United States: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act Paves The Way For Federal Regulation Of Delivery Drones

Joel E Roberson and Jennifer M. Nowak are attorneys in Holland & Knight's Washington D.C. office

Co-authored by Manuel Ayarra

On Oct. 5, 2018, President Trump signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-254), which reauthorizes funding of the FAA through Sept. 30, 2023. This is the first long-term FAA reauthorization since 2012 that has been signed into law. The new reauthorization takes significant steps forward in the continuing integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, into the national airspace.

Specifically, the bill does the following:

  • Directs the FAA to Authorize Drone Deliveries by October 2019 (Section 348): The Act requires the FAA to update its regulations within one year to allow the use of drones in the U.S. airspace for carriage of private property. This would enable drones to deliver goods to consumers, an action that is currently prohibited under federal regulations. Although the specifics of these new requirements will be determined through the rulemaking process, the statute anticipates that the rulemaking will include performance-based requirements, aircraft airworthiness certification, operation specifications based on the nature and type of flight and operator qualifications.1 The Act also directs the FAA to take into consideration the input of states and local authorities on the potential impact to local communities.2

    Under the current statutory framework, all aircraft operators that carry persons or property for hire must obtain: (1) economic authority from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and (2) safety authority from the FAA. While the Act directs the FAA to move quickly toward enacting these safety regulations, it is important to note that DOT published a notification of procedures on April 30, 2018 announcing the process for unmanned aircraft operators to seek economic authority. It is rumored that several companies already have taken the first steps towards the operation of a commercial drone delivery business.
  • Applies Greater Oversight Over Recreational Drone Operators (Section 349): The new law also brings the use of drones for recreational purposes further under the FAA's regulatory oversight, displacing section 336 of the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which prohibited the FAA from promulgating any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft. While the Act does not require certification for hobbyists, the statute specifies new requirements and operational limitations applicable to recreational operators, such as a requirement to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test, and to maintain a maximum altitude of 400 feet during operations.3
  • Requires Development of a Plan for Full Operational Capability of a Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Network (Section 376): The Act requires the FAA and NASA to develop a plan to implement UTM services that "expand operations beyond visual line of sight, have full operational capability, and ensure the safety and security of all aircraft." This section requires the FAA to create a process to accept applications from companies seeking to provide UTM services, set safety standards for UTM systems, and demonstrate and validate the performance of UTM systems.
  • Orders the Study of Viable Revenue Streams for the Regulation of Drones (Section 360): The law requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to initiate a study within 60 days of enactment on appropriate fee mechanisms to recover the costs of (1) the regulation and safety oversight of unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems; and (2) the provision of air navigation services to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems. This includes revenue for the use of UTM solutions developed by the private sector.
  • Codifies the Drone Integration Pilot Program (Section 351): The law formally provides the FAA with the legal authority to implement the Drone Integration Pilot Program. The Drone Integration Pilot Program was created following an October 2017 Presidential Memorandum from President Trump to Secretary Chao requiring the creation of the program. Federal law codifying the Drone Integration Pilot Program is notable because it formalizes the effort to create a common framework for federal, state, local, and tribal governments to work together to safely integrate drones operations.
  • Requires a Strategy for Coordinating Federal Drone Programs (Section 342(d)): Within 90 days of enactment, the Act requires the FAA to develop a strategy that ensures timely implementation of and avoids duplication between UAS programs carried out by the FAA, including the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), the Drone Integration Pilot Program (IPP) and the UTM Pilot Program (UPP).
  • Authorizes Tribal Governments to Fly Drones as Public Aircraft (Section 355): Until the Act was passed, tribes were not allowed to operate drones as public aircraft for governmental purposes, such as search and rescue or firefighting support. The Act provides tribal governments with the same rights as state and local governments to perform public aircraft operations via drone.
  • Prioritizes Rulemaking on Expanded Operations of Small UAS (Section 370): Citing to potential economic, academic and public safety benefits, Congress specifically highlighted as a "top priority" the FAA's development of regulations to expand the operation of small UASs (currently operating under Part 107) to operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), at night and over persons.

With this statute, the U.S. follows other countries that have taken measured steps towards integrating drones into their economies. Iceland, for example, has already authorized use of drones for a food delivery service that uses GPS coordinates to find routes clear of human and natural obstacles.4 Similarly, Canada recently has approved numerous test flights for delivering medical and food supplies to isolated rural communities,5 while Singapore has authorized commercial operations, subject to the issuance of a permit.6


1 49 U.S.C. § 44808(b) (2018).

2 Id.

3 Id. §§44809 (6)–(7).

4 Philip E. Ross, Are Delivery Drones Commercially Viable? Iceland Is About to Find Out, IEEE Spectrum (Sept. 26, 2018, 15:00 GMT

5 Drone Delivery Canada Integrates into Controlled Airspace in Moosonee and Moose Factory in Beyond visual Line of Sight Pilot Project, The Virginian Pilot (Oct. 2, 2018)

6 Singapore Drone Laws, UAV Systems International

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions