What the FAA is Getting Wrong on LiDAR Systems
Over the past few months, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made it increasingly difficult for operators to perform aerial LiDAR missions by classifying mapping LiDAR as a harmful laser in its proposed "Certification of Airborne Surveillance and Searchlight Systems Using Lasers or Infrared Searchlights in 14 CFR parts 27 and 29 Rotorcraft.” With the help of LiDAR manufacturers and operators that make up the MAPPS membership, the association has been working with the FAA to address this issue. Just like the "laser pointer” law that started the confusion, the MAPPS membership has been diligent in commenting on similar directives that could affect the use of LiDAR technologies.
Airborne LiDAR systems used for mapping are neither surveillance nor searchlight systems. However, language in the proposed policy that includes "installations of fully enclosed laser device...” can sweep the surveying and mapping LiDAR systems into the FAA regulatory scheme. This blanket policy, without knowledge of the niche mapping LiDAR market could affect many LiDAR businesses.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the determining government body for classification and ratings of laser systems. MAPPS member firms that are producers of airborne mapping LiDAR instrumentation all comply with 21 CFR 1040.10. These LiDAR systems are designed to be used as airborne mapping systems with careful attention to design and manufacture for the airborne environment.
MAPPS has submitted comments to the FAA on the proposed rule. Since confusion has already taken place within FAA, MAPPS is seeking a specific exemption for mapping LiDAR in 14 CFR parts 27 and 29 Rotorcraft.
Firms that manufacture LiDAR systems and geospatial professionals who perform collection services are encouraged to submit comments to the FAA prior to the August 31 deadline.