FAA Issues Two Key Changes to Drone Regulations, Opening Door to Commercial Use

On December 28, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced two major changes to existing federal regulations governing the flight of Unmanned Aircraft (UA), better known as drones. These changes represent the latest in the FAA’s ongoing efforts to integrate drones into the existing National Airspace System, and, in turn, facilitate the implementation of drones in commercial settings. The new rules will become effective 60 days from the date of their publication in the Federal Register, which is anticipated to occur in January 2021.

 

To read more about this update see our recent Alert, which can be found at:

https://www.duanemorris.com/alerts/faa_issues_two_key_changes_drone_regulations_opening_door_commercial_use_0121.html

FAA Waiver Permits Use of Drones For Long Distance Logistics Flights

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations, better known as the “Part 107 Regulations,” impose strict guidelines for the operation of drones in the United States.  Among these regulations, for example, are requirements that drones be operated only within the unaided line of sight of a designated visual observer, and prohibiting the flight of drones over people not directly participating in their operation.

On May 27, 2020, however, the FAA issued a first-of-its kind Part 107 waiver to Novant Health, Inc. in partnership with Zipline, a leading drone logistics company.  The waiver lifts the usual visual line of sight and overhead requirements, thus permitting the companies to use long-distance drone flights to deliver personal protective equipment and medical supplies to healthcare facilities and workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina.

While the FAA’s waiver is narrow in scope, it marks an important development in drone regulation, and one that, if successful, could certainly pave the way for the wide-scale implementation of drones in the logistics industry.

American Association of Railroads Responds to COVID-19 Crisis

Recent comments from American Association of Railroads (AAR) CEO Ian Jefferies highlight the critical role freight rail carriers have played in shoring up America’s national supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]  Mr. Jefferies noted key developments in the government’s response to COVID-19 that have allowed freight railroads to continue operations, and gave special recognition to the contributions made by railroad employees during this national emergency.

Freight railroads deliver a wide variety of goods, including consumer goods, commodities, chemical products, and raw materials to virtually all corners of the nation.  As the COVID-19 pandemic has ratcheted up demand, freight rail carriers and their employees have had to work overtime to ensure an uninterrupted supply.  To that end, from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) published Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, advising state, local, and industry regulators that freight rail workers should be considered “essential” and thus, exempt from state “stay-at-home” orders put into place.

Mr. Jefferies credits organizations such as the National League of Cities, National Governors Association, National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for effectively communicating CISA’s recommendations to governments at all levels to ensure railroad workers can continue their vital work.  And, in order to safeguard essential railroad employees, the AAR has adopted the CDC’s Guidance on Critical Infrastructure Workers, which implements measures such as social distancing, regular cleaning and sanitation of work environments, and regular mask usage.  Measures such as these, in conjunction with the railroad industry’s commitment to service, will ensure a steady supply of much-needed goods to businesses and consumers nationwide, even during these unprecedented times.

[1] See Ian Jefferies on Railroads and the Coronvavirus Pandemic, C-SPAN Apr. 14, 2020, available at https://www.c-span.org/video/?471162-102/washington-journal-ian-jefferies-discusses-railroads-coronavirus-pandemic; see also Coronavirus – Our freight rail network also delivering for America during COVID-19 pandemic, Ian Jefferies, https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/coronavirus-freight-rail-network-covid-19-pandemic.