The long and winding path of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 is complete, with President Biden’s signature on the groundbreaking bipartisan legislation last week.

Federalna Administracja Lotnictwa (FAA) reauthorization is a significant victory for travelers, the aviation workforce, and the U.S. economy. It will enhance essential protections for air travelers, bolster safety standards, and provide support for pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers.

The legislation extends the FAA’s authorization until Fiscal Year 2028. It also requires the FAA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for UAS operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) within four months. Additionally, it mandates the FAA to finalize a special rule for powered lift aircraft operations within seven months, a step forward for the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) sector.

But what is in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 that impacts the Counter-UAS (C-UAS) mission within the homeland? A few items identified in the legislation impact this important security mission. Examples include the following sections of the Act, further described below.

Counter-UAS Authorities

Unlike the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, this year’s version did not include the expansion of counter-UAS authorities. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, Section 1112, did, however, extend the authorities of the Department of Justice (DOJ) i Departament Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego (DHS) until October 1, 2024.

The DOJ and DHS have been under a series of extensions since their original authorities granted in October 2018 expired in October 2022. Will this Fall finally be the time we see some movement? Owners and operators of critical infrastructure, public safety, and others have been anxiously awaiting Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that will increase the security of the homeland from the growing drone threat.

Section 916- Unmanned and Autonomous Flight Advisory Committee

This section requires the FAA to establish an Unmanned and Autonomous Flight Advisory Committee (UAFAC) not later than one (1) year after the Advanced Aviation Advisory Committee (AAAC) is terminated. The Secretary of Transportation originally chartered the AAAC on June 10, 2022.

The UAFAC will be composed of not more than 12 members but will include at least one (1) representative from:

  • Commercial operators of unmanned aircraft systems
  • Unmanned aircraft systems manufacturers
  • Counter-UAS manufacturers
  • FAA-approved unmanned aircraft system service suppliers

The UAFAC will provide the FAA Administrator with advice on policy and technical-level issues related to unmanned and autonomous aviation operations and activities, including, at a minimum, the following:

  • The safe integration of unmanned aircraft and autonomous flight operations into the national airspace system
  • Coordination of procedures for operations in controlled and uncontrolled airspace
  • The use cases and potential benefits of unmanned aircraft systems
  • The development of processes and methodologies to address safety concerns related to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems, including risk assessments and mitigation strategies

Section 925- UAS Test Ranges

This section includes language allowing the FAA Administrator to select and designate up to two (2) additional UAS test ranges through a competitive selection process.

The legislation allows the FAA to designate the UAS test ranges as restricted areas, special use airspace, or other similar type of airspace. Among the activities that would be authorized include conducting Counter-UAS testing capabilities, with the approval of the Administrator.

Section 935- Protection of Public Gatherings

This section broadens the FAA Administrator’s authority to temporarily restrict UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) operations over large public gatherings. Eligible entities must submit requests at least 30 days in advance, providing details such as the geographic boundaries of the venue, event dates and times, and other pertinent information.

The eligibility for flight restrictions is extended to include events at stadiums, which typically have restrictions for NFL games, to cover other events like concerts.

To be eligible for a temporary flight restriction under this section, large public gatherings hosted in a stadium or other venue must be hosted in a stadium or venue that has previously hosted events qualifying for the application of special security instructions. These events must have an estimated attendance of at least 30,000 people in a non-enclosed stadium and be publicly advertised.

Additionally, large outdoor public gatherings not located in a stadium, with a static geographical boundary, are publicly advertised, and have an estimated attendance of at least 100,000 people may qualify for temporary flight restrictions.

Section 1032- Limitation

None of the funds authorized under this title may be used for research, development, design, planning, promulgation, implementation, or execution of any policy, program, order, or contract with the Chinese Communist Party or any entity based in China or influenced by China unless such activities are explicitly authorized by a law enacted after the date of this Act’s enactment.

This section does grant the FAA Administrator exemptions from the prohibition if the activities are executed for testing, research, evaluating, analyzing, or training related to counter-unmanned aircraft detection and mitigation systems, including activities conducted under the Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems of the FAA or by the test ranges designated under section 44803 of title 49, United States Code.

Other Related Sections

Section  907- Remote Identification Alternative Means of Compliance

The FAA Administrator shall review and evaluate the final rule titled “Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft,” issued on January 15, 2021 (86 Fed. Reg. 4390), to assess the feasibility and advisability of allowing unmanned aircraft manufacturers and operators to comply with the rule’s intent through alternative methods, including network-based remote identification.

The FAA informally refers to its Remote Identification requirement as akin to a “digital license plate” in the sky. This rule mandates that drones that meet specific requirements can provide identification, location, and performance information during flight, which can be received by people on the ground and other airspace users. According to the FAA, the purpose of the RID rule is to help the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies locate the operator or control station when a dron is flying unsafely or in restricted areas. Additionally, RID establishes the safety and security framework necessary for more advanced drone operations.

For additional context on what Remote Identification means for security and public safety officials, please visit Zdalna identyfikacja: Poradnik dla specjalistów ds. bezpieczeństwa.

Section 922- Extension of Know Before You Fly Campaign

The Administrator of the FAA is authorized $1,000,000 for fiscal years 2024 through 2028 to support the Wiedza przed lotem educational campaign or similar public information efforts to increase safety awareness regarding unmanned aircraft systems.

Źródło zdjęcia - Adobe Stock by haizah (Generated by AI)