Saying that his last trip to AirVenture as FAA Administrator was “bittersweet” Huerta added that in his last seven years as the leader of the FAA he had seen extraordinary things – and listed drones as the first of them. “I’ve seen drones go from being a niche and a hobby to a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching potential for industries and consumers alike,” said Huerta.
While bringing out the many accomplishments made by the aviation industry over the last years, Huerta also appeared to do something he rarely does in public speeches – fight back at some of the criticism the FAA has taken from the President and lawmakers as Congress worked on the latest FAA Reauthorization package. “All of this has occurred despite some less than extraordinary things happening as well. Since joining the FAA, the government has been shut down, we’ve dealt with the sequester, and we’ve endured the uncertainty of 23 short-term reauthorization extensions,” said Huerta. “That’s no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”
Acknowledging that air traffic modernization was needed, Huerta said that the FAA was working towards that. “At the end of the day, the FAA wants to deliver the traveling public and all airspace users a safe and efficient air traffic system that is second to none,” said Huerta.
In addition to air traffic control, the administrator touched on the issue of pre-emption: the idea that the FAA and the FAA alone should be able to regulate airspace. This is an important issue for the drone industry, as state and local governments increasingly take on drone regulations that specify where drones may fly.
“We look forward to a reauthorization that helps the FAA build on its safety record, modernize our nation’s air traffic control system, and ensure one of our nation’s most valuable assets – the air above our heads – remains available to all Americans,” commented Huerta.
Huerta’s address primarily focused, as many of his speeches in the last couple of years have, on partnership with the aviation community. “The history of general aviation in America was shaped by courageous pilots, visionary manufacturers, and safety-minded regulators working together,” said Huerta. “We all have a role to play in securing its future.”
Huerta told pilots that not only regulations but technology was changing – and that the drone industry had a part to play. “…some of the technology being developed for drones could also have profound implications for GA aircraft design,” said Huerta. “The FAA will be there to meet these game-changing ideas head on – and with a more flexible attitude.”
Maintaining his focus on the future, Huerta told pilots that the airspace was changing. “Some day in the not too distant future, your planes will still be sharing airspace with jumbo jets and helicopters – but also commercial space rockets, package delivery drones, aerial taxis, and other technologies that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.”
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.