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New Federal Law Authorizes Drone Package Deliveries in 2019

November 2, 2018
President Trump on Oct. 5 signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-254). 
 
This bill reauthorizes funding of the FAA through Sept. 30, 2023 and addresses a number of aviation related areas including unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones. This is the first long-term FAA reauthorization since 2012 signed into law. Other attempts to pass this bill have ended in continuing resolutions. The new reauthorization bill takes significant steps forward in the continuing integration of drones into the national airspace. Several provisions in this bill will have serious implications for cities in the near future.
 
Bill Directs the FAA to Authorize Drone Deliveries by October 2019
 
The act requires the FAA to update its regulations within one year to allow the use of drones in the U.S. airspace for carriage of private property, such as packages. Current federal regulations prohibit drone deliveries. However, this act authorizes, by October 2019, businesses designated as “air carriers” to deliver goods to consumers via drones.
 
The specifics of these new requirements are not yet determined. The FAA will create the requirements through its rulemaking process.
 
In addition to these provisions, the act does the following:
  • Applies greater oversight over recreational drone operators;
  • Codifies the Drone Integration Pilot Program, which seeks to formalize the effort to create a common framework for federal, state, local, and tribal governments to work together to safely integrate drones operations;
  • Requires development of a plan for full operational capability of a Unmanned Traffic Management network;
  • Streamlines the process for public unmanned aircraft systems and public safety agencies to receive permission to fly drones that are 4.4 pounds or less by implementing some basic safety rules;
  • Includes $5 million in competitive grants to the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Program to support career and technical development of aircraft maintainers;
  • Attempts to address city concerns over noise through various small provisions; and
  • Directs the FAA to consider the input of states and local agencies on the potential effect on local communities.
The League will continue to monitor the development of the FAA regulations.


 
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