Acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell, in a keynote address to the InterDrone convention in Las Vegas, took dead aim at the 2012 federal law that limits regulation of recreational drone use.
While Elwell did not mention Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act by name, his speech to the conference billed as North America’s largest drone show, with an expected attendance of 3,000 people, included a very clear critique of that law.
“The National Airspace System is no place for hide and seek,” Elwell said. “Right now, the FAA’s hands are tied.”
Without being able to require remote identification of every drone through Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or other electronic means, “full integration just isn’t possible,” Elwell aid. “Congress knows that this is an issue. As soon as this gets resolved, rest assured we’re ready to move forward as quickly as possible.”
Concerns expressed by law enforcement and national security agencies have delayed by years a plan to allow broader use of drones, including flights over people, which still require a waiver subject to review, with approvals given to very few (so far) who have been able to satisfy performance-based standards.
Elwell said the FAA, and the federal government as a whole, is eager to facilitate drone integration and advanced missions such as package delivery that will require moving beyond the limits currently imposed under Part 107. He called on conference attendees to collaborate with each other, the FAA, and the wider aviation community to ensure that a proliferation of drones will not undermine decades of progress on aviation safety. He noted that various manned aviation groups, including the Commercial Aviation Safety Team and the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee have helped create a culture where safety innovations are shared freely, and the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team has been working toward the same goal for unmanned aviation.
“Share what you’re doing at events like this in the world of safety,” Elwell said. “I truly believe you’re going to find the most success more quickly if you work together.”
Elwell said that many of the firms working in the unmanned aviation industry are already doing just that, and he encouraged others in the packed convention hall in Las Vegas to follow that lead.
“I think it’s time we end the therapy sessions. You’ve proven that unmanned aircraft are here to stay, and I think, I hope, the FAA has proven that we’re 100 percent committed to making you part of the national airspace,” Elwell said. “This is more than a work in progress, this is a success story in the making. I’m confident of that. You are giving me all the reasons in the world to keep thinking that.”