The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) achieved a major step towards integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into US skies with the recent release of operational rules for routine use of small drones, which will take effect at the end of this month.
Speaking at the White House’s first-ever drone workshop on Tuesday, FAA Director Michael Huerta said the FAA hopes to continue to keep pace with the commercial drone industry, knowing that the agency cannot respond “at the speed of government.”
“America has the most complex airspace in the world – and it’s the FAA’s job to ensure the safety of it for the public and everyone who wants to use it,” said Huerta. “We need to incorporate unmanned aircraft and their users into our culture of safety and responsibility. But we need to do it in a way that doesn’t stifle the enthusiasm for this growing industry.”
During the workshop held by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Huerta outlined several FAA initiatives geared towards safely integrating drones into the nation’s airspace, including the agency’s plan to propose rules for the use of drones over people by the end of this year.
The FAA has also formed a Drone Advisory Committee and Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team, which rely substantially on collaboration between key stakeholders from the drone and aviation industries, to develop new drone regulations and strategies to mitigate threats.
“Some have called the birth of the unmanned aircraft industry the ‘Wright Brothers moment’ of our time – and that may be so,” said Huerta. “But if there’s one thing I am sure of, it’s that the only limit to this technology is imagination – and our nation has no shortage of that.”
Other key announcements expanding on the FAA’s small UAS initiative include: $35 million from the National Science Foundation to support drone research and development; a $5 million down-payment by the state of New York to support drone growth across the state; and use of drones by the Department of the Interior to support search-and-rescue operations.
The success of these initiatives hinges on collaboration between government and industry. Huerta cited the FAA’s creation of a drone registration system in just a matter of weeks as an example of what can be accomplished through these kinds of partnerships. The agency has registered more than 500,000 hobbyists in eight months.
“Safely integrating drones into our airspace is one of the FAA’s top priorities, and we’re determined to get it right. It’s essential for our economy, and our role as a global aviation leader,” said Huerta. “I’m confident that by working closely with our partners in the aviation industry and the unmanned aircraft community, we will succeed – and continue being a model for the rest of the world.”