UAS ARC 2.0

Patrick Egan

In June of this year a FOIA request was made on behalf of the sUAS News for a copy of the UAS ARC charter and membership list. At the time of the ARC’s convening, rumors where that no one had yet seen the charter. It’s a strange concept to put something together for supposed public benefit without going public with the why.

Section 5’s a keeper:

5. Objectives and Scope of the Committee.

b. Coordinate the resolution of any comments on related proposed rulemaking.

The membership list is another story.

How and what was the determining criteria for membership?  Running down the list, one will quickly deduce that the lobbyists have been hard at work earning their high fees. What’s missing is representation for commercial users or end user associations. The manned aviation groups have ample representation, so why not UAS users? Again we have the military industrial complex weasel(s) guarding the commercial hen house. Only problem now is that the domestic chickens face extinction while they’ve waited for the FAA to work in the public’s best interest.

It does help to shed light on the causes of some of the maladies affecting the community. Unfortunately, I do not see this situation changing anytime soon.

Also missing are the names of most of the FAA folks that where on the first ARC, with the exception of Gary Michel. Why leave all of the experience and reference out?  Again, we have another glaring example of the public interest taking a backseat to special interest, and questionable leadership from the FAA.

The FAA response in full

9 comments for “UAS ARC 2.0

  1. Mel D.
    27 November 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I like section 8 best, especially the part about the committee being balanced in points of view, interests, and knowledge…

  2. 27 November 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Yeah, got to give them props for creativity. ;-)

    • Lawrence
      27 November 2011 at 7:18 pm

      Patrick, et. al. You have just cause to be upset.

      You should note that it is a requirement of federal law (The Federal Advisory Committee Act) that advisory committees must be fairly balanced. See more information here: http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/access-federal-advisory-committee-meetings. The law also requires meetings to be open to the public.

      I’m not sure if the law applies to this committee, but I believe that it does.

  3. 28 November 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Lawrence,

    Thank you for your input. Many believe the FAA adept at circumventing the law. If I had the resources to support ARC participation, I would make the necessary efforts to be on it.

  4. Lee Conner
    29 November 2011 at 2:30 am

    Patrick,
    Your opportunity for input may not be as unlikely as you might think. The mandated response to all public input during the Notice of Proposed Rule Making procedure most often produces review and address of legitimate concerns of all interested parties. I have seen entire proposed rules often sent back to the ARC after public comment periods, rules rewritten based on public comment, and entire portions of new rules delayed pending rewrite (which often never happens).
    Food for thought: Don’t think this process is being hijacked by large UAS mfgrs to the detriment of sUAS; more likely is the opposite, as the assessment criteria necessary to establish acceptable levels of risk for design and operation within NAS by sUAS is infinitely more UAS-friendly than that of large UAS.
    It is my impression the sUAS ARC was a compromise between the FAA (who were glad to await RTCA, ARINC and other organizations to write proposed rules for UAS design & integration; would you have more participation there?) and the DoD prime UAS mfgrs (who needed access to NAS for their civilian & foreign gov’t use versions of existing UAS).
    As stated in 6.b.(2), “Airworthiness criteria and means of compliance to meet operational objectives.” is key to the sUAS industry’s survival. I believe the ARC is to create a specification to which designers and manufacturers can build to and then have the necessary expectation of FAA certification upon completion of such a design. Even if that specification, that new rule, is more restrictive than you might wish, my peers in the certification business overwhelmingly agree they can find a way through any rule, except the rule that does not exist.
    Would the economic reluctance of new design efforts and the investors needed for the civilian sUAS market not be better served by the existence of a rule, albeit not as you might have preferred it be written? Be ready with your list of concerns and recommendations. By law, they must be addressed before the new rule can be adopted.

  5. 29 November 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Lee,

    I’ve been part of the global airspace integration effort for almost 7 years. That includes being a full member of the sUAS ARC. I went on about my concerns for around 10 months non stop.

    On the face of things you are correct. However, the FAA is under no obligation (legally or otherwise) to change any of language in the proposed rule. Besides that, the prima fascia does not take into account the lack of commitment and questionable leadership displayed by the FAA. Still no science and or data capture mechanism after all of this time.

    I’ve been down the long and dusty RTCA road. Can’t say that there is much there to be encouraged about. It lost relevance when they made the ALPA rep the chair of the lightly regulated subgroup. The last nail in the coffin was Margaret Jenny’s lack of UAS testimony to Congress.

    Through all of this I have watched the defense contractors ride herd on what is a quintessential example of a dysfunctional process. Sure they’re not getting everything they want, but that group has been coloring outside of the lines for years. How does one color outside of the lines or get there products to be the standard while shutting small business out?

    In a forthcoming article you can read why the RCAPA is breaking ties with the ASTM F-38 once and for all. Make no mistake; the “some rule is better than no rule” is a lackluster solution. Many believe it will in fact be detrimental to the industry here in the U.S. and really only favor those who can afford jumping threw the hoops.

    Regards, Patrick

    • Lee Conner
      29 November 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Patrick,
      Your frustration is justified, as is my posit that ‘half a loaf’… .
      You are right: The FAA has only very little legal obligation to change a proposed rule . However, the FAA is required by law to identify and address, in the Federal Register, every response to their NPRM. Their response must include the issue and their position relative to the issue. And although I share your humble estimation of the FAA’s feet dragging in early adoption of UAS, in both design specs and integration, I tend to the shared fault theory of budget constraints (25+ CRs and no budget since 2007?) and the NextGen Implementation Plan’s higher priority, rather than the DoD primes’ hijacking the rulemaking process.
      To encourage an adversarial position to define the commercial sUAS industry’s relationship with the FAA is counterproductive – now and I suspect, forever! So how do we get from here to there?

      My posit is the FAA has tacitly blessed a way, through sUAS rule, to give both sUAS industry and the DoD primes ‘one means, but not the only means’, of accomplishing certification and thence integration of UAS into NAS. That the DoD primes are in essence footing the bill for sUAS rulemaking in this lifetime should not be discounted.

      As to “Still no science and or data capture mechanism …”, you have no doubt already read it, but if not, take a look at Weibel, R. E. & Hansman, R. J. (2005). “Safety considerations for operation of unmanned aerial vehicles in the national airspace system”. See page 60 for a discussion of FAA’s adopting current commercial and general aviation safety level of 10-7, unless less restrictive criteria are substantiated. Wiebel & Hansman proceeded to do exactly that (by suspect means, in my opinion), but their case for defining risk from sUAS was the predicate for the current sUAS rule, that we can expect to see for the first time in December.
      So one could say science, and the FAA’s willingness to allow statistical gymnastics-produced data sets to define an alternative criteria, is the cornerstone of sUAS risk assessment, the required predecessor to sUAS rule.

      The following is from a paper I wrote last year:
      “So how do UAS developers prove their designs will satisfy 10-7 level of safety without data, which they cannot develop without access to the NAS? In 2005, this dilemma was identified by Roland E. Weibel in his M. S. thesis to M. I. T.. The author identifies the nonexistent data as cause for excusing his ground impact safety assessment from considering the first element of risk, (determination of probability), in favor of the second, (severity of consequences). …. In the discussion of midair collision hazard probability, the author further excuses all UAVs except ‘small’ UAVs, (which he inferred are those with less mass than Tactical UAVs, or <50 pounds). He supports excusing small UAVs from the design rigor of 10-7 based on their low mass, and therefore less severe consequences from an accident. Possibly artificial dilution of the probability of midair collisions further supports his conclusion that small UAVs do not represent a significant risk (Weibel & Hansman, 2005, p.79). This has been adopted as a seminal work in support of the first FAA approved UAS standards, sUAS." I'd be glad to sahre the paper if you wish; tell me where to send it.

      Finally, as to the rules being first exclusive to those able to afford compliance, I suspect you would agree the best outcome imaginable would have costs of certification considered excessive by some. As a former FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, with agency, aircraft, and operator certification experience, I can categorically say every rule written has more than one means of compliance, and contrary to popular opinion, I have never met an FAA inspector unwilling to consider an alternate means of compliance if it is supported by science and methodology previously approved by the FAA. As I was taught, as important as what the rule says is what the rule does not say. Can I help?

  6. 1 December 2011 at 1:17 am

    I believe I’ve seen the paper you reference. The FAA has stated that they don’t believe sUAS to be a hazard per se.

    What’s really needed is a reconstitution of the RCAPA.net and some resources to apply pressure in the right places. If you have any ideas I’m all ears.

    Regards, Patrick

  7. 8 December 2011 at 1:09 am

    Thanks for the vote of confidence…

    Folks are telling me to go for it! I will ask for admittance to the committee (ARC 2.0) and chronicle the story here.

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