Earlier this year the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted a notice on the Federal Register about the type certification of drones. 67 individuals and organizations commented among whom Brendan Schulman from DJI, and in a separate comment, the People’s Republic of China.
FAA moves slowly on Type Certification of drones
Yes, you read that correctly. 67 individuals and organizations are trying to influence the FAA on Type Certification for drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), one of whom is the Chinese government. They are not doing that in a covert way through Facebook campaigns, but simply by following the regular process of leaving their comment on the Federal Register website.
The FAA is suggesting to certify some drones under Part 21, which is a category reserved for “aircraft that would be eligible for a standard airworthiness certificate but for which certification standards do not exist due to their unique, novel, or unusual design features,” reports AV Web.
For the most part, this is a procedural move that provides the agency with a slot for which to consider certification applications for various designs to meet an ever-growing range of new use-cases for unmanned aircraft. Many of the submitted comments focussed on safety but also on flexible access to drone technology.
Why does China comment on Type Certification of drones?
China is home to some of the world’s largest drone manufacturers, one of which is DJI, and the country has a strong interest in how drones are regulated in the world. In its comments to the FAA, the Chinese government urges the agency to harmonize its rules with those of other jurisdictions, such as the European Union.
The EU has defined three different categories of drones, ‘Open’, ‘Specific’ and ‘Certified,’ each with its own regulatory and operational rules.
According to AV Web, the FAA said that the Chinese government was jumping the gun with the request because the NPRM only lays out the procedural roadmap for accommodating drones in the regs and that the specific rules for the various types of unmanned aircraft will follow. The FAA did promise to consult with other jurisdictions to iron out the details.
Some commenters said that the rules should apply to all unmanned aircraft regardless of their use. However, AOPA and several other individuals stressed that the FAA should exempt RC models and their operation from the new rules.
“This policy does not apply to UAS that are operated under the exception for limited recreational operations, as they are not required to meet airworthiness requirements or apply for Type Certification,” the FAA said in its review of the comments.
The Federal Aviation Administration also stated that it not ready to finalize the rules yet, but the agency is planning to use Part 21 for the certification of some drones.
“This policy applies only to the procedures for the Type Certification of UAS, and is not intended to establish policy impacting other FAA rules pertaining to unmanned aircraft, such as operations, pilot certification, or maintenance,” the agency said in its analysis. “The FAA will seek public comment on the particularized airworthiness criteria for each applicant as certification standards for this new special class evolve. Once generally applicable standards are identified, the FAA may conduct rulemaking.”
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