FAA committee established as changes to UAS regulatory process take effect

The Federal Aviation Administration () is forming a broad-based advisory committee with ‘s CEO in the lead. Students will also be able to follow an easier path to fly unmanned aerial systems () for the purpose to complete their coursework. Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator, gave the two announcements during his keynote speech at this year’s Xponential, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International () conference.

The need for regulations and safety stems from the rapid growth of drones being sold and flown in national airspace, says Huerta during his speech. He predicts an estimated seven million drones will be flying by 2020. Drones are changing society with the effects showing in the film industry, agriculture, among other industries. The advisory committee not only stems from the growing need for regulations, but it’s also an outgrowth of the previous MicroUAS aviation rule-making committee. The major difference between the two is that this will be a long-lasting panel that will help prioritize the challenges of integration and improve the process.

Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich will chair the committee, with an official group name to be announced in the near future. The broad-based advisory committee will have three levels of priority:

  1. Safety and how to safely enable drone flying in national airspace
  2. Integration and how emerging technology can be safely and rapidly introduced
  3. Global leadership

Huerta says the FAA’s section 333 is also changing. It provides a way for operators to safely and legally fly their drones in airspace and is a way for authorities to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required or not. The changes apply to students, who will no longer need the exemption to fly their drones.

In the future, section 333 will continue to change and evolve. Its stringent rules will relax as innovation continues to outpace regulations. Huerta says that it’s unrealistic for anyone to anticipate where innovation is going as no one can corner the market on innovation. The real challenge is how society adapts and responds to it.

Other changes that have happened over the past few months are the move from a paper based system to an online system for drone operators to register their vehicle and the FAA authorized the first drone operation at night to Industrial Skyworks USA.

According to Huerta, collaboration is key. This industry goes far beyond the traditional aviation industry and identifying all points of view is important. “Input from stakeholders is critical to our ability to achieve that perfect balance between integration and safety,” Huerta says. “We know that our policies and overall regulation of this segment of aviation will be more successful if we have the backing of a strong, diverse coalition.”

Going forward, the FAA wants to focus on the bigger challenges for unmanned aircraft, which are command and control, sense and avoid technology, the certification process, and how frequencies are managed. Huerta says he would love to have more money to tackle issues and it is about establishing priorities. Long-term clear authorization from Congress is needed to keep all work on track.

In order to deal the millions of unmanned vehicles that will be take over the skies Huerta states that the best way to manage is to adopt the same culture that traditional aviation has put in place. Educating people on what the rules are comes first and growing a safety culture comes second. The industry can help demonstrate what is good practice and bad behavior. Working as a community to act against bad behavior will help with enforcing all the rules.

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