March 11, 2016—A Senate committee is scheduled to consider legislation soon seeking to accelerate use of small commercial drones across the U.S., while opening the door for flights at night and outside the sight of operators.
Such operations are now strictly prohibited. But the measure would encourage and explicitly permit regulators to approve case-by-case exemptions, as well as set ground rules for developing long-term privacy policies and establishing industry-derived safety standards covering a broad range of unmanned aircraft types.
The bipartisan bill introduced by leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation also breaks new ground by proposing to speed up approval of new model designs and safety retrofits affecting private aircraft—changes long demanded by manufacturers and pilots alike.
And for the first time, the Federal Aviation Administration would be specifically required to detail economic benefits derived by airlines and other users of the nation’s airspace from mandated installation of updated air-traffic control equipment. This issue also has been a point of contention for many years between regulators and industry officials.
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