Wisconsin Geospatial News

Wisconsin Unmanned Aerial Systems Advisory Board holds second meeting

Wisconsin’s new Unmanned Aerial Systems Advisory Board held its second meeting on Sept 30, 2016 at the State Capitol. As noted in an earlier Mapping Bulletin article the Board is composed of a broad spectrum of UAS users in the state from both the private sector and public agencies. The President of the Board is Chris Johnson, founder and CEO of PilotTrainingSystem.com and Director of the UW-Madison Flight Lab. Board members include representatives from the private UAS sector, non-profits, the FAA, legal firms, first responders, hobbyists, and the Wisconsin Departments of Justice, Natural Resources, Administration, and Transportation.

Part of the meeting focused on whether the Board should stay independent or affiliate itself with either the AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) or the federal DAC (Drone Advisory Committee). Opinions were mixed, but Board President Chris Johnson indicated that the Board would come to a decision before their next meeting.

Tom Gemmell, the Board’s Legal Counsel, gave a brief overview of some recent changes to UAS legislation and regulations, including the FAA’s “Part 107” regulations. Gemmell noted that the legislative landscape is currently a bit messy as there is no federal statute pertaining to drone use, while states have set up their own laws and rules. Most states now have some type of drone law in the books, including laws related to areas of operation, sensors, and the types of data collection that can be conducted. Wisconsin’s most recent drone legislation is summarized here. Gemmell also noted that the legislative landscape is likely going to change, citing a recent suit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center challenging the FAA’s new regulations for not including adequate safeguards for privacy.

Todd Davis from the FAA provided a quick summary of drone registration activity since the new regulations went into effect last summer. As of September 2016, 5794 people in the US have passed the remote pilot knowledge test, and 14,554 people have applied for a remote pilot application. (Current pilots do not need to take the knowldge test.) Approximately 600,000 drones have been registered so far in the US (hobbyist and commercial), compared to a total of 250,000 full-scale aircraft registrations. As an indication of what drone pilots are doing, the top five waiver requests received by the FAA are for night operations, operations over people, operations beyond visual line of sight, operations from a moving vehicle, and visual observer waivers.

Additional information about the Unmanned Aerial Systems Advisory Board is available on their website. Meetings, scheduled to be held quarterly, are open to the public. The Board is looking to fill volunteer positions for Event Coordinator and Marketing Director. Note that the UAS conference at UW-Madison planned for October 3-4, 2016 has been cancelled.