The Unmanned Systems Association of Virginia (USAV) was formed in 2016 to serve as a statewide organization representing air, land, and sea unmanned systems companies with an immediate charge of lobbying to ensure Virginia remains the top state for the unmanned systems industry. Below is recap of USAV’s legislative successes, which have led to significant inroads toward the association’s goal of protecting the industry and advancing Virginia’s leadership in this sector.
2020 Legislative Session:
- Preserving Industry’s Commercial Abilities Against Municipal Overreach. HB742 (Bulova), as originally introduced, would have authorized a political subdivision to regulate the take-off and landing of unmanned aircraft on property owned by the political subdivision. USAV worked closely with the bill patron to ensure that exemptions for public safety and commercial use were added to the legislation and helped ensure a greater level of uniformity for those operators who do not meet the exemption criteria, by successfully working with the patron to task the Department of Aviation with promulgating one uniform standard by developing regulations governing local take-offs and landings. The Governor has signed the bill with USAV’s amendments.
- Defeating a Tax on UAS. SB356 (Cosgrove) as originally introduced, extended the number of days (from 60 to 90) in which an aircraft may be located in the Commonwealth during a calendar year before registering with the Dept. of Aviation. The legislation was amended mid-way through the session to require to require UAS to pay Virginia’s aircraft sales and use tax. USAV worked closely with the Governor’s office in preparation for the reconvened session and the bill was amended to remove all harmful impacts to UAS.
- Protecting UAS Systems Against Expanded Felony Charges. HB345 (Wyatt) sought to prohibit any person from knowingly and intentionally causing an unmanned aircraft from coming within a distance of 500 feet or vertical distance of 250 feet from any local or state correctional facility and sought to increase to a Class 6 felony the use of a drone to deliver, attempt to deliver, or conspire with another to deliver any controlled substance or marijuana to a prisoner confined in a local or state correctional facility. The bill did not pass.
- Protecting UAS Systems Against Expanded Criminal Charges. HB118 (Knight) provided that a person who knowingly and intentionally caused an unmanned aircraft system to come within 400 feet of the lateral boundaries of any local or state correctional facility would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. USAV participated in lobbying the bill and it did not pass.
- Ensuring the Future of Autonomous Sidewalk Vehicles. SB748 (Marsden) USAV actively supported legislation to better ensure a greater number of unmanned personal delivery devices are able to operate on Virginia’s sidewalks. USAV lobbied in support of the bill and the Governor signed the legislation on 4/22/20.
- Protecting the Future of Autonomous Vehicles in Virginia. HB 874 (Bourne),While well-intentioned, distracted driving legislation can have serious impacts on the industry’s ability to grow the autonomous motor vehicle (AV) sector, by placing broad prohibitions on all moving vehicles, without creating exceptions for vehicles operating in autonomous mode. During the 2020 legislative session, 14 bills were introduced that sought to create limits on the use of hand-held devices. USAV worked closely with our members to ensure that the language in the bills was narrow and did not inadvertently capture vehicles operating in autonomous mode. The Governor signed the bill.
- Protecting Against Cyber Security Policies that Impede the Growth of Autonomous Systems. While neither HB 68 (Carter) or HB 473 (Sickles) made it out of the committees to which they were assigned, USAV closely monitored the progress of these bills to ensure there were no impacts on unmanned systems. As introduced, HB68 sought to prohibit an original equipment manufacturer of a digital device from deactivating software. Given the broad definition of digital device, USAV had concerns that unmanned technology could be impacted. HB473 sought to put in place numerous measures regarding the collection and transparency of personal data, which could have unintended consequences on the data collected by unmanned systems. USAV will continue to monitor related issues and engage as necessary on these types of issues.
2019 Legislative Session:
- Expanding the Use of UAS by Law Enforcement. SB1507 (Carrico): SB1507 as passed provides that a law-enforcement officer may deploy an unmanned aircraft system (i) to aerially survey a primary residence of the subject of the arrest warrant to formulate a plan to execute an existing arrest warrant or capias for a felony offense or (ii) to locate a person sought for arrest when such person has fled from a law-enforcement officer and a law-enforcement officer remains in hot pursuit of such person. USAV supported the legislation.
- Protecting Against Expanded Criminal Charges. HB1636 (Knight): HB1636 as originally introduced sought to make it a misdemeanor for UAS that entered (within one mile) the airspace of a military airfield or helicopter landing zone. USAV worked with the patron on an amendment that ensured only UAS in violation of FAA Special Security Instructions or UAS Security Sensitive Airspace Restrictions could be guilty of a misdemeanor. The bill was signed with USAV’s amendment.
- Promoting the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Leader in UAS. SJ347 (Cosgrove) and HR303 & (Yancey): The resolution, which USAV advanced and which successfully passed both the Senate and House, recognize the Center for Innovative Technology and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, along with the Counties of Buckingham, Cumberland, Loudoun, Montgomery, Prince Edward, Wise, as well as Google Wing, Intel, AT&T, Airbus Aerial, state Farm, Dominion Energy, Sinclair Broadcast Group and HAZON Solutions, for their work to successfully compete for the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program in which Virginia was selected as one of only ten sites to test and perform some of the most complex unmanned vehicle flight testing ever attempted in the United States.
- Protecting the Future of Autonomous Vehicles in Virginia. SB1341(Stuart) and HB1811 (Collins): While neither SB1341 or HB1811 ultimately passed, the bills sought to put in place provisions to prohibit drivers from holding a mobile phone was driving a motor vehicle. USAV tracked the legislation to ensure no unintended consequences on autonomous vehicles.
2018 Legislative Session:
- Establishing a uniform framework for unmanned aerial regulation. One of the top concerns USAV heard from its members was the complicated compliance scenario of each locality, park authority, school board, etc. adopting its own rules and regulations, many of which could be in violation of federal law. USAV quickly turned to other stakeholders and leaders in the House and Senate to introduce SB 526 (Obenshain) and HB 638 (Collins). The bills make permanent a complete prohibition on a political subdivision’s ability to regulate the use of privately owned unmanned aircraft systems. The bills also set out a criminal trespass provision targeted at “bad actors,” which continue to generate challenges with respect to policy discussions with members of the General Assembly.
- Working to integrate unmanned aerial systems in the public airspace. USAV supported SB 307 (Cosgrove), which directs the Department of Aviation to convene a work group, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and other responsible agencies, to explore issues related to the integration of UAS into the Commonwealth’s airspace. This will be an important study over the course of 2018 and USAV will work with its members to ensure industry is represented.
- Generating procurement opportunities within the Commonwealth. USAV supported SB 508 (Carrico) and HB 1482 (Thomas), which allow unmanned aircraft to be operated without a warrant (i) by a law-enforcement officer to survey the scene of an accident for the purpose of crash reconstruction and record photographic or video images of the scene and (ii) by the Department of Transportation when assisting a law-enforcement officer to prepare a report of such accident because of personal injury, death, or property damage of $1,500 or more. Passage of this legislation opens the door for unmanned aerial crash reconstruction services purchased through a multi-state and statewide RFP issued by the Department of General Services.