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Bill Canis, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Commercial Outlook for a New Industry (CRS Report R44192) (Sept. 9, 2015) (full-text).


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemakinging in February 2015 that would permit unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) weighing less than 55 pounds to fly in limited circumstances and locations during the daytime, as long as there is a Visual line-of-sight between the UAS and its operator, who would have to meet FAA standards and pass tests. Such rules, if adopted, would likely lead to limited commercial use of UAS, but would preclude the use of UAS for some purposes. The FAA is not expected to announce final rules until 2016 or 2017.

The growth of UAS manufacturing and the rate at which UAS are deployed commercially are likely to be determined by technological and regulatory issues. The FAA has approved establishment of six test sites to explore issues related to the integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, but it is unclear whether those sites will provide information helpful to the FAA rule making. Sense-and-avoid technology, critical to the safe operation of unmanned planes in crowded airspace, is not yet suitable for small, inexpensive UAS. In addition, concerns about privacy may delay expanded use of UAS by businesses and government agencies.