As most readers know, the lack of a standard for the remote identification of unmanned aircraft has held up progress in a number of areas critical for integration of UAS into the national airspace system. Rules for flight over people and in heavily congested areas, protection of critical infrastructure, beyond visual line of sight operations and unmanned traffic management, and effective counter-drone systems all require a remote ID solution. We are happy to report that, after many months of delay, the long, slow march of the UAS remote identification rulemaking has finally reached an important milestone. The draft of the rule is currently under review at the White House.
Before the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) can be released for comment, it first must go through a review process at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House. The OIRA review process provides an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to influence the process before the draft regulation is publicly released.
As part of the review, members of the public can request a meeting with OIRA pursuant to Executive Order 12866 to discuss the proposed rule, what it should contain, and how the rule will impact interested parties — including UAS manufacturers, operators, and users. As part of Executive Order 12866, OIRA is required to conduct a cost/benefit analysis and determine whether the benefits of the rule justify the costs. The review process can take up to 90 days, and can be extended for an additional 30 days. There is no minimum time for the review. According to OIRA, the average review period is 53 days.
If OIRA’s analysis is favorable, the NPRM would then move forward. It is possible, however, that at the end of the review period, the rule may be “returned” to the FAA, which would then have to take additional time to revise or redraft the proposed regulation.
It is OIRA’s policy to meet with any interested party, including state or local governments, small businesses or other business interests, or representations from the environmental, health, or safety communities, to discuss proposed regulations. The meetings are conducted under the OIRA Administrator or his designees, and a log of all meetings is publicly available.
Now is the time for serious UAS manufacturers, operators, and users to get involved in the federal government’s process and be heard. At a minimum, it would be worthwhile to meet with OIRA and let them know that the process needs to be expedited and that continued delay of the regulations has serious repercussions. It leads to lost revenue, lost opportunity, and an increasingly lawless attitude among would-be commercial operators who don’t think there is any light at the end of the tunnel.