NEWS Alert

FAA Reauthorizations Bills Could Permit Hazmat Carriage by Drones

On Wednesday, 19 July, the House of Representatives began its deliberations on the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, a five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that was introduced last month alongside a parallel bill from the Senate entitled the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023. The two bills, though slightly different in their approaches, are set to allocate billions of dollars in funding for the FAA and to provide new guidance and standards for the FAA and airlines.

Among the changes being suggested by both bills are revisions to the FAA’s policy on unmanned aircraft, notably regarding the carriage of hazardous materials. Currently, under FAA Part 107, Section 107.36, small unmanned aircraft are not permitted to carry hazardous materials. Under both the House and Senate bills, however, this would now be permitted, although they differ somewhat on the details of this revision.

In Section 617 of the House bill, “Carriage of Hazardous Materials”, the FAA Administrator is required to work in conjunction with the Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to incorporate special conditions into existing regulatory processes (for unmanned aircraft weighing less than 100 pounds) and to initiate an existing special permitting process (for unmanned aircraft weighing more than 100 pounds) to provide that unmanned aircraft are enabled to carry hazardous materials. The bill also requires the Secretary of Transportation to revise “requirements, guidance, standards, or other policy materials governing the carriage of hazardous materials to allow for the carriage of a de minimis amount of hazardous materials by unmanned aircraft.”

Section 816 of the Senate Bill, “Special Authority for Transport of Hazardous Materials by Commercial Package Delivery Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” notably differs from the House Bill in its attention to commercial package delivery, and also in that it calls only upon the Secretary of Transportation to “establish the operational requirements, standards, or special permits necessary to approve or authorize the safe transportation of hazardous materials by unmanned aircraft systems providing common carriage”.

If these bills pass, the House and Senate would need to reconcile these provisions, which could lead to a final bill directing the Secretary of Transportation to establish requirements by which small quantities of hazardous materials could be carried by unmanned aircraft systems.

Established in 1999 and based in Washington, DC, TWG has a lengthy record of providing technical assistance to civil aviation authorities (CAAs”) worldwide, including but not limited to the CAAs of India, Panama, Cabo Verde, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Trinidad and Tobago. In all, ten FAA Category 1 ratings have been issued to TWG IASA technical assistance clients to date – a 100% track record. TWG also regularly assists foreign air carriers with obtaining the US government approvals needed for US air carrier operations and foreign repair stations with securing FAA certification required to maintain US-registered aircraft.

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