With commercial drones reportedly buzzing around a few of the nation’s busier airports this past week, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, D–Hawaii, today called for the Federal Aviation Administration to issue “emergency” rules and regulations governing the use of these remotely piloted aircraft.
Here’s the text of Schatz’s letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, which Schatz’s office also released to the press:
The Honorable Michael P. Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Huerta:
I write to express strong concerns regarding small unmanned aircraft operating in the national airspace system. I urge you to take immediate action by issuing an emergency rulemaking, such as an interim final rule, that would adequately address safety concerns and potential security risks.
Last week’s reports of unmanned aircraft sightings near flights landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as the reported incident at Tallahassee Regional Airport earlier this year, demonstrate that this is a serious safety issue that could have enormous consequences if not addressed promptly.
In addition, small unmanned aircraft are vulnerable to being intentionally hacked or jammed if they do not have encrypted navigation systems. This could result in the loss of control of the unmanned aircraft and could inflict harm on Americans.
I recognize the opportunities with the expanded use of unmanned aircraft and the benefits of using them for search and rescue missions, disaster monitoring, and border surveillance, among others. However, with small unmanned aircraft becoming more prevalent, the FAA must ensure that requirements are in place to protect the safety of our local communities.
I understand that the Federal Aviation Administration is currently in the process of drafting a rule for small unmanned aircraft as directed in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95). The FAA has not met the August 2014 deadline to issue a final rule. It is critical that we move expeditiously to ensure the public’s safety.
As you know, risks posed by unmanned aircraft are too serious to ignore. I strongly urge you to issue an emergency rule, such as an interim final rule, to ensure the safety of our communities. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.
United States Senator
Photo: Henrique Boney/Wikimedia Commons