Development of US Regulations

  • 1981 – Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57 is issued by FAA with voluntary guidelines for pilots of model aircraft.
  • 2007 – FAA establishes a “policy” stating AC 91-57 does not allow commercial operations (without undergoing the requisite administrative rule-making process). Although the policy is not a law or actual regulation, the FAA starts sending cease-and-desist letters to aerial filmography companies stating that commercial UAS activities are not allowed.
  • 2008, April – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory and Rulemaking Committee (UAS ARC) is formed.
  • 2009, April – UAS ARC issues recommendations for small unmanned aircraft systems integration.
  • 2011, June – New Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory and Rulemaking Committee (UAS ARC) is formed.
  • 2012, February – FAA Modernization and Reform Act is passed by congress and signed by President Obama.
  • 2013 – The FAA attempts to levee first fine against a UAS operator. Raphael Pirker (aka “Trappy”) is fined $10,000 on the grounds that he flew his Unmanned Aircraft for commercial purposes and in a careless or reckless manner (in October 2011). Pirker’s lawyer Brendan Schulman moves for dismissal, asserting that the FAA does not have jurisdiction of this aircraft or below navigable airspace.
  • 2013, November 7 – FAA releases first annual roadmap for the safe integration of UAS into nation’s airspace, and a UAS Comprehensive Plan.
  • 2013, December 30 – FAA announces six selected test sites where operating standards for UAS can be researched and developed (through Feb 2017).
  • 2014, March 6 – NTSB administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty rules in favor of Pirker and dismisses the fine, citing that the FAA does not have the authority to regulate this aircraft in this airspace. The FAA files for appeal.
  • 2014, May – 7 film industry companies file for exemption to section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act.
  • 2014, June 21 – National Parks Service bans the use of unmanned aircraft systems.
  • 2014, June 18 – FAA issues Advisory Notice: “Interpretation” of AC 91-57, with subsequent public comment period (2 months).
  • 2014, July 14 – FAA issues Air Traffic Organization Policy to consolidate all current regulations on UAS in the national airspace into one document.
  • 2014, September 25 – First six 333 exemptions are granted for motion picture industry.
  • 2014, October 10 – “Accidental” cancellation of AC 91-57, which is reinstated four days later.
  • 2014, November 18 – NTSB rules in favor of FAA against Pirker, declaring that the FAA may apply the regulation that prohibits operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner to unmanned aircraft, defining an “aircraft” as “any ‘device’ used for flight in the air.”
  • 2014, December 10 – U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Aviation holds hearing on UAS Integration, Oversight, and Competitiveness.
  • 2015, February 15 – FAA releases Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small UAS, which proposes a simple path toward allowing low-risk commercial operations.

Government Regulatory Agencies

Regulations in the United States

UAS Advisory and Rulemaking Committee

The FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Advisory and Rulemaking Committee was established by the FAA on June 17, 2011. The committee consists of “approximately 30 members, selected by the FAA, representing aviation associations, industry operators, manufacturers, employee groups or unions, other Government entities, and other aviation industry participants.” These included (as of June 2013):

Groups Represented (June 2013)

  • General Atomics
  • MITRE
  • GE
  • New Mexico State University
  • Raytheon
  • National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Insitu/Boeing
  • Rockwell-Collins
  • Honeywell
  • PBFA
  • DHS CBP
  • ALPA
  • AOPA
  • AUVSI
  • NASA
  • AeroVironment
  • Lockheed Martin
Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration

The FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office functions as the single agency focal point for all UAS-related activities, positioned to develop and coordinate solutions to UAS challenges across the FAA and with external organizations. The current Manager is Jim Williams.

Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration, an agency of the US Department of Transportation, has the authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of American civil aviation. The current Administrator is Michael Huerta.

Department of Transportation

The US Department of Transportation oversees the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It is a federal cabinet department of the executive branch of the US government. It is headed by the US Secretary of Transportation (currently Anthony R. Foxx) who reports directly to the President of the United States.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is a congressional committee comprised of members of the US House of Representatives. It has jurisdiction over all modes of transportation within the United States including aviation. The chairman (currently Rep. Bill Shuster [R-PA9]) holds significant influence over which bills and resolutions move forward to consideration by the House or Senate as a whole.

Subcommittee on Aviation

The Subcommittee on Aviation, which is one part of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has jurisdiction over all aspects of civil aviation. All programs of the Federal Aviation Administration except for research activities are within the purview of the subcommittee.  It is also traditionally the lead subcommittee with jurisdiction over the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The current chairman of the subcommittee is Rep. Frank LoBiondo [R-NJ].

ASTM Committee (F38) on UAS

ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), develops international voluntary consensus standards. ASTM Technical Committee F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems addresses issues related to design, performance, quality acceptance tests, and safety monitoring for unmanned air vehicle systems. Over 130 members are involved in this multinational initiative; all participating actively within a three-tiered subcommittee structure focusing on airworthiness, flight operations, and operator qualifications.

Regulations by State

State UAS Regulation Information by the National Conference of State Legistlatures.

Regulations in Other Countries

Recent Regulation News

ACUAS Submits Formal Comments to FAA’s NPRM

On March 13, 2015 the ACUAS submitted its formal comments on the FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the commercial use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).

NPRM Survey

How do you feel about the proposed new rules for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or “Drones”? Take the survey below, then click to see what others are saying as well....