Section 2201


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

FAA Reauthorization of 2016 – Amendments to the FMRA

FESSA of 2016 amendments to the FMRA of 2012

The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (“FESSA”) added new material governing unmanned aircraft but also amended two sections of the FMRA that were applicable to unmanned aircraft. Section 2201 (definitions) is really just amending the definitions (Section 331) from the FMRA.  The original portions of the bill amending the language is clunky to read  (“amending – (1) in paragraph (6) by inserting ‘, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft’ after ’55 pounds’) so I just updated the definitions from Section 331 of the FMRA in this post to read correctly. Bold is new language and strikethrough is deleted lanugage. The actual raw text is located at the bottom of the page.

This post is part of an overall FAA reauthorization of 2016 (“FESSA”) & drones series of blog posts.

Section 331 Definitions Amended:

Paragraph 6

The term ‘‘small unmanned aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft.

My Commentary: I think the reason why this was clarified was that many individuals who were new to unmanned aircraft did not understand the idea of max takeoff weight while Part 61 pilots already would. E.g. 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 says, “Small aircraft means aircraft of 12,500 pounds or less, maximum certificated takeoff weight.”

Paragraph 7

This paragraph was completely stricken and replaced with:

(7) TEST RANGE.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘test range’ means a defined geographic area where research and development are conducted as authorized by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

(B) INCLUSIONS.—The term ‘test range’ includes any of the 6 test ranges established by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration under section 332(c), as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this subparagraph, and any public entity authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration as an unmanned aircraft system flight test center before January 1, 2009.

My Commentary:You might be wondering why the whole “before January 1, 2009” thing was included. Many people do not know that there was a FAA UAS test site BEFORE the creation of the FMRA and the 6 test sites that were designated under it. The New Mexico State University Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center was created as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the FAA.

Section 332 Amended:

Section 332(c) of the FMRA was amended[1] to say:

ESTABLISHMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at 6 test ranges. The program shall terminate 5 years after the date of enactment of this Act on September 30, 2019.

My Commentary: The program was only expected to go until 2017 but I guess Congress feels the FAA needs to do more testing.

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Actual Text of Section 2201

SEC. 2201. DEFINITIONS.
(a) DEFINITIONS APPLIED.—In this subtitle, the terms ‘‘unmanned aircraft’’, ‘‘unmanned aircraft system’’, and ‘‘small unmanned aircraft’’ have the meanings given those terms in section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note), as amended by this Act.
(b) FAA MODERNIZATION AND REFORM ACT.—Section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (6) by inserting ‘‘, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft’’ after ‘‘55 pounds’’; and

(2) by striking paragraph (7) and inserting the  following:

‘‘(7) TEST RANGE.—
‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘test range’ means a defined geographic area where research and development are conducted as authorized by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
‘‘(B) INCLUSIONS.—The term ‘test range’ includes any of the 6 test ranges established by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Ad ministration under section 332(c), as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this subparagraph, and any public entity authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration as an unmanned aircraft system flight test center before January 1, 2009.’’.

[1] Section 1102(i).