The Federal Aviation Administration has long emphasized its safety culture, and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson hammered that safety message home during an FAA keynote at the 2020 Commercial UAV Expo, which was held virtually this week.
“Just like traditional aviation, this industry must show that it can be safely integrated into the national airspace,” Dickson said in his keynote message. “Safety is the FAA’s mission, and as a drone community, it must be your mission too. If you operate a drone, you are a pilot, just like I am. And just one clueless, careless, or reckless drone pilot, in the wrong place at the wrong time, could threaten others in the airspace or on the ground.”
Dickson pointed to examples that he fears could threaten the national airspace, such as situations where unauthorized drones enter the airspace as helicopters are responding to wildfires (it’s illegal to fly drones over wildfires).
The FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program
Dickson also used his keynote to promote the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (referred to as IPP), which is a program where the government collaborates with state, local, and tribal communities across the United States to conduct and evaluate real world drone operations. Among the participants in the FAA’s IPP program are UPS and Wing, which are both now FAA-certified air carrier operators for drone package deliveries.
“From our IPP operations, we’re seeing drones deliver value to the lives of everyday citizens,” Dickson said. “And the FAA is learning a great deal about how we can safely enable drone use and integrate these aircraft into the national airspace system.”
Top of mind for many in the drone industry: Remote ID. Remote ID is a proposed system that would require electronic license plates to help identify drones. And the FAA is in the midst of establishing a Remote ID requirement.
“We’re considering these comments carefully,” he said.
Dickson said the FAA is in the process of finalizing the rule now, and expects to publish a final rule by the end of the year.
And the finalization of that rule is expected to help propel other drones rules, including the Operations Over People final rule, which will allow drone pilots to operate over people and at night on a routine basis.
“We plan to complete these rule changes by the end of this year as well,” Dickson said. “What’s becoming clear is that anyone can do Part 107, but that’s not enough. We’re seeing its limits now.”
The FAA also added that it expects the commercial drone industry to grow, citing data that it expects to have 800,000 registered commercial drones by 2024 (twice as many as there were in 2019).
Watch the entire keynote from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, delivered as part of the 2020 Commercial UAV Expo, here: