After years of tireless work, NAAA is happy to announce that we’ve
secured tower marking requirements and an FAA tower database for towers
between 50 and 200 feet. Those measures are included in an agreement the House and Senate released yesterday
to extend the FAA’s funding authority through September 2017.
The tower marking requirements apply to all towers with an above-ground base of 10 feet or less in diameter that are on undeveloped land, including land used for agricultural purposes. The tower database will be accessible to all aviators who require tower location information for safety.
New UAS Safety Provisions
These tower provisions will greatly improve safety for agricultural aviation, but that’s not the only good news in the FAA bill; the FAA extension takes significant steps to improve unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) safety as well.
First, Congress is requiring all small UAS (sUAS) manufacturers—any company that manufactures UAS weighing 55 pounds or less—to make available at the time of purchase a safety statement informing the buyer about laws and regulations applicable to sUAS and recommendations for safe use of the sUAS. The safety statement is also supposed to include FAA-approved language regarding FAA regulations and warn buyers that there may be penalties for violating these regulations.
Second, Congress is mandating that anyone operating a UAS who knowingly or recklessly interferes with a wildfire suppression effort is liable to pay a fine of up to $20,000. For those of you with firefighting contracts, this could be a huge relief.
Third, Congress will require that the Department of Transportation must establish a process to allow applicants to petition the FAA to prohibit or restrict operation of UAS in close proximity to a fixed site facility. This could potentially include agricultural airports, meaning you could apply for your airport to be a no-drone zone.
Fourth, Congress is directing the FAA to convene industry stakeholders to facilitate development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of UAS, and gives the FAA the ability to require remote identification of UAS. This will greatly increase accountability among UAS operators.
Other UAS provisions include $6 million for a pilot program for airspace hazard mitigation at airports through UAS detection systems, a UAS traffic management research plan, a UAS traffic management pilot program, and a UAS-manned aircraft crash test program to determine what effect a UAS would have on aircraft in a collision. The funding legislation also directs the FAA to “continue the expeditious authorization of safe unmanned aircraft system operations in support of firefighting operations” and to enter into agreements with other agencies to facilitate expeditious authorization of safe UAS operations in support of service restoration efforts of utilities.
The bill is widely expected to pass the House and Senate within the next week as FAA spending authority expires on July 15 and the legislation must pass to keep the FAA running. While the bill could be slightly amended in the Senate, it shouldn’t change drastically. NAAA will let you know when it’s signed into law so we can all celebrate greater safety in the low-level altitude.