Note: We invite drone stakeholders and drone companies to share your response to the confirmation from DOT Sec. Pete Buttigieg.
The US Senate today confirmed the appointment of former President Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation by the Biden administration. Although confirmation came only a few minutes ago (as of this writing), proponents of the drone industry, under Buttigieg’s leadership, have expressed optimism about the direction of the DOT (and the FAA).
Commercial drone policy received few mentions during the hearings – but Buttigieg’s previous stance appears to have been drone-positive. As Mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg praised the advances in wireless technology for drone technology in 2017 after Notre Dame and the city received millions in research grants from the National Science Foundation.
“We are close to the next chapter in wireless and we believe we can position South Bend as a test bed for piloting some of the most compelling wireless technologies on show,” said Buttigieg during a drone demonstration. “For example, a few days ago South Bend was the first place where control of a Wi-Fi-based drone was transferred from one base station to another.”
AUVSI celebrated Buttigieg’s exterior with a congratulatory press release:
“We’re encouraged to see a similar mindset in our newest Secretary of Transportation, as Buttigieg is known to epitomize those values during his tenure as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana,” the statement said.
“In fact, the city is a member of AUVSI and joined our ranks in 2018 under the leadership of Mayor Pete. This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the 39-year-old former Navy intelligence officer – he has a proven record of touting the benefits of autonomous systems in a variety of contexts. “
“The passion for innovation that Secretary Buttigieg is expected to bring to the DOT is very exciting for the unmanned systems industry and AUVSI looks forward to partnering with the Secretary and his staff on autonomous technology policy. Tools such as drones, autonomous vehicles and unmanned ocean-going vessels are constantly demonstrating their use, especially as we face a global pandemic. The industry will continue to drive technology adoption and public acceptance of unmanned systems, and AUVSI expects the US DOT to partner in these efforts. “
In a January column for DroneLife, Lisa Ellman, Chair of Hogan Lovells’ Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems Group and Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, urged Buttigieg to step up drone-friendly policies.
“To unleash the power of [drone] Technologies for American Health, Wealth, and Quality of Life. The Biden Harris Administration, led by Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, should act quickly to enact rules that enable and support innovative aviation technologies. “
If Buttigieg continues his predecessor Elaine Chao’s drone policies, proponents of the UAS industry may find an ally in the Biden administration. Before stepping down in protest at the Trump administration’s handling of the January Capitol insurgency, Chao established a largely friendly relationship with industry.
During her tenure, Chao helped set up several FAA programs to create a national traffic management system for drones and helped launch 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.
Buttigieg will face a vortex of conflict as Biden inherits a whirlwind of recently implemented regulations related to drones. Just days before President Trump’s final term in office, the administration passed Executive Ordinance Protecting the United States from Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which expanded US restrictions on Chinese drones. Previously, the General Services Administration had restricted drone procurement to five models of drones approved under the Department of Defense (DoD) special program.
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.
Jason began his career as a journalist in 1996 and has since written and edited thousands of exciting news articles, blog posts, press releases, and online content.
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