In a bipartisan vote of 351-69, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 3935, the "Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act," a 5-year FAA Reauthorization Bill. The legislation, which passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in June, underwent revisions that excluded contentious elements, such as the proposed expansion of flights at Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan International Airport.
Next Steps for the Bill
The bill will now move to the Senate, where it will be considered alongside the Senate's own version, S. 1939. As the current FAA Reauthorization is set to expire on September 30, Congress must either pass the 2023 Reauthorization or grant an extension to keep the FAA operational.
Implications for the Drone Industry
The timely passage of the FAA Reauthorization Bill holds significance for the drone industry, as both the House and Senate versions encompass provisions related to commercial drone and AAM industries. The legislation could expedite a rulemaking process for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights, following specific timelines and referencing recommendations from the BVLOS ARC released in March 2022.
From H.R. 3935:
"Not later than 4 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall issue a notice of proposed rulemaking establishing performance-based airworthiness criteria and risk-based operational regulations for unmanned aircraft systems operated beyond visual line of sight that are intended to operate primarily at or below 400 feet above ground level."
Furthermore, the packages define agency responsibilities that involve UAS flights over the arctic, carriage of hazardous materials by drones, funding for Know Before You Fly campaigns, Remote ID, workforce development, and more. The House package, for example, directs the FAA to increase personnel for the UAS Integration Office and implement a UAS Integration strategy.
Acting FAA Administrators Amidst Leadership Vacancy
Despite the progress on FAA Reauthorization, the agency continues to operate without a permanent leader. The position of FAA Administrator, appointed by the President and subject to Senate approval, has seen several temporary appointments since Steve Dickson left in March 2022. Acting FAA Administrator Polly Trottenberg currently leads the agency following the withdrawal of Denver Airport CEO Phil Washington, President Biden's initial nominee. Former FAA Deputy Mike Whitaker is reportedly the next nominee for the position.