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Huerta talks dronesHuerta talks drones

FAA forms new committee

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced May 4 a new permanent advisory committee on drones, and the easing of rules for students and schools. Huerta, speaking at Xponential 2016 in New Orleans, said drones can soon be flown for education without a Section 333 approval.
A small, remotely controlled DJI Phantom drone with a built-in camera hovers in the sky. iStock Photo.

Huerta, speaking at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Xpontential 2016 conference in New Orleans, said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will be chairman of the newly formed advisory committee on drones, with additional members to be announced (and subject to FAA approval). The committee will be a permanent group of stakeholders advising the agency on matters related to the safe integration of drones.

“Input from stakeholders is critical to our ability to achieve that perfect balance between integration and safety,” Huerta said in a news release. “We know that our policies and overall regulation of this segment of aviation will be more successful if we have the backing of a strong, diverse coalition.”

Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics(RTCA), a nonprofit association that dates to 1935, will assist in committee membership selection, the FAA noted on the agency website. The UAS Advisory Committee (also referred to as the Drone Advisory Council) will advise the FAA on a variety of matters and issues related to drone integration. Unlike past advisory committees created to advise the FAA on drone registration and the operation of small drones near people, the new committee will be permanent, or at least “long-lasting,” the agency said.

The FAA legal department issued a May 4 memo detailing a legal interpretation which clarifies that the use of drones in a classroom setting does not require students or teachers to secure approval for those activities through the Section 333 petition process, and that educational use of drones falls instead under Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which applies to recreational and hobby use of drones, and is subject to the requirements and rules for hobby operations.

The FAA press release phrased the easing of educational drone requirements as a "plan" to facilitate future educational drone use, though the interpretation itself suggests that schools and universities can begin such activity without further agency action.

“Schools and universities are incubators for tomorrow’s great ideas, and we think this is going to be a significant shot in the arm for innovation,” Huerta said in the May 4 news release.

The FAA legal interpretation posted online notes that the document was drafted ahead of the release of a final rule governing commercial drone operation (Part 107, Operation and Certification of Small UAS), which is expected to be released in the coming weeks, and “this interpretation may need to be revisited depending on its provisions.”

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Unmanned Aircraft, FAA Information and Services, Technology

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