Our Vision: To be the nationally recognized voice for the public interest, states and territories on aviation and the national aviation system.

House Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace

The House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation convened to hear testimony from representatives of the FAA, Amazon Prime Air, FlyGLO, AirMap, Virgin Galactic, and VDOS about new aviation and aerospace technologies, users, and business models.

Gregory McNeal, Co-Founder of AirMap and NASAO business partner, urged lawmakers to take a federalist approach to low risk operations in the very low altitude airspace. McNeal said, “Congress should make clear the dividing line between reasonable time, manner and place restrictions that states may impose on unmanned aircraft and those areas that are the exclusive domain of the FAA.”

Sean Cassidy, Director of Safety and Regulatory Affairs for Amazon Prime Air, stressed the significance of national uniformity with respect to laws regulating air traffic. Cassidy said the high number of state and local bills “intrude on the FAA’s safety authority and may stifle the development of the UAS industry.”

NASAO and other advocates like McNeal continue to inform lawmakers that despite the large number of AUS bills introduced at the state and local level, very few become law and those that do are well within states’ traditional police powers and privacy rights.

Congressman Jason Lewis (MN-02) asked McNeal if he believed that local governments could do a better job managing Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM). McNeal responded, “As unmanned aircraft continue to proliferate, the FAA will be unable to know the constantly changing conditions in local environments, and we need a mechanism to draw from the resources of state and local officials who know best what’s going on in their communities.”

Rep. Lewis jokingly replied, “So your view – to use a crude analogy – is if states actually built interstates, then they would probably get them all to meet at the borders.” McNeal offered his own analogy in response, “If we expected the federal Department of Transportation to make rules about which street corners got stop signs and which got yield signs, we would move nowhere.”

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) stated that it was his understanding that the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) and its Subcommittees were primarily made up of drone manufacturers as opposed to end-users. Rep. LaMalfa expressed concern about the composition of the committees and the potential for the interests of some to be underrepresented. He asks Shelley Yak and Marke “Hoote” Gibson of the FAA to elaborate on who all were on the committees and how they were chosen.

Gibson explains that at the time the DAC was created there were over 400 applicants and that the committee has representation from industry, communities, academia, and agriculture. He said the FAA did their best to balance the committee and that he would provide Rep. LaMalfa a list of its members. NASAO is very pleased that the key role of state government in integrating UAS technology into our airspace has been recognized by the inclusion of NASAO Members on the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), Drone Advisory Subcommittee (DASC), Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), and the UAS Registration Task Force.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-3) asked Brian Whiteside, President of VDOS Global, to compare the regulatory framework of the UAS industry in the United States to that of Australia. “The UAS industry in Australia is several years ahead of the U.S. in terms of how the technology is being used and what the laws allow,” said Whiteside. He further explained that Australia’s certification process for everything from licensing to Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations was “straight forward.” Whiteside said that in the U.S., “we are still stuck dealing with the interpretation of rules.”

Calvin C. “Trey” Fayard, CEO of FlyGLO, explains that his airline seeks to fill the niche between over-served larger markets and existing small market programs without relying on government subsidies. GLO’s fleet consists of 3 Saab-340b Aircraft, capable of seating 30 passengers. Fayard asked the Subcommittee to consider streamlining Part 135 and Part 121 certification, removing hurdles and challenges of gaining entry to the world of commercial air travel, and to work on keeping taxes and fees low.

Mike Moses, President of Virgin Galactic, says he expects the number of commercial launches to continue to grow and advocated for an “efficient, defined process” as well as “technical tools and processes that will streamline integration of commercial space operations in the NAS.” Moses explained that obtaining a letter of agreement (LOA) for the use of an airspace is a lengthy and difficult process that involves conversations with multiple elements within the FAA.

McNeal suggested that, “Congress should look to the success of the U.S. commercial space industry and the legislative frameworks that have worked for that industry, and adopt similar presumptions for advances in unmanned aircraft technology, especially for operations involving BVLOS flight, swarms, package delivery, autonomous passenger carrying VTOL aircraft, and electric aircraft.”

We will continue to monitor this process and inform NASAO members of all major developments. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact John Shea at (703) 610-0272.

Categories: News
Whether you are a state aviation official, staff member or a Friend of NASAO, there are opportunities for you to become more involved with NASAO through participation on one of our many Committees. See a complete list of opportunities and let us know where you would like to be involved. More
NASAO is one of the most senior aviation organizations in the United States, predating even the Federal Aviation Administration’s predecessor, the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The states first established NASAO to ensure uniformity of safety measures, to standardize airport regulations and develop a truly national air transportation system responsive to local, state, and regional needs. More
NASAO holds two formal conferences each year – our Annual Convention and Trade Show, typically held in September and a Washington Legislative Conference held in the nation’s Capital during the February/March timeframe. NASAO also has a presence at EAA’s AirVenture, held each year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in late July. Whether you are looking to attend an interesting, informative and relevant conference or would like to exhibit or sponsor an event, let us know. More
Featured Business Partners