The FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee has recommended that the FAA use a risk based analysis to determine what type of UAS can be flown in close proximity to persons. While that is undoubtedly the right approach, what does it really mean? What is the risk the public is being exposed to? How much risk is too much? Who, ultimately, decides where the line should be drawn?
In the case of Category 3 and 4 UAS, we are talking about vehicles where there is up to a 30% chance that a collision will produce a million dollar injury. That, however, is only half of the risk equation. The unknown question is, how many collisions per 100,000 hours of flying will there be? Will it be a thousand? Ten? One?
The public tolerates a high number of deaths and injuries from motor vehicles because the freedom to get in a car and go anywhere at any time is worth it to most Americans. Ultimately it is this intangible perception by the public of the benefit from the risk that will determine if the new rules for flight over persons will be a success.
This is why the notice and comment period of any major rulemaking is of such value. While the FAA ultimately creates the rules that go into force, it is the Congress, driven by the concerns of the public, which always has the last say on how much risk is too much.
I am such a Mark McKinnon fan. Clear, crisp and to the point. But honestly can we talk here – why do we need this to be decided now? And who has enough of a clue to begin to cut this down to four categories?
I get that the news guys are anxious to get their birds up but we haven’t even heard what has come out of their work at the test site in Virginia…
And how come if a Class 3 or 4 (whatever that really means) has a good chance of hurting someone, no one is talking about any kind of certification requiring skills demonstration, liability insurance etc??? Let’s not run before we can crawl.