February 21, 2016
Much as we want to see the FAA become a little more flexible with respect to rules for small UAV's it is disheartening to see congress threatening to take the drastic step of turning over the administration of our country's airspace to a private entity.
The motivation for this "nuclear" option comes with congressional frustration of the lack of speed and flexibility with which the FAA has responded to the need for sensible rules to cover drones. Deep pocketed interests, namely Amazon and Google have been heavily pressuring legislatures to get the FAA to fall into line and create a system that would allow their proposed UAV delivery systems to operate safely within the US.
Existing airspace rules and rules with respect to small drones make it impossible to see how the FAA would ever allow such contraptions to operate. Even with exemptions, commercial UAV operators must maintain "line of sight" operations, have a spotter and get permission to fly within 500 feet of any person vehicle or structure. Operations at any altitude within five nautical miles of the airport center are prohibited unless the aircraft has a mode B transponder and the pilot pre-consults with airport authorities and maintains radio contact with the tower or approach control.
Frustrating as these heavy-handed regulations are, privatizing airspace is not the answer. The bill proposes to turn airspace control over to a not-for-profit corporation governed by a board of directors. It's hard to see how money and politics would not come to heavily influence the governance or our airspace and easy to see how general aviation operations wouldn't be aversely affected. Small airports and aircraft do not benefit any particular deep-pocketed interest and are, if anything, somewhat inconvenient for Amazon's operations. Airspace safety and consequently the safety of the general flying public could be deeply compromised from undue political and corporate pressure.
We have seen numerous instances in which the core mission of institutions becomes compromised when traditionally public entities are placed in private hands. Prisons and schools that are governed by profit motives aren't necessarily concerned with best outcomes and best practices and important functions can become victims of cost-cutting measures associated with maximizing profit.
Don't let this happen to our airspace.
Sign the petition: