The US Secretary of Transportation and drone lawyer Elaine Chao resigned after the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday by pro-Trump rioters.
Chao, who has called the “safe integration of drones” a “national imperative”, announced her resignation via Twitter on Thursday.
“Yesterday our country had a traumatic and totally avoidable event when supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building after a rally he spoke to,” said Chao. “I’m sure I was deeply concerned about many of you that I just can’t put it aside.”
Chao, the wife of the current Senate majority, Mitch McConnell, is the Trump administration’s latest raid after the uprising.
After serving as acting labor secretary under President George W. Bush, Chao became Trump-appointed DOT boss in 2017.
Over the past three years, she has helped set up several FAA programs to create a national drone traffic management system and supported the launch of the Remote ID initiative.
In 2019, Chao flew a drone during a conference at the Hazard Community and Technical College in Kentucky. “Drones are being used all the time, including surveying crops, inspecting damaged homes and infrastructure, and delivering packages and medical supplies,” she later said in a speech.
“But one area where drones have and will continue to do well is search and rescue.”
Chao helped launch the FAA’s UAS integration pilot program three years ago, noting that “the possibilities for using drones are as endless as the human imagination.”
During CES 2020, Chao said drones are “useful for a variety of uses such as surveying, agriculture, search and rescue, package delivery and even passenger delivery”.
“We are working on the safe integration of drones into national airspace,” she added.
Chaos focus on expanding the drone sector for both public safety and commercial use has also been recognized by industry leaders. Following the final type certification policy recently released by the FAA, said Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI:
“I would like to congratulate FAA Administrator Steven Dickson and Secretary of the Department of Transportation Elaine Chao for continuing to show tremendous leadership in promoting growth in the unmanned sector.”
In her resignation statement, Chao said she will work with her successor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to ensure a smooth transition.
While it is not yet clear how Buttigieg will steer the DOT’s drone policy, President-elect Joe Biden may have subtly shed some light on the government’s fondness for drones – in November he ran a drone light show during his recent campaign victory ceremony.
Miriam McNabb contributed to this report.
Jason is a longtime DroneLife employee with an avid interest in all things technical. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector. Police, fire and search and rescue.
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