Wyden, Merkley Laud FAA Decision on Unmanned Aircraft

Washington, D.C . – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley praised today’s announcement by federal regulators that cuts red tape for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites in Pendleton, Tillamook and Warm Springs to conduct research that creates jobs in an innovative industry.

The announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) follows a letter Wyden and Merkley wrote the FAA on Nov. 25 strongly urging regulators to speed up approvals for UAS test permits, and to ensure the agency’s plans to regulate these aircraft don’t fall behind schedule.

“I am gratified the FAA responded to our call and will allow UAS development to soar even higher and create more good jobs that come with this innovative industry in Oregon and nationwide,” Wyden said. “Today’s news unshackles UAS research in Pendleton, Tillamook and Warm Springs to generate even more innovation in our state.” 

“This news from FAA will help provide new jobs and an economic boost to rural areas of Oregon that are in need of good-paying jobs,” said Merkley. “I’m pleased the FAA has removed the roadblocks from this burgeoning industry.”

The UAS test sites in Pendleton, Tillamook and Warm Springs are among six nationwide to study the possibilities for unmanned aircraft.

The FAA said today that it would give “blanket” authorizations to all six UAS sites to conduct public aircraft operations throughout the National Airspace System (NAS) at or below 200 feet. The FAA said it expects this improved access for the test sites will provide more opportunities for research that may help the agency integrate UAS into the nation’s airspace more quickly and easily.

The new Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) allow small UAS (under 55 pounds) operated by the test sites to fly up to 200 feet above ground level anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and areas close to airports and heliports. 

Operators must fly during daytime Visual Flight Rules conditions and within visual line of sight of the pilot. The new authorizations also let the test sites fly various types of UAS under a single COA, making it easier for them to conduct research missions. Previously, the FAA required authorization for each type of UAS the operators wanted to fly.  

Pendleton Economic Development Director Steve Chrisman welcomed today’s news, saying the City of Pendleton has made substantial investment in its UAS test range to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace.

“Despite the many fits and starts, our goal has always been to move at the speed of business, so anything that expedites that process is progress,” Chrisman said.  “We commend the FAA on today’s action, which we believe is an important step in the right direction and an affirmation that we are indeed working together towards that goal of safe integration.” 

SOAR Oregon Executive Director Chuck Allen said the FAA announcement would allow smaller UAS to fly anywhere in the United States, away from airports and restricted areas, operating under the authorizations granted to the test sites as a public aircraft. 

“These blanket Certificates of Waiver and Authorization for the test sites will shorten the time required to obtain authorization to fly by eliminating the time and effort necessary to apply for and receive COAs,” Allen said. “Although there are still significant regulatory constraints to civil and commercial UAS operations in the National Airspace System, even at the Test Sites, SOAR is encouraged by the steps the FAA is taking to reduce the administrative burden of obtaining flight authorizations.”

For more information on the FAA announcement and UAS, go to http://www.faa.gov/uas/