UND researchers publish attention-getting article about UAS regulation

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News Article

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Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


The attention of the national unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) community is regularly turning to the University of North Dakota's UAS efforts.

Among the topics of greatest interest is the regulation of the research, deployment and use of UAS.

Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Straub and two colleagues -- Joe Vacek, an attorney and associate professor of aviation at UND, and John Nordlie, a UND instructor in Computer Science -- recently produced an article for the leading aviation law journal Air & Space Law. Both departments are part of the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

"We wrote about a topic of current intense national interest: UAS regulation," said Straub. "The logistics of deploying these aircraft, particularly outside of a test site area, are exceedingly challenging. Basically, there still are a lot of impediments to deploying UAS."

Straub said he and his co-authors recognized that some uses of UAS are generally recognized as OK, some are not, and some fall into legal gray areas.

"In fact, a lot of UAS usage is still untested in terms of the law," Straub said. "The question is how to regulate UAS? What model are we going to follow? Right now, for example, you can fly a high-altitude balloon with a light payload in certain configurations up to 12 pounds with no permit. Also you can go buy an ultralight aircraft and fly it around with no permit or license -- within certain limits."

Straub explains why the authors think this is important.

"What we propose in our article is an approach that intentionally deregulates small UAS operations in the United States in a manner similar to how high-altitude balloons and ultralight aircraft are currently operated," Straub said.

"Our article also considers the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) authority to regulate unmanned aircraft vehicles and suggests several approaches for overcoming the possible constitutional challenge to the regulation of aircraft operations at low altitudes," Straub said.

The article is being published later this month in Air & Space Law.