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Letter to Congressional Representatives

I am writing to express my complete and utter dismay with the Trump administration’s announcement they are starting a pilot program to cede control of our National Airspace System (NAS) at 200’ and below to local jurisdictions. You can view the entire article HERE.

From that article:

“According to industry officials, the plan envisions continued FAA authority over commercial drone operations between 200 feet and 400 feet in designated test areas, with drones at lower altitudes primarily regulated by states, counties or localities.”

For as long as there has been an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), our US airspace has been regulated, on behalf of US citizens, by the FAA for the benefit of US citizens. The main benefit of this federal regulatory effort is a consistent landscape of aviation regulations for operators to learn, understand, and comply with. By ceding authority of any of that airspace to a state, county or locality you will end up with a hodgepodge of confusing and conflicting regulations that will in effect make it impossible for small business UAS entrepreneurs to survive.

This proposal is squarely aimed at accommodating industry giants such as Amazon, Google, FedEx, UPS, etc. unfettered access to airspace at and below 200’ as only those entities will have the bandwidth of resources, lawyers and dollars, to navigate the maze of local regulatory minefields to successfully “buy access” to our airspace through filing fees and permits that will result from this ceding of airspace to thousands of localities around the country. Ceding this type of authority to states would never even be considered for manned aircraft, why should unmanned aircraft be singled out. We are, after all, under the FAA’s authority just like all other aircraft.

I understand the challenges of international flying faced by general and commercial aviation. While the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is the governing body for standardization of “rules of the road” for aviation in the world, there are countless “deviations” that individual Air Navigation Service Providers (individual FAA’s) have that make it a challenge for pilots to know what rules have changed as they cross from one country’s jurisdiction to another. Now, instead of one set of rules for drone operators to follow in the 50 US States, we will be subject to thousands of shifting and likely conflicting rules as local bureaucrats with no aviation knowledge set their own rules. The FAA recently put out a Fact Sheet that states: “ EXAMPLES OF STATE AND LOCAL LAWS FOR WHICH CONSULTATION WITH THE FAA IS RECOMMENDED • Operational UAS restrictions on flight altitude, flight paths; operational bans; any regulation of the navigable airspace. For example – a city ordinance banning anyone from operating UAS within the city limits, within the airspace of the city, or within certain distances of landmarks. Federal courts strictly scrutinize state and local regulation of overflight.”

One other area to consider is the fact the US Supreme Court has long since established federal preeminence in interstate commerce. A sizable percentage of sUAS operators will conduct business across state lines. How does ceding local control of airspace below 200’ square with the fact the Court has ruled federal regulations apply to interstate commerce? Quite frankly, ceding any authority of the NAS to state, county or locality will end up making it almost impossible for small business owners, like myself, to be able to stay in business, much less compete with larger companies. Most of the flying I do is at the 150’ AGL or less.

I strongly urge you to act to terminate this bad idea before it can gain any traction. I am available anytime to meet with you or your staff to further discuss. I request a reply with your specific position on this issue.

Respectfully, J. Marc Mulkey – Owner/Operator WhirlyBird Aerial Services – Texas, USA FAA Remote Pilot Certificate # 3909611
marc@whirlybirdaerialservices.com  – 512-560-2650


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