FAA at Industrial UAV Expo Keynotes

Commercial UAV Expo kicked off in Las Vegas this week.  Today, the traditional keynote featured industry leaders addressing some of the most important questions of the day: including what the FAA plans for drone integration – and what will happen with the Remote ID for Drones rule, scheduled to be implemented for operators on September 16, 2023.

The keynote, moderated by Commercial Drone Alliance Execuitve Director and Hogan Lovells Partner and Leader of the Global UAS Practice Lisa Ellman, featured the FAA’s David Boulter, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety.

How Will the FAA Enable the Next Generation of Flight?

Ellman began the keynote by acknowledging industry frustration with FAA processes and rulemaking, which has seemed to stall around issues such as flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and type certification.

“We all are here because we share a common goal,” said Ellman.  “…The advancement of drone technology benefits all Americans.”

“While the technology has moved quickly forward, regulations… have lagged behind,” Ellman said.  “The FAA continues to view FAA integration as a ‘long road ahead,’…America is falling behind our global competitors.”

Ellman outlined some critical steps that the government can take in the next few months:

  1. Promote an FAA Reauthorization Bill that will move our industry forward
  2. The Executive Branch should establish that it is the policy of the US to lead the world in uncrewed technology
  3. The FAA must streamline its processes to enable UAS integration

While expressing the sentiment of the industry, Ellman did bring a note of optimism to her address, saying that the agency has been taking significant action in recent months to meet those goals.  “I can assure you that there is a lot of progress happening behind the scenes at the FAA,.. that is encouraging.”

The FAA on Moving Forward on Drone Integration

David Boulter is open to drone technology, and he acknowledges the needs of the industry. “This is a collaborative process,” Boulter said.  “We know we’ve been moving too slow in this space.”

While the FAA motto is to run the safest, most efficient airspace in the world: Boulter notes that for enabling new technology: “Our goal is to find the balance between the safety and efficiency.”

“We need to adopt risk-based decision making – and things that are low risk, we need to do as many of those operations as we can,” says Boulter.

To that end, Boulter outlines the priorities for drone integration:

  1. Clarify Agency Policies.  “We need to make sure that the agency has a policy, we need an agency approach,” Boulter said. With disparate teams in type certification, flight permissions, and more, Boulter says that all aspects of integration need to be looked at as a package.
  2. Develop an “All of government” approach.  As progress can be halted when different government agencies have different priorities, Boulter said that a unified “all of government” approach to issues of drone integration would help move policies forward.
  3. Provide Answers.  “We are public servants – we owe you an answer,” said Boulter.  “We don’t owe you an answer that you want, but we owe you an answer so that you can make business decisions and move on.”
  4. Gather more data.  “The unknown is high risk,” Boulter points out.  “We need data for effective rulemaking.”

“The more we know, the better we are,” said Boulter.  “We look at modern safety systems as a relationship, based on trust and transparency: that transparency is data,”

Remote ID: Relief is in Sight

One of the most critical questions for the FAA this week concerns Remote ID.  The deadline for operators is September 16, 2023: by which date operators must equip their aircraft with an external remote ID module, or fly a remote ID certified aircraft.   As the data approaches, however, many commercial operators have found that external modules are unavailable for shipping, and firmware updates for their existing fleet are not yet ready.  Technical considerations, such as the ability to turn off the capability for sensitive public safety or government operations, have not been addressed.

Boulter says that the FAA is cognizant of the issues, and is working on delivering a message to address them.  “You’re going to get relief – we just don’t know what that relief looks like yet,” said Boulter.  “I know it’s late in the game, but we will have relief.”

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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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