The FAA has just made its airworthiness criteria public for 10 companies that will allow more complex drone operations to take place. The comment period for the criteria is still open, allowing you to get your say and sway the future of commercial drone operations in the U.S.
The airworthiness criteria is an important step for the future of commercial drone operations as, if passed, it will allow more complex operations to be undertaken than what is permitted by the Part 107 small drone rule.
The criteria is different from standard certifications as it looks at the performance and risk calibration. Another way to put it is that the FAA is making sure a drone does what it says it can, and do it thousands of times to give us the confidence to believe so.
The criteria given to the 10 companies doesn’t mean that the FAA has given them airworthiness certifications. It is only the next step in the certification process to ensure drone operations stay safe and follow the FAA’s rules.
Dr. Michael C. Romanowski, director of Aircraft Certification Service Policy and Innovation said:
“The development of airworthy, durable, and reliable unmanned aircraft is a crucial step forward for this innovative sector. Type certification will help increase both public and regulatory confidence in drone technology as operations become more advanced.”
If the companies can pass these certifications, they will be allowed to complete beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights and complete night-time flights. Both of which have been a big hurdle in furthering the commercial drone business in the U.S. and the world.
Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics added:
“Drones are essentially using off the shelf parts and you can’t control the entire supply chain the way an aerospace company would and so what it allows us to do is to sort of treat these vehicles like what they really are which is consumer electronic devices that update very quickly and innovate very quickly.”
Anderson went on to say that this type of certification process will allow drones to have a similar life cycle to smartphones. They will be updated every six months or so and will have a life span of two to three years.
“It’s very different from traditional aviation and what that says for performance-based is, hey you know if you need to switch out your nuts and bolts and change one motor for another as long as it’s not a critical part, go for it. You don’t have to re-certify. And that allows us to basically be the drone companies that we really are, which is fast and innovative without a huge regulatory burden.”
The companies included in the airworthiness criteria are as follows. You can also click on them to have your say for each one.