The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hosted the hearing, entitled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Innovation, Integration, Successes, and Challenges,” this morning.
Chairman Thune introduced the hearing, setting a positive tone towards speeding up drone integration and working toward incorporating supports for integration in the permanent FAA Reauthorization Bill. Thune also recognized industry’s significant role: “… importantly, the industry, from manufacturers to software developers to practical users, continues to innovate,” said Thune. “While there is no silver bullet, safety technologies, including geofencing, altitude limitations, and sense and avoid capabilities, have the ability to continue to improve the safe operations of unmanned aircraft—technological achievements which may someday be used to improve safety in manned aviation.”
Ranking member Bill Nelson agreed that the advance of technology could help, but his written statement set the tone of “safety first” by saying that while commercial drones hold “great technological promise,” they raise “important questions concerning safety and security.” In addition to mentioning reported near misses around airports, the Senator introduced the spectre of drones and terrorism, saying that he is “concerned by the prospect of drones being usurped by terrorists to target critical infrastructure and Department of Defense sites around the country.”