On September 30, 2015, President Obama executed the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2015 (“Airport and Airway Extension Act”), passed earlier in the week by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Airport and Airway Extension Act extends FAA funding for six months through March 31, 2016.
Importantly for operators of unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”), neither the FAA’s current structure nor the regulation of UAS will change. As such, FAA will continue to permit commercial operators who have successfully applied for and received an exemption under Section 333 to operate UAS subject to certain standard restrictions. The Section 333 exemption will likely remain available to commercial operators until FAA finalizes its small UAS regulations in FAR Part 107, first published as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in February 2015.
According to lawmakers, the six month extension period provided under the Airport and Airway Extension Act will be used to consider and address a number of important issues including airport funding, and the role of the Air Traffic Organization. Needless to say, it will be important to monitor the funding debate in the coming months to determine whether there will be any impact on UAS.