The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working toward one goal when it comes to drones: get more of them safely in the air. However, right now, the FAA is without a permanent leader or a stable funding package. The Senate Commerce Committee recently held a hearing to consider a nomination for FAA Administrator; hopefully that official appointment will come in the near future. Funding, however, is another issue entirely. The 5-year 2018 FAA Reauthorization package expired on September 30, 2023, but authorization was extended until December 31, 2023. This extension allowed employees to keep working, but it does not provide guidelines for the priorities and deadlines in the 2023 FAA Reauthorization package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June. This 2023 package is currently sitting with the Senate.
The 2023 package includes funding and authority for rulemaking to clarify beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations. This is one of the biggest issues in the commercial drone industry today. The package requires the FAA to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking within four months of the bill’s enactment. However, the passage of the bill is only the beginning of the BVLOS process for the FAA. The FAA will need to begin an implementation period and allocation of resources. We will watch closely to track the progression of the package and its impact on the drone industry in the coming months. Surely the FAA is working toward its goal of more drones safely in the skies, but the timeline for achieving that goal is still unknown.