FAA Chief: Drones Are the Next Internet

 - September 6, 2018, 6:58 PM

“Drones are going to do for aviation what the internet did for information,” acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said yesterday and called on the industry to work with the FAA to fully integrate them into the National Airspace System. 

Giving the keynote address at the InterDrone conference in Las Vegas, Elwell said it is up to industry to not just make a business case for UAS operations but also a safety case, noting that public and law enforcement have legitimate safety concerns. “The public has very real and justified questions about these aircraft. And their concerns can’t just be swept under the rug. If we want this technology to take hold, we’ve got to take these questions head on,” he said. “Everyone’s interested in drone operations at night and over people. But we need to address the concerns that our national security and law enforcement partners have first.” 

Elwell again took issue with the lax regulation of recreational drones compared to commercial operations. “Until we can set remote ID requirements that will be universally applied to every drone, until we can make sure everyone is following the same rules inside the system, full integration just isn’t possible,” he said. “The fact is that a lot of safety problems require technological solutions. And that means we need buy-in from all of you. The innovators. The inventors. The out-of-the-box thinkers.”

He said the FAA is ready to move now and to move quickly to enable the drone industry to grow with initiatives including the current UAS integration pilot program. “The FAA has spent decades working with airlines, manufacturers, and countless others to get where we are now. We’re ready to use everything we’ve learned so that the drone industry can reach its full potential as quickly as possible,” Elwell said. “We’re building flexible, responsive regulatory processes that can keep up with all your creativity while ensuring safety isn’t compromised.”