The RCAPA Response to FAA Test Center RFC (Request For Comments)

Below the requested comments submitted on behalf of the membership of the Remote Control Aerial Photography Associations, and in the best interest of the public at large. Seven plus years of involvement in the Global airspace integration effort were drawn on and instrumental in defining these suggestions and commentary.

What is highlighted represent issues that many believe have long gone unaddressed and are generally recognized as some of the root causes for the protracted U.S. NAS integration effort, as well as also hampering the Global airspace integration effort.

True these are by no means easy answer to these questions, but leadership usually requires not only a vision, but also some hard work.

These comments are part of an ongoing effort to assist in expediting the gathering of the “data” the FAA has spent the last six to seven years espousing they need. We suggest that the FAA start to employ a scientific approach to information gathering as well as lay out and describe baselines for data collection in writing. In addition, we also suggest an independent third party review of all findings and conclusions derived from the Test Center mandate. It serves everyone’s best interest to make sure there is no room to cast doubts upon the findings or for any data to be in anyway discredited. The approach should be one of full discloser and impartial representation of all of those affected stakeholders and the American public at large.

The associations further aims, aside from the obvious offer of assisting the FAA with meeting the mandates, is the inclusion of small business and academia into the mix of systems and entities that can contribute information, data and perspective. To that point we have suggested provisions for establishing reasonable gate fees for academia and businesses grossing under certain dollar amount(s). This concept would allow greater access for small business and academia into the pay for play world of participation in the NAS integration process.

It is the association true aspiration that the FAA takes some of the concepts into consideration, furthering the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).

RE: Docket number FAA-2012-0252 Request for Comments

The Remote Control Aerial Photography Association (RCAPA) makes the following comments for consideration with the intention and goal of meeting the Congressional mandates put forth in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

As follows:

1. The test sites need to be operated in partnership with the FAA and individual proponents. The project deadlines are very aggressive and will require specific guidance and close oversight from the UAPO and qualified engineering staff from the William J. Hughes Technical center.

2. On the subject of sense and avoid, night flying and distances for VLOS and airspace deconfliction. The FAA should publish test criteria (including baselines), and an ensuing capture matrix as part of the RFP. This concept is not new to the FAA UAPO. It has been brought to the attention of the UAPO management and discussed repeatedly even prior to the formation of the small UAS ARC in 2008.

This is a must to help expedite the locating of suitable sites and meeting the ensuing 2015 deadline for NAS Integration by giving proponents a tangible catalog of the types of operations necessary to meet the 2015 integration deadline. This matrix must include goals and objectives that can be supported using a scientific method and independent third party review.

3. There needs to be additional detail provided on the test center proponent and FAA relationship, and the transfer of data and the minimum amount of data required to be passed between the two. Furthermore, there should be a solid outline for a scientific method of collection, timeframes and format templates to meet the provisions of the “Act.”

4. The FAA must make provisions for small business and academia to be able to utilize these sites. There should be a sliding scale of fees for business grossing less than a certain dollar amount. A flat rate should be imposed on academia and businesses grossing less than one hundred thousand dollars annually. This would facilitate the inclusion of systems from the most innovative industry sectors that will ultimately become the largest end-user group.

5. Site should be spread out evenly throughout the country in places that are logistically convenient to capture the widest possible variety of user. Further consideration should be given to splitting three sites that cater to craft less than 150 kilos and three that cater to all. The three sites that cater to the smaller craft could be closer to populated areas while mitigating the safety concerns for people on the ground and in the air of flying larger systems.

 

6. These sites need to have independent or at least neutral oversight. Understandably, certain vendors will not be comfortable handing over proprietary data to potential competition or rivals by requiring or placing research and development findings in the public domain. Whatever is worked out here may translate into a solution for training facilities in the future.

 

7. It should be noted that Experimental Aircraft/LSA regulations allow and provide for many applications currently being done for monetary compensation including, but not limited too; instruction, air shows, advertising, banner towing, aerial photography, etc.

 

8. Airspace altitude separation should be examined as well as the economic impacts if any, caused by TFR’s on General Aviation.

 

If, it is determined that the RCAPA can lend any expertise in the safe operations, and applications of UAS under 150kilos, please do not hesitate to contact our association.

Sincerely,

 

Patrick Egan

 

Director, Special Programs

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).