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
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.
2017 Legislative Session:
- Defeating overly broad criminal penalties: Successfully amended legislation (HB 1602) that would have established broad new criminal and civil penalties for “invasion of privacy” and trespass by an unmanned aerial vehicle. The bill was ultimately defeated in the House.
- Defending the industry from unreasonable criminal and civil penalties: Successfully lobbied to defeat a bill seeking to protect “critical infrastructure” from intrusion by unmanned aerial vehicle (HB 2197). Although well intentioned, the bill failed to provide reasonable notice as to what was considered “critical infrastructure”, creating significant legal exposure for business.
- Establishing “first in the country” legislation to promote use of unmanned delivery devices: Successfully lobbied to pass the first land-based electronic personal delivery device legislation in the country (SB 1207/HB 2016).
- Helping provide clear statewide lines of authority regarding the regulation of UAS: Crafted amendments, which were adopted in the final bill, to clarify the airspace controlled by a fire department during an incident response (SB 873).