ITIF Urges Senate to Allow FAA to Create Separate Rules for ‘Micro Drones’

March 15, 2016

WASHINGTON—The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a technology policy think tank, today released the following statement from Daniel Castro, ITIF vice president, ahead of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s upcoming markup of the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016:

The Senate should use the AIRR Act as an opportunity to promote safe and innovative uses of unmanned aircraft systems—commonly referred to as drones, or UAS. Specifically, the Senate should add an amendment allowing the FAA to set separate rules for drones under the 4.4-pound threshold that the bill identifies, because they present minimal safety risk. By pushing the FAA to adopt smart, risk-based, and flexible rules for UAS, the Senate can enable innovation and promote U.S. competitiveness in the rapidly growing global market for drone technology.

In February, the House passed a version of the AIRR Act that included a provision directing the FAA to create a separate class of low-risk drones called micro UAS. The Senate should also adopt this language to allow devices under 4.4 pounds to operate without permission from the FAA when they are flown under established safety standards—such as under 400 feet and away from airports. This new classification would lower the barriers to entry for small businesses that want to use micro drones for simple tasks like inspecting powerlines and pipelines, similar to policies in countries such as Australia and Canada, which have more innovation-friendly regulations.