At the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference held in Austin Monday, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta promised that the FAA was evolving their approach for drone integration.
In his opening remarks, Huerta said that the FAA has “already made significant progress on several important initiatives” including the registration system and the micro-drone aviation rule making committee (ARC.)
Calling the registration system “robust,” Huerta said that the system has processed nearly 400,000 registrations, and credits the success of the system with the committee-based approach that the FAA took in establishing it.
“We have a successful registration system because we – the FAA – knew that we couldn’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone. We set up a diverse task force to develop recommendations for what the system should look like,” said Huerta. He introduced the micro drone ARC by saying that the registration task force was the model for the committee: “This is a notable departure from how we have traditionally approached safety, and it reflects our firm belief that being flexible and open-minded is key to successfully integrating new technologies into the world’s busiest, most complex – and safest–aviation system. The UAS registration task force was the model for this rulemaking committee, which now includes more than two-dozen aviation stakeholders.”
In addition to the micro drone ARC, Huerta promised the audience completion of small UAS rules by “this spring.” The drone industry has been waiting for the publication of small UAS rules since last year, as the FAA missed their original stated deadline in September of 2015. The small UAS rules would allow a framework for commercial operation which would eliminate the current system of issuing Section 333 Exemptions for commercial use on a case by case basis.
Huerta acknowledged that drone integration is a moving target, and promised that the FAA is trying to speed up the process and change their approach.
… when you’re a safety agency like the FAA, a methodical and deliberative approach is necessary. But at the same time, we are working to change the traditional speed of government – when possible–by anticipating what’s coming next and maintaining a flexible regulatory approach. Remember that ad from the 1980s with the tag line, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”? Well, we’re trying hard not to be your father’s FAA.
The remarks seem to address current criticism that the FAA is outdated and inefficient. Recent OIG reports of inefficiencies prompted the House proposal to privatize 80% of the FAA’s workforce; both the House and Senate Reathorization proposals have emphasized the need to get drone integration done quickly. Huerta ended his remarks by reassuring participants that the FAA is working on getting it done, saying:
Integrating UAS has been a fascinating and energizing journey, and I am confident that by continuing to work closely together, we will benefit from the virtually limitless potential this segment of aviation brings to our increasingly connected society. And we will do so as safely and as expeditiously as possible.
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 a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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