FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker testified yesterday before the House Aviation Subcommittee about drone safety. After explaining the proliferation of small drones in airspace, Whitaker talked about the “No Drone Zone” and “Know Before You Fly” educational campaigns that the agency has launched in an effort to raise awareness of drone safety issues.
Whitaker then stressed several times the punitive enforcement efforts that the agency has begun to pursue against drone operators.
“…we firmly believe that education and enforcement must go hand-in-hand. Our preference is for people to voluntarily comply with regulations, but we won’t hesitate to take strong enforcement actions against anyone who flies an unmanned aircraft in an unsafe or illegal manner,” Whitaker stated. “When we identify an operator who endangers other aircraft – or people and property on the ground – we will work with our local law enforcement partners to prosecute these activities.”
He also said that the FAA’s proposed 1.9 million fine against SkyPan International, announced earlier this week, was a deliberate message to drone operators to work within the law. “Earlier this week, the FAA proposed a $1.9 million civil penalty against a company that knowingly conducted dozens of unauthorized flights over Chicago and New York. This sends a clear message to others who might pose a safety risk: operate within the law or we will take action,” said Whitaker.
The agency’s partnership with CACI International, also announced, would seem to enable the FAA’s pursuit of drone operators, as they test CACI’s technology to identify drones within a 5 mile radius of airports, tracking them back to operators.
During the testimony, Whitaker acknowledged that the agency needs to make progress on finalizing the rules for drones, saying that the agency has “taken a number of concrete steps,” toward this goal.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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