News and Updates – Recreational Drone Flying Aeronautical Test Moves Forward

WASHINGTON To advance public safety of the largest segment of drone operations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced the organizations selected to advise the agency in developing test administration requirements for the recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) aeronautical knowledge and safety test.

A law passed in 2018 requires that recreational drone flyers pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof of test passage with them while operating a drone. There are more than one million FAA registered recreational drone flyers. To ensure that flight operations are conducted safely, the FAA is developing a test to increase the aeronautical knowledge of recreational drone flyers.

On September 17, the FAA issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking to work with stakeholders on the administration of a new aeronautical knowledge test for recreational drone flyers. Based on their responses to the RFI, the organizations below were selected to advise the agency in developing the test administration process.

  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Drone Launch Academy Southeastern University
  • Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC)
  • DJI
  • Horizon Hobby, LLC.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Coach
  • King Schools
  • Unmanned Safety Institute
  • First Person View (FPV) Freedom Coalition
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
  • Academy of Model Aeronautics
  • Drone Racing League

The above organizations will make recommendations to the FAA on the safety test administration requirements. From these recommendations, the FAA will develop the final requirements that potential test administrators must meet. These requirements, and any associated selection criteria for test administrators will be announced on FAA.gov.

The test must be administered electronically by the FAA, community-based organizations, or others designated by the FAA. The FAAs objective is to work with third party entities to allow them to administer the knowledge training and test content on various platforms for the recreational flyer community.

Section 44809 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (PDF) requires new conditions to operate recreational drones. Many drones can be flown today with minimal training or knowledge of aviation rules or safety practices. The statute provided an opportunity to educate recreational flyers on UAS safety and to bring new flyers into the existing aviation safety culture.

Speech – A Conversation with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on Global Aviation Safety and Innovation

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Dubai, UAE

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for that introduction, Bailey (Edwards). Its good to be here in Dubai at the premier aviation and air industry event in the Middle East. Like the U.S., the UAE has a safety-focused, vibrant and competitive aviation industry, with innovative new entrants like commercial space, unmanned aircraft and flying taxis.

The aviation industry is an economic driver here, accounting for 1.4 million jobs and U.S. $130 billion to the regional Gross Domestic Product of the Middle East. At lot of that activity flows through Dubai International airportthe largest international airport in the worldwith 90 million passengers annually.

Bailey mentioned my position as Senior VP for Flight Ops at Delta. I learned many things during 12 years in that position, but the main thing the job made me understand was that regardless of change, new entrants, increasing complexity or competitionsafety always has to remain the focus and bedrock of our industry.

Im sure we agree that safety is a journey, not a destination. We know that we must build on what weve learned from the hard lessons along the way, and we must never allow ourselves to become complacent.

The 737 MAX remains a key focus for the FAA and our partners throughout the world, including here in the UAE where FlyDubai has 14 aircraft in its fleet, and firm orders for 225 more.

On behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration, I would like to, once again, extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents. Many nations, including the United States, had citizens on those flights. Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell and I have been meeting with family members and friends of those onboard. Each time we meet, we see their pain, their loss, and it reaffirms the seriousness with which we must approach safety every single day. We want our citizens and our own families to have confidence in the aviation system when they travel. That is why we, as regulators and operators, work so hard in our jobs every day.

I am absolutely committed to honoring the memory of those who lost their lives, by working tirelesslyeach and every day of my tenureto ensure the highest possible margin of safety in the global aviation system. Safety is a journey we undertake each and every day with humility and a focus on continuous improvement.

The FAA welcomes scrutiny and feedback on how we can improve our processes. Several independent reviews have been undertaken of the 737 MAX and the FAAs certification and delegation processes. The first to be completed was one we commissioned-asking nine other authoritiesincluding the UAEto join us in the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) to assess the Boeing 737 MAX flight control system certification. Never before have 10 authorities come together to conduct a review of this sort. And I want to emphasize that we invited this probing review by our peer regulators. That is the FAA at its best. We welcome the input and critique from the various other reviews and audits as well.

Willingness to accept input and critique is a sign of humility and transparency. It is also a strength. I have seen this firsthand as Ive met our regulatory counterparts around the world. They appreciate and value US leadership. They understand that by working together, we will all be better and raise the bar on global aviation safety.

Going forward beyond the MAX, some key themes are emerging regarding aircraft certification processes not only in the US, but around the world. I am committed to addressing each of these issues. They include:

  • Moving toward a more holistic versus transactional, item-by-item approach to aircraft certification;
  • Integrating human factors considerations more effectively throughout the design process, as aircraft become more automated and systems more complex; and
  • Ensuring coordinated and flexible information flow during the oversight process.

These are among the many issues that we must address to prevent the next accident from happening. We must look at the overall aviation system and how all the pieces interact.

Its much more than aircraft and pilots when we talk about the overall aviation system. For one, the airspace through which we fly must be clear of conflicts and there is the ever present threat of cyberattacks to infrastructure and the aircraft itself.

The most tragic and vivid demonstration of an airspace threat was the horrific shoot down of Malaysia Air Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine in July 2014. It was a watershed moment for aviation safety and security, underscoring the necessity of assessing the risk that conflict zones pose to civil aviation.

Since that time, FAA has redoubled its efforts to work with partners inside and outside the U.S. Government to identify and analyze emergent threats. We issue, when necessary flight advisories or prohibitions for airspace affected by specific aviation threats.

The FAA currently has a prohibition preventing U.S. carriers from operating in the Damascus Flight Information Region due to the conflict in Syria.

While there considerations internationally for resuming services in the Damascus FIR and to the Damascus International Airport, the FAA considers this airspace unsafe for civil aviation due to ongoing military operations, threats from extremists, heavy jamming of Global Positioning System navigation signals, and uncoordinated surface-to-air missile launches.

I said earlier, safety is a journey, not a destination, and we must be constantly vigilant of the entire system.

By the same token, if and when incidents and accidents do happenhowever infrequentlywe cant prematurely point the finger of blame against the pilots, the airplane, the operator, or any other single factor. Too ofteneven in the recent pastrushing to judgment has resulted in some segments of the industry missing out on opportunities to improve our margin of safety.

We have to look at the whole system and how all the parts interact. That will require truly integrated data, enterprise-wide, and constant learning from each other regulator and those we regulate. Thats the only way the system is going to get better.

Ill end by saying that its a pleasure to be here and I look forward to learning a great deal about Dubai and the UAE here at the show. Thank you everyone for coming and I hope you have a great show. Now Bailey will begin the question and answer portion of the forum.

Speech – Unleashing the Power of Commercial Space Transportation

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Washington, DC

Remarks As Delivered

Hello everyone.. Its great to be here representing the FAA at the second annual U.S. Chamber of Commerce Space Summit. The title of your eventLaunch: The Space Economy, is very appropriate for me considering my short time in this job. Ive been learning so much, so fast, and in so many locations around the world for the past three months that sometimes it feels like Ive been launched on a rocket.

Its been an exhilarating and fascinating ride though. I just came back from the Dubai Air Show, where I met officials with the Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, which builds and operates Earth observation satellites. The Center is part of the broader UAE Space Agency. The UAE is an energetic new participant in human space flight, having sent their first astronaut to the International Space Station in late September for an 8-day mission. Next year, they plan to launch a probe to Mars. Their long-range goal? To eventually colonize the red planet. Talk about a stretch goal!

If thats not proof of a vibrant and expanding aerospace industry, Im not sure what is.

Developments like that strengthen my resolve to unleash the power of commercial space transportation by paving the way for easier access to low Earth orbit through the National Airspace System, and doing so safely and efficiently.

The FAA has maximum support for doing this workits a mission that is front and center for the Trump Administration and the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao. Last year, as you know, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-2, which calls on the FAA to streamline the rules for commercial launch and re-entry while at the same time protecting national security and public safety. The idea in part is to boost the confidence of private industry to invest in commercial space.

Those investments are substantialand already growing at a fast pace. According to the National Space Council, in the first half of 2019, we saw almost as much investment in space companies as we did in all of 2018. Over the past decade, weve seen a total of nearly $25 billion invested in about 500 space companies, most of which are American. What those dollars are fueling are commercial ventures that could be right out of a science fiction book: space travel and tourism, satellite servicing, orbital debris removal, in-space manufacturing and huge constellations of miniature satellites for global Internet connectivity and other services. Im sure there are many more brilliant ideas in the minds of bright entrepreneurs.

And lets face it this is not just about commerce. All of this innovation is exciting for Americas youth in a way that the Apollo program was for me and many others when I was a kid a few years ago….Ok, quite a few years ago.

At the Dubai Air Show two weeks ago, I met Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot Al Worden, who was one of my Dads West Point classmatesClass of 55. I was reminded of how that program was the driving force behind a generation of engineers, scientists and pilots, myself among them. Three of our biggest commercial space innovatorsJeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Bransonsay the Apollo missions lit the fuse that led to them becoming space entrepreneurs.

Our visions of launching beyond the wild blue yonder into space were based on a black-and-white RCA TV and baritone-voiced anchormen. Todayright from their high def smart phoneskids see the dashboard camera from a Tesla Roadster that Elon Musk launched atop his Falcon Heavy test rocket and put into orbit around the sun. On social media, they see two 160-foot-tall SpaceX rocket boosters sticking a landing after delivering upper stages to orbit; they see Beth Moses floating free in SpaceShipTwo as the first woman to make a commercial space flight; they see the massive Stratolauncherthe worlds largest aircrafttaking to the skies on its first flight in preparation for dropping boosters at altitude for what they call airline-style access to space.

And while us Apollo kids could only imagine what it would be like to go into space one day, todays youth can actually save their money to buy a ride on a suborbital excursion which may one day, in the not too distant future, zoom them to anywhere in the world in about 30 minutes.

Or better yetfrom my perspective as a potential employerthey can take part in creating and launching an on-orbit experiment on as early as fifth grade. I think such real-time exposure and engagement will pay off some day with a whole new generation of scientists and aerospace engineers.

Modernizing the way we regulate and license commercial space operations will allow all of this to be done more affordably and efficiently, while keeping the focus on our North Starsafety. Its a tall order, but we have to succeed or well be left behind.

The FAA learned the hard way with the Unmanned Aircraft revolution that innovation and technology wait for no one. In that case, an entirely new industry sprung up practically overnight, and we werent ready for it. Im happy to say the agency has come a long way toward getting caught up on UAS, but we are determined not to let it happen again for other new entrants, commercial space chief among them.

So what do we do? To start with, we do the crucial work the Administration and the DOT have asked us to do: We rework our launch and reentry licensing regime to streamline regulations for licensing commercial space transportation activities, and we work to more efficiently integrate real-time launch operations with ongoing aviation operations in the National Airspace System.

Eventually, we envision that commercial space will have a modern set of flexible, performance-based regulations that parallel commercial aviation, with vehicle and crew certifications as well as operational approvals, installation of safety management systems, and the associated Just Culture methodologies. But as you know, given the fragile nature of such a nascent industry, the U.S. Congress in 2004 imposed a regulations moratorium on commercial human spaceflight that has been extended several times, and now continues through 2023.

As it is, the FAA has a mandate to protect the public on the ground and aircraft from the surface to 60,000 feet. For the public on the ground, we do this through launch, reentry and spaceport regulations; for aircraft deconfliction, we do it through some less than efficient means. More on that later.

Our regulations require us to license each commercial launch in the U.S. or launches conducted by a U.S. company anywhere in the world. Each license requires the applicant to submit a system safety analysis and a ground safety analysis, detailed documents that prove to the FAA that the intended launch or reentry will not pose an undue threat to the public.

While this way of doing business worked well for a few commercial launches a yearthe way it used to bethe pace has picked up to the point where it is quickly becoming impractical. In 2018, the FAA issued a record 35 launch and reentry licenses. The total this year is expected to be similar, but for 2020, were on tap for 52 licensed activities, and theres ample reason to believe the numbers will climb. There are currently 11 licensed spaceports in 8 states around the U.S., many in non-traditional locations, like New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, and a handful more in the pipeline.

Our Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM, is the first step in modernizing access to space. The goal is to simplify the licensing process, enable novel operations and reduce costs. One example: the rules would allow companies to use a single FAA license for multiple launches from multiple launch sites.

We closed the public comment period on the NPRM in August, receiving 154 submissions, many of which included very detailed and well thought out comments from industry. Our commercial space team is carefully reviewing all the input, and we are working toward publishing a final rule in the fall of 2020.

One area where the FAA can make significant progress in making launches more efficient from an overall commerce standpointwithout new regulationis moving to dynamic deconfliction of space vehicles and commercial airliners, using shared data. Today, the FAA uses a manual process to close off relatively large swaths of airspace around launch and reentry corridors for relatively long periods as there is no operational real-time surveillance and communication between the launch providers and FAA air traffic control. Considering the growing number of launches, these impacts will only increase.

The FAA recognizes the issue, and we are working on solutions. Our Space Data Integrator, or SDI, concept is key to providing relief. We currently have a prototypewhich we developed in part with data that SpaceX and Blue Origin provided from their launchesthat automates the current manual process of transmitting real-time launch and reentry data from the commercial launch provider to the FAAs Joint Space Operations Group and Air Traffic managers.

At the Command Center, analysts review the information and determine how to modify aircraft hazard areas to reduce the impact to flights in the area. This is the first step in a phased approach to get to the end goal real-time launch and reentry information that will allow for dynamic rerouting information automatically sent to air traffic controllers and directly to the cockpit an important capability, especially in launch contingency situations. With dynamic rerouting, we can close and open airspace faster and more efficiently, while keeping safety as our top priority.

The FAAs Program Management Organization is currently working to operationalize the first stage of SDIthe piece that takes in real time surveillance quality data from the launch providersby 2022. The next step will be getting the information to controllers, and finally, to pilots.

You can see from the tempo and diversity in launch operations that its critical that we get all of this righttheres too much important and innovative work to be done in space. Consider the payloads on the Electron rocket built by new entrant, Rocket Lab, with its Running out of Fingers mission set for launch as soon as Friday out of the Mahia (Muh-hee-ah) Peninsula in New Zealand. The FAA licenses Rocket Lab launches because its a U.S. company. Why Running out of Fingers? Its their tenth mission….and as an FYI, theyve only been launching for two years.

Payloads on the Electron include a thermal isolation material experiment from Hungarian company, ATL; a telecommunications picosatellite that can fit in the palm of your hand, developed by a Spanish company Fossa Systems; and a small satellite built by Tokyo-based ALE Company that aims to create man-made shooting stars by simulating re-entering meteor showers. ALEs tag line probably wont surprise you: Shooting stars, on demand.

As they say, you couldnt make this stuff up if you tried!

But that one mission highlights just a small dose of the massive amount of energy, creativity, and multi-national industry collaboration that commercial space is bringing to the table.

We at the FAA are doing our part to make sure these companies and payloads get the most efficient and safest access to space, while at the same time making sure those on the ground will be able to enjoy their shooting stars, on demand.

Thank you for your time.

News and Updates – FAA: Do Not Aim Laser-Light Displays at Sky

WASHINGTON The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a warning today that holiday laser-light displays aimed at houses become potentially dangerous when aimed into the sky.

The agency receives reports each year from pilots who are distracted or temporarily blinded by residential laser-light displays. This creates a serious safety risk to pilots and their passengers flying overhead.

The extremely concentrated beams of laser lights reach much farther than might be realized. People with laser-light displays that affect pilots will be asked to adjust them or turn them off. A refusal to do so could lead to a civil penalty.

The warning comes as laser strikes against aircraft continue to increase. From January 1 to November 23 this year the FAA recorded 5,486 laser incidents, up from the 4,949 incidents recorded during the same period last year.

Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety risk and violates federal law. The FAA works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against individuals who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft. The agency may impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Civil penalties of up to $30,800 have been imposed by the FAA against individuals for multiple laser incidents.

News and Updates – LAANC Drone Program Expansion Continues

WASHINGTON The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced two important expansions of the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC), which automates the application and approval process for drone operators to obtain airspace authorizations.

Four airports Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport, William P. Hobby Airport in Houston and Newark Liberty International Airport joined the list of approximately 400 air traffic facilities covering about 600 airports where LAANC is available.

Access to the service is provided through one of the FAA-approved UAS Service Suppliers. The seven companies listed below are the latest to enter into partnerships with the agency, bringing the total to 21.

  • Airspacelink
  • Avision
  • Botlink
  • Collins Aerospace
  • Drone Up
  • Simulyze
  • Skygrid

LAANC, a collaboration between the FAA and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry that directly supports the safe integration ofUAS into the nations airspace, expedites the time it takes for drone pilots to receive authorizations to fly under 400 feet in controlled airspace. The service is accessible to all pilots who operate under theFAAs small drone rule(Part 107).

LAANC began as a prototype in 2017. To date, there have been more than 170,000 approved authorizations through LAANC. The program was expanded in July to provide near real-time airspace authorizations to recreational flyers.

The programs continued expansion further increases the ability of drone pilots to gain safe and efficient access to controlled airspace nationwide.

For updates to LAANC capabilities, visit our website.