At AUVSI and the FAA’s co-hosted UAS Symposium event, speakers agreed on the rapid development of the drone industry. Safety, however, remained a primary concern.
Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president and deputy U.S. technology officer, said that the administration offered their full support for drone integration. Saying that he expected the 75,000 commercial drone registrations to grow “fivefold” over the next five years, Kratsios commented: “We’ve never seen such a massive adoption of new vehicles taking to the sky at such a rapid pace.”
But as discussions of commercial adoption, regulations and integration into the airspace continued, safety remained a primary concern for all parties.
FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell said that the next 12 -18 months would be a critical period in drone integration as the agency expands the LAANC program and works towards regulation on BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) flight. But Elwell said that remote ID and tracking was a key piece of drone integration. AUVSI reports that Elwell said not only that ID and tracking was important, but that all drones would need to be included:
“If you want to fly in the system, you have to be identifiable, and you have to follow the rules,” he said, which will need to apply to hobbyist aircraft as well, because “one malicious act could put a hard stop on all the hard work we’ve done on drone integration.”
AUVSI says that other officials agree. “Angela Stubblefield, the deputy associate administrator for the FAA, said tracking and identifying drone is a key factor for airspace integration, as the agency deals with ‘the clueless, the careless and the criminals.’”
“With manned aircraft, you can see a tail number, but right now identifying a drone operator is more difficult. A drone flying over power infrastructure might cause concern, she said, but if the FAA could tell that it was owned by a utility or a railroad, it would ease those concerns.”
Throughout the event, participants tweeting questions and answers expressed concern over recent “rogue drone” reports, with some participants asking for age requirements on drone flights and others calling for stricter enforcement of existing regulations.