DL Exclusive: Commercial Drone Alliance on BVLOS ARC Report and Why BVLOS Flight is Critical for the Industry

commercial drone alliance on BVLOS

image: Wing

The release of the FAA’s BVLOS (drone flight beyond visual line of sight) ARC (Aviation Rulemaking Committee) recommendations last week has led to many responses and comments from the commercial drone industry.  DRONELIFE spoke to Lisa Ellman, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Commercial Drone Alliance, on BVLOS ARC recommendations.

Lisa Ellman is a global authority on drone law and policy and a tireless advocate for the industry.  Ellman says that BVLOS flight – and the adoption of the advanced operations that BVLOS flight will enable – is critical to helping the US drone industry compete in the global arena and bringing services to communities across the country.

The more than 200 page BVLOS ARC report lays out a framework of priorities for a rulemaking on BVLOS flight (see the summary here, and the complete report here.)  The Aviation Rulemaking Committee that created it, says Ellman, included representatives from manned and unmanned aviation as well as research institutions and stakeholder industries.  While in some respect the report represents a compromise, all parties worked towards opening the skies for commercial drone applications  “This is about bringing the benefit of drones to the American people,” says Ellman.

“[The ARC] was a very diverse group from more than 80 different organizations – a real cross section of American society were represented on this ARC.”

The report calls for regulators to establish a framework of regulations that aims to ensure safety, while not prescribing a particular technology approach to solving the challenges of BVLOS flight.  The report also calls for different levels of training and certification for remote pilots operating BVLOS.

“It’s a performance-based, risk-based approach,”  says Ellman.  About the recommendation for new licensing requirements, Ellman says it’s a natural progression as commercial operations advance.  “From our perspective, the report appropriately tailors training requirements to the complexity of drone operations to ensure safe outcomes.  Essentially, the report recommended better aligning pilot requirements with the level of system autonomy,” she explains.

Commercial Drone Alliance on BVLOS Rulemaking: Why BVLOS is Critical for the Industry

Well beyond the details of the report, Ellman says that the Commercial Drone Alliance and their constituents are clear: enabling BVLOS flight will support the U.S. drone industry.

“This is about opportunity costs, and considering the impact cost if we don’t do this,” she says.  “This will help companies scale here in the United States.  This is crucial for our leadership in global innovation in aviation. ”

As FAA Administrator Steve Dickson steps down from his position, the next administrator will have a critical role in integrating commercial drones into the airspace and enabling advanced operations.

“The White House and DOT should appoint a widely respected and innovation-focused administrator who is excited to work with the whole industry to move aviation forward,” Ellman says.

“The benefits of bringing drones to the American public can help the Biden administration achieve it’s goals in sustainability, supply chain, public health and so much more.  Having an administrator who understands this will serve the American people well.”

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson had indicated that the report would be published last fall and a NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) was expected before the end of 2021.  Now, industry stakeholders hope that publication of the report means that further action will follow quickly.

“I think that the report represents a crucial first step for moving our industry forward and restoring American leadership in the skies,” she says.  “Of course, it’s only a first step – now the FAA needs to take this and make a rulemaking from it.”

“There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of hope around this.  A rulemaking will increase American competitiveness in this industry.  Innovation has moved quickly forward and policies have lagged behind: American leadership in this industry hangs in the balance.”

Read more about BVLOS Flight: