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“FAA Reauthorization bill: a welcome change to include third party service providers in AAM” – AURA

“AURA applauds the Senate Commerce Committee for passing the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023,” said Brian Regan, AURA Network Systems Chief Legal & Regulatory Officer. “This bill reinforces the dedication to modernizing the National Airspace System (NAS), advancing aviation safety, and maintaining U.S. leadership in Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS). AURA particularly appreciates the Committee’s inclusion of a critical technical change during the markup.

“Third-party service providers, such as AURA, deliver safety-critical operational support for autonomous aircraft in controlled and uncontrolled airspace,” said Brian Regan. “Recognizing the broader scope of AAM operations, the Committee’s small, but significant, language change will result in an approval process for all third-party services that are required for safe and successful UAS operations. This approach is paramount for the entire ecosystem of third-party service providers upon which AAM operators rely. By improving predictability for operators and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and by creating a clear path to approval for third-party service providers, this change enhances FAA efficiency and expedites progress within the AAM sector. We are grateful for the foresight shown by the Committee, as this bill represents a catalyst for the next generation of aviation.”

In a letter of September 2023 from AURA, AUVSI, Merlin Labs, Reliable Robotics, SkyGrid, and Wisk to the Committee drafting the bill, industry representatives outlined their concerns with the previous proposals.  

Third-party service providers deliver critical operational support for autonomous aircraft in controlled and uncontrolled airspace,” said the letter. “Third-party services include, but are not limited to, the connectivity to and from the aircraft and ground for telemetry and remote pilot control, voice connectivity between a pilot on the ground and air traffic control, telemetry data necessary for flight operations, and Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) traffic management (UTM)….But to date, there is no process to approve third-party services, and the FAA does not have a clear mandate from Congress to create one.”

The amended draft contains a fuller acknowledgement of the role of third-party service providers in supporting more complex beyond visual line of sight operations.

More information about third-party services can be found in AURA’s white paper, “Enabling Communications for Advanced Air Mobility: Technologies, Services, and Policies.”

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