fact” has already been declared untrue by the NTSB judge. The decision states quite clearly that, “[n]either the Part 1, Section. 1.1, or the 49 U.S.C. Section 40102(a)(6) definitions of “aircraft” are applicable to, or include a model aircraft within their respective definition.”

The only part of this “fact” that is true is the last paragraph. However, the FAA fails to mention that Public Law 112-95, Sections 331(6), (8), (9) and Section 336(c) apply to the FAA only and not to the public, and that it is a prospective law, the terms of which will take effect on a future date, when regulations are adopted.

It should be noted that the FAA suddenly refers to this law, here and throughout its revamped page, as “Public Law 112-95,” instead of its more common name, ​the “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.” It does this intentionally, in an attempt to trick the public into thinking there exists yet some other law that gives the FAA authority over RCMA. Make no mistake— Public Law 112-95 and the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 are one in the same.

Myth #2: Unmanned aircraft are not subject to FAA regulation.

Fact –All civil aircraft are subject to FAA regulation under law: 49 U.S.C. § 44701. For example, 14  C.F.R. part 91 applies generally to the operation of aircraft.

This “fact” has also been declared untrue by the NTSB.  Judge Geraghty held:

“As Policy Notices 05-01 and 08-01 were issued and intended for internal guidance for FAA personnel, they are not a jurisdictional basis for asserting Part 91 FAR enforcement authority on model aircraft operations.”

and

“Policy Notice 07-01 does not establish a jurisdictional basis for asserting Part 91, Section 91.13(a) enforcement on Respondent’s model aircraft operation, as the Notice is either (a) as it states, a Policy Notice/Statement and hence non-binding, or (b) an invalid attempt of legislative rulemaking, which fails for non-compliance with the requirement of 5 U.S.C, Section. 553, Rulemaking.”

Myth #3: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet

Fact—The FAA is responsible for air safety from the ground up. Under 49 U.S.C. § 40103(b)(2), the FAA has broad authority to prescribe regulations to protect individuals and property on the ground and to prevent collisions between aircraft, between aircraft and land or water vehicles, and between aircraft and airborne objects. Consistent with its authority, the FAA presently has regulations that apply to the operation of all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, and irrespective of the altitude at which the aircraft is operating. For example, 14 C.F.R. § 91.13 prohibits any person from operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

This “fact” has already been refuted by the first version of my refutation. For the reasons stated there, the FAA does not have an enormous easement “from the ground up” over all U.S. territory. Using the logic in this “fact,” the FAA would have jurisdiction if two frisbees were to collide in a backyard. The NTSB has already ruled that, like frisbees, RCMA are not aircraft under the current statutory and regulatory definitions.

Myth #4: UAS flights operated for commercial or business purposes are OK if the vehicle is small and operated over private property and below 400 feet.

Fact—All UAS operations for commercial or business purposes are subject to FAA regulation. At a minimum, any such flights require a certified aircraft and a certificated pilot. UAS operations for commercial or business purposes cannot be operated under the special rule for model aircraft found in section 336 of Public Law 112-95. 

To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified for commercial use, and they are only authorized to fly in the Arctic. Public entities (federal, state and local governments and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA).  The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely-populated areas on a case-by-case basis.

This “fact” has also been declared untrue by the NTSB. In his decision, Judge Geraghty stated first, that “the classification UAS does not appear in the FAR,” and later, that there exists “no enforceable FAA rule or FAR Regulation, applicable to model aircraft or for classifying model aircraft as an UAS.” So even if UAS were an existing classification of aircraft under current regulations, RCMA wouldn’t fall under that classification. It  should be noted that by not referencing the 2007 ​”clarification, the FAA appears to have finally conceded that it is not a law. On its initial Myth Busting page, it had relied upon that “clarification” to dispute this “myth.”

Myth #5: There are too many commercial UAS operations for the FAA to stop.

Fact—The FAA has to prioritize its safety responsibilities, but the agency is monitoring UAS operations closely. Many times, the FAA learns about suspected commercial UAS operations via a complaint from the public or other businesses. The agency occasionally discovers such operations through the news media or postings on internet sites. When the FAA discovers UAS operations in violation of the FAA’s regulations, the agency has a number of enforcement tools available to address these operations, including a verbal warning, a warning letter, and legal enforcement action.

This “fact” is in part true and already addressed in my initial refutation. Yes, the FAA has been “discovering” commercial operations of unmanned aircraft in the manner it states. However, how it has discovered those operations is irrelevant. What is relevant is that with this supposed “fact,” the FAA is again asserting that it has the authority to enforce federal statutes and/or regulations that simply do not exist. Any such verbal warnings, warning letters, orders to stop and the newly-added phrase, “legal enforcement action,” are entirely meaningless, since there exists no authority whatsoever for the FAA to issue any such warnings or orders, or to initiate any enforcement action.

Myth #6: Commercial UAS operations will be OK after September 30, 2015.

Fact—In the 2012 FAA reauthorization legislation (Public Law 112-95), Congress told the FAA to come up with a plan for “safe integration” of UAS by September 30, 2015. Safe integration will be incremental. The agency is writing regulations, which will supplement existing regulations that currently are applicable to the operation of all aircraft (both manned and unmanned), that will apply more specifically to a wide variety of UAS users.  The FAA expects to publish a proposed rule for small UAS – under about 55 pounds – later this year. That proposed rule likely will include provisions for commercial operations.

This “fact” is a modified version of the the FAA’s original version, and remains humorous. The original version used the language, “The agency is still developing regulations, policies and standards that will cover a wide variety of UAS users.” This new version states that the FAA is writing regulations that “will supplement existing regulations that currently are applicable to the operation of all aircraft (both manned and unmanned), that will apply more specifically to a wide variety of UAS users.” This sentence is nothing more than a self-serving proclamation with no basis in law. The NTSB has already ruled that RCMA are not “aircraft,” and that even if they were, they would not fall under the classification of “UAS.” Moreover, the word “will” is an expression of future tense. If what the FAA is writing will supplement and will apply, by definition whatever it is writing does not currently exist or apply now.

Myth #7: The FAA is lagging behind other countries in approving commercial drones.

Fact– This comparison is flawed.  The United States has the busiest, most complex airspace in the world, including many general aviation aircraft that we must consider when planning UAS integration, because those same airplanes and small UAS may occupy the same airspace. 

Developing all the rules and standards we need is a very complex task, and we want to make sure we get it right the first time.  We want to strike the right balance of requirements for UAS to help foster growth in an emerging industry with a wide range of potential uses, but also keep all airspace users and people on the ground safe.

As stated in my original refutation, this “fact” has nothing to do with any restrictions on unmanned aircraft, but is rather an attempted explanation as to why it is taking so long for the FAA to promulgate the regulations that Congress had ordered it to promulgate under the FMRA of 2012. The reasons for the delay are irrelevant with respect to the legality of unmanned operations right now.

Myth #8: The FAA predicts as many as 30,000 drones by 2030.

Fact—That figure is outdated. It was an estimate in the FAA’s 2011 Aerospace Forecast. Since then, the agency has refined its prediction to focus on the area of greatest expected growth.

We believe that the civil UAS markets will evolve within the constraints of the regulatory and airspace requirements. Once enabled, commercial markets will develop and demand will be created for additional UAS and the accompanying services they can provide. Once enabled, we estimate roughly 7,500 commercial sUAS would be viable at the end of five years.

This “fact” was also addressed in my original refutation. It has nothing to do with any restrictions on unmanned aircraft, but rather is a correction of an FAA “prediction.” It’s nothing more than the FAA’s opinion as to what the future holds.

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FAA Revised “Myth Busting” Document Still Lies

[Note: This post was published after the FAA's first of two revisions to its "Myth Busting," page, both of which were made on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The second revision, which was a complete revamp, is not discussed in this post.]

The FAA has revised its “Myth Busting” document today, but the change is really not a change at all. It merely shifted a lie from one section to another.

Myth #3 and the accompanying purported “Fact” had read:

Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.

Fact—There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations.  Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified, and they can only fly in the Arctic. Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA).  The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely-populated areas on a case-by-case basis.

Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons doesn’t require FAA approval, but hobbyists must operate according to the agency’s model aircraft guidance, which prohibits operations in populated areas. (Emphasis added.)

It now reads (with changes in red):

Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.

Fact—There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations.  Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified, and they can only fly in the Arctic. Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)

The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely-populated areas on a case-by-case basis.

Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons does not require FAA approval. However, hobbyists are advised to operate their aircraft in accordance with the agency’s model aircraft guidelines (see Advisory Circular 91-57). In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-95, Sec 336), Congress exempted model aircraft from new rules or regulations provided the aircraft are operated “in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.” 

The FAA and the Academy of Model Aeronautics recently signed a first-ever agreement that formalizes a working relationship and establishes a partnership for advancing safe model UAS operations. This agreement also lays the ground work for enacting the model aircraft provisions of Public Law 112-95, Sec 336. Modelers operating under the provisions of P.L. 112-95, Sec 336 must comply with the safety guidelines of a nationwide community-based organization. (Emphasis added.)

With these changes, the FAA is now stating:

that it approves UAS operations on a case-by-case basis; that hobbyists “are advised to” (rather than “must”) operate in accordance with the voluntary guidelines of Advisory Circular 91-57; that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the AMA to advance safe model UAS operation; and that modelers must comply with Sec. 336 of the FMRA of 2012.

Although it backed off from its prior ridiculous claim that AC 91-57 required mandatory compliance, and replaced it with words that make it clear that no such compliance is required, this revised “fact” is still a lie. Specifically, the FAA is now asserting that modelers must comply with Sec. 336 of the FMRA of 2012, which is a regulation that has not yet been adopted and is, therefore, not enforceable.

Moreover, this claim is directly contradicted by the language in “Myth #5″ and its accompanying “fact,” which reads:

Myth #5: Commercial UAS operations will be OK after September 30, 2015.

Fact—In the 2012 FAA reauthorization legislation, Congress told the FAA to come up with a plan for “safe integration” of UAS by September 30, 2015. Safe integration will be incremental. The agency is still developing regulations, policies and standards that will cover a wide variety of UAS users, and expects to publish a proposed rule for small UAS – under about 55 pounds – later this year. That proposed rule will likely include provisions for commercial operations.

Bearing in mind that the FMRA obliges only the FAA and not the general public, if the FAA is still developing regulations, as Congress ordered it to do under the FMRA, then by definition those regulations, including any based upon Sec. 336, don’t yet exist in any enforceable form. So the FAA shifted its false claim of authority from being based upon an Advisory Circular, to being based upon a non-existent prospective regulation, which is not yet enforceable.

As for the UAS operation approval on a case-by-case basis, don’t hold your breath because you’re not going to get approved unless you plan to fly in the Arctic. The FAA is determined that no one flies model aircraft commercially until it loses all of its appeals in the Pirker case. As for the Memorandum of Understanding with the AMA, that’s nice to know, but legally meaningless. The AMA is not a government entity, and nothing it has to say has any force of law.

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Busting the FAA’s “Myth Busting” Document

On February 26, 2014, the FAA published on its website a document entitled, “Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft.” It purports to dispel “common myths,” and provide “corresponding facts.” It does neither. In fact, it’s no more than a rehash of what the FAA has been falsely claiming all along. It again cites no relevant federal statutes, federal regulations or case law to support its claims. Because there aren’t any.

So on that day, at 11:57 AM, @FAANews account tweeted about this newly-posted “myth-busting” document:

Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft http://t.co/xbbnHXevnZ #aviation #AvGeeks

— The FAA (@FAANews) February 27, 2014

And 7 minutes later, at 12:04 PM, I tweeted in reply with my refutation:

.@FAANews And in return, I bust your supposed "myth busting." | Drone Law Journal – http://t.co/F0G5EWi2BM

— The Drone Guy (@TheDroneGuy) February 27, 2014

Now let’s tear this meaningless document apart, “fact” by “fact.”

Myth #1: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet

Fact—The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up. This misperception may originate with the idea that manned aircraft generally must stay at least 500 feet above the ground

Nonsense. It is clearly established by both statutory and case law that the FAA’s authority over airspace is limited by statute to navigable airspace, which is defined as, “airspace above the minimum altitudes of flight . . . including airspace needed to ensure safety in the takeoff and landing of aircraft.” 49 U.S.C. § 40102(a)(32). The “fact” above asserts that the FAA has authority over all “airspace from the ground up,” which would include your backyard— from the tips of the blades of grass, upwards to infinity. Note that the FAA does not (and cannot) cite any federal statutes or regulations, or any case law to support this supposed “fact” because none exist.

If what the FAA is now claiming is true, that would amount to a “taking,” more specifically a regulatory taking by the federal government. And the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to compensate those whose property it takes. So if what the the FAA is claiming is fact, (don’t get your hopes up because it’s not), the United States would owe all U.S. property owners a whole lot of money.

Under the doctrine of cujus est solum ejus usque ad coelum, (“whose is the soil, his it is up to the sky”), property owners used to own all the airspace above their property. As the FAA’s attorneys know, (as well as any law student), in 1946 the U.S. Supreme Court established this as being entirely untrue. In United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946), the Court held that a property owner, “owns at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use in connection with the land.” With this case, the Court granted all flying craft a giant easement over and through what was formerly considered private airspace, so that all may enjoy the public right of transit.

Myth #2: Commercial UAS flights are OK if I’m over private property and stay below 400 feet.

Fact—The FAA published a Federal Register notice in 2007 that clarified the agency’s policy: You may not fly a UAS for commercial purposes by claiming that you’re operating according to the Model Aircraft guidelines (below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, away from populated areas.) Commercial operations are only authorized on a case-by-case basis. A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. To date, only one operation has met these criteria, using Insitu’s ScanEagle, and authorization was limited to the Arctic. (http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=73981)

The “fact” in this paragraph points to the 2007 “clarification” found in a Federal Register notice of policy. An agency’s policy does not have any force of law.  “General statements of policy are statements issued by the agency to advise the public prospectively of the manner in which the agency proposes to exercise a discretionary power.” (See: Attorney General’s Manual on the Administrative Procedure Act (1947), Note 3.)

Policy statements control only the actions of an agency’s own personnel, not those of the general public. The FAA is free to have its own policy that purports to restrict “commercial operations” in the manner it states above, but that policy does not impose any restrictions upon the general public. Note again that the FAA does not (and cannot) cite any federal statutes or regulations, or any case law to support this supposed “fact” because none exist.

Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.

Fact—There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations.  Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified, and they can only fly in the Arctic. Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA).  The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely-populated areas on a case-by-case basis.

Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons doesn’t require FAA approval, but hobbyists must operate according to the agency’s model aircraft guidance, which prohibits operations in populated areas.

This “fact” is in part true. There are no shades of gray. It’s black and white— there exists no statutory or regulatory authority to support the FAA’s claim that civil unmanned operators must obtain approval from the FAA to operate “commercially” by obtaining a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization, (COA). Note yet again that the FAA does not (and cannot) cite any federal statutes or regulations, or any case law to support this supposed “fact” because none exist.

Indeed, the FAA is forbidden from requiring public aircraft to have airworthiness certificates, or to require that their operators be certified, which is exactly what the COA application process requires, among other things. The FAA’s Nicholas A. Sabatini, Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification made this distinction between civil and public aircraft abundantly clear when he testified before Congress in 2004:

[F]rom the very beginning and at all times during the existence of the FAA, there has been a clear statutory distinction between civil and public aircraft operations. FAA has regulatory and oversight authority over civil aircraft operations. Public aircraft operations are conducted by or on behalf of many different government agencies and departments, including state and federal. . .. By statute, authority for the safety oversight of these operations belongs to the agency or department responsible for the operation. While FAA can and does provide technical support to assist other agencies with their safety oversight responsibilities, the law is quite clear that FAA cannot direct or compel another agency to impose specific safety requirements or force them to meet existing FAA requirements. (Emphasis added.)

What is extremely interesting in this “fact” is the FAA is now claiming Advisory Circular 91-57 requires mandatory compliance. This, despite the fact that that document’s language itself states that it “encourages voluntary compliance.” How the FAA is now classifying a voluntary guidance document as mandatory in nature is beyond me.

Myth #4: There are too many commercial UAS operations for the FAA to stop.

Fact—The FAA has to prioritize its safety responsibilities, but the agency is monitoring UAS operations closely. Many times, the FAA learns about suspected commercial UAS operations via a complaint from the public or other businesses. The agency occasionally discovers such operations through the news media or postings on internet sites.  When the FAA discovers apparent unauthorized UAS operations, the agency has a number of enforcement tools available to address these operations, including a verbal warning, a warning letter, and an order to stop the operation.

This “fact” is also in part true. The FAA has been “discovering” commercial operations of unmanned aircraft in the manner it states. However, how it has discovered those operations is irrelevant. What is relevant is that with this supposed “fact,” the FAA is again asserting that it has the authority to enforce federal statutes and/or regulations that simply do not exist. Any such verbal warnings, warning letters or orders to stop are entirely meaningless, since there exists no authority whatsoever for the FAA to issue any such warnings or orders, or do anything further if they are simply ignored.

Myth #5: Commercial UAS operations will be OK after September 30, 2015.

Fact—In the 2012 FAA reauthorization legislation, Congress told the FAA to come up with a plan for “safe integration” of UAS by September 30, 2015. Safe integration will be incremental. The agency is still developing regulations, policies and standards that will cover a wide variety of UAS users, and expects to publish a proposed rule for small UAS – under about 55 pounds – later this year. That proposed rule will likely include provisions for commercial operations.

This “fact” is actually humorous, as it is a series of FAA admissions that federal regulations regarding unmanned aircraft do not currently exist. Congress would not have “told the FAA to come up with a plan” if regulations already existed. The FAA would not be “developing regulations” concerning RCMA if regulations already existed. And the FAA would not “expect[] to publish a proposed rule” for unmanned aircraft if one already existed.

Myth #6: The FAA is lagging behind other countries in approving commercial drones.

Fact – This comparison is flawed.  The United States has the busiest, most complex airspace in the world, including many general aviation aircraft that we must consider when planning UAS integration, because those same airplanes and small UAS may occupy the same airspace. 

Developing all the rules and standards we need is a very complex task, and we want to make sure we get it right the first time.  We want to strike the right balance of requirements for UAS to help foster growth in an emerging industry with a wide range of potential uses, but also keep all airspace users and people on the ground safe.

This “fact” has nothing to do with any restrictions on unmanned aircraft, but is rather an attempted explanation as to why it is taking so long for the FAA to promulgate the regulations that Congress had ordered it to promulgate under the FMRA of 2012. The reasons for the delay are irrelevant with respect to the legality of unmanned operations right now.

Myth #7: The FAA predicts as many as 30,000 drones by 2030.

Fact—That figure is outdated. It was an estimate in the FAA’s 2011 Aerospace Forecast. Since then, the agency has refined its prediction to focus on the area of greatest expected growth. The FAA currently estimates as many as 7,500 small commercial UAS may be in use by 2018, assuming the necessary regulations are in place. The number may be updated when the agency publishes the proposed rule on small UAS later this year.

This “fact” also has nothing to do with any restrictions on unmanned aircraft, but rather is a correction of an FAA “prediction.” It’s nothing more than the FAA’s opinion as to what the future holds.

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