The U.S. Congress has directed the United States Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the aviation industry and Federal agencies that use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate UAS into the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). The plan must address a wide variety of subjects including, but not limited to, definition of acceptable standards; requirements for operators and pilots; and a realistic time frame for UAS integration into the NAS. Integration is required “no later than September 30, 2015”.
Consequently, there is currently a robust debate about how this plan should be formulated and what it should ultimately contain. Although there are many important aspects to the debate, two of the central issues are safety and privacy. Safety issues include incorporating aspects of the Visual Flight Rules including “see and avoid” into the UAS plan. The U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration has a long track record regarding promulgating and implementing safety regulations. It is reasonable to expect a successful continuation of that record. However, privacy is new. Privacy promises to raise novel issues of great interest to professionals and the public alike. Commentators on the political right and left and in the technology community are already engaged in vigorous discussion. Any issue addressed from so many diverse quarters portends to be a major one.
The National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law offers this publication as a service to inform the debate. It contains a variety of documents including a number of pending bills intended to address various aspects of UASs. It should be anticipated that going forward, many of the documents in this publication will either change or become obsolete. Nonetheless, they represent the state of the art of the current dialogue and will provide the reader with an entry position to this fast-paced, dynamic subject.