Huerta Says UAS Rules Stress Certification, Pilot Standards

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FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Sunday that rulemaking planned for the end of this year on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) will focus on aircraft certification and "qualifications" of pilots. "I can't say what is going to be in it but broadly speaking, what we are looking at are all the questions relating to how we certify the aircraft and what are the qualifications of the operator as well as what uses they can be put to," Huerta told CNN's State of the Union. At the same time, he said, the agency will be stressing education and enforcement to curb the increasing numbers of conflicts between unmanned aircraft and regular planes, including airliners. He said the FAA is trying to strike a balance between safety and the commercial exploitation of UAS technology but some legislators don't like the signals the agency appears to be sending.

Several senators sent a letter to Huerta urging him to speed up the rulemaking process. The Washington Post said at least one of the signatories, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is afraid the rules will be too conservative and will restrict commercial access to the technology by requiring UAS pilots to have pilot certification and a minimum number of logged hours on the devices. "In light of recent reports, I am concerned that proposed regulations on small, commercial unmanned aircraft will be costly, needlessly restrictive and hinder research and development for the growing [unmanned aerial systems] industry," Wyden said in a statement. "The FAA needs to act quickly to alleviate these concerns."