U.S. Making Changes to Support its Commercial Space Industry

AS11-40-5875HRedit.jpgBy Talia Loucks

Remember last year’s blog article about Asteroid Mining? Well, late last month, President Obama signed into law what was then titled the SPACE Act of 2015, which has since been renamed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This Act lays the groundwork for property rights in space, a big point of contention in international law. As a quick refresher: the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to which the US is a signatory, provides in Article II that: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Some worry that the new Act is in opposition of this portion of the Treaty. Continue reading

FAA’s Proposed Rules Leave Little Room for Full Takeoff of Commercial Drones

Source: PetaPixel

Source: PetaPixel

By Max Burke

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Sunday released proposed rules for small commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—also known as drones or unmanned aircraft vehicles. The rules would apply to non-recreational UAS under 55 pounds and would, among other things, limit flights to daylight hours and altitudes of less than 500 feet. A drone operator, with the help of visual observers, would need to maintain visual line of sight of the drone. And an operator would also “have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate.” (See a summary of the proposed requirements here and the full proposal here.)

Currently, the FAA effectively bans commercial use of drones. Pursuant to section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), the FAA authorizes such use only on a case-by-case basis; a limited number of companies have been given authorization since September 2014. The proposed rules—which were made pursuant to the FMRA—are supposed to be the next phase in expanding commercial drone use. The FAA lists a number of UAS activities that would be allowed under the proposed framework, including crop monitoring, research and development, power-line inspections, aerial photography, and aiding certain rescue operations. Anyone can submit comments on the proposed rules to the FAA for up to 60 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register. Unfortunately, promulgation of permanent rules is not expected until 2017, nearly two years after the deadline mandated by Congress in the FMRA. Continue reading