FAA Names Members of High-Level Drone Advisory Committee

 - August 31, 2016, 9:44 PM
CEO Brian Krzanich displays the Aero Ready to Fly drone at Intel Developer Forum on August 16. (Photo: Intel Corporation)

The FAA has named 35 business, association, municipal and academic leaders to serve on a new Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) to advise it on introducing unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. RTCA, a not-for-profit organization that functions as a federal advisory body to the FAA, announced the membership on August 31.

The committee’s first public meeting is scheduled for September 16 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta revealed the agency’s plan to establish a drone committee representing industry at the Xponential 2016 conference in New Orleans in May. He said he had asked Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who is a pilot, to serve as its chairman. The DAC is modeled on the high-level NextGen Advisory Committee the FAA formed in 2010—also under RTCA’s auspices—to advise it on ATC modernization.

Innovation in unmanned aircraft systems "is moving at the speed of Silicon Valley. So it only makes sense that we asked a Silicon Valley leader to help us with this important step,” Huerta said in May. The DAC “is intended to be a long-lasting group that will essentially serve the same purpose as the FAA’s NextGen Advisory Committee,” he added.

“The NAC has helped the FAA hone in on improvements that mean the most to the industry and has helped build broad support for our overall direction. And we envision the drone advisory panel playing the same role on UAS integration, including helping us prioritize our work.”

RTCA announced the following members of the committee: Greg Agvent, CNN; Deborah Ale Flint, Los Angeles World Airports; Juan Alonso, Stanford University; Mark Baker, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Jaz Banga, Airspace Technologies; Linden Blue, General Atomics; Robert Boyd, Riley County, Kan.; Tim Canoll, Air Line Pilots Association; Nancy Egan, 3D Robotics; Trish Gilbert, National Air Traffic Controllers Association; Martin Gomez-Vesclir, Facebook; Todd Graetz, BNSF Railway; David Green, Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics; Ryan Hartman, Insitu; Robert Isom, American Airlines; and Gur Kimchi, Amazon Prime Air.

Also named were: Ed Lee, mayor of San Francisco; Nancy Leveson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dave Mathewson, Academy of Model Aeronautics; Nan Mattai, Rockwell Collins; Houston Mills, UPS; Marily Mora, Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority; Christopher Penrose, AT&T; Steven Rush, Professional Helicopter Pilots Association; Lillian Ryals, MITRE Corporation; Robie Samanta Roy, Lockheed Martin; Paola Santana, Matternet; Ed Sayadian, Harris Corporation; Brendan Schulman, DJI Technology; Phil Straub, Garmin International; Dave Vos, Google X; Brian Wynne, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International;  Robert Young, PrecisionHawk; Matthew Zuccaro, Helicopter Association International.


The list of folks chosen for the Drone Advisory Committee is impressive but lacking on critical element of expertise - a trained aviation safety expert with aircraft accident investigation skills, and who is knowledgeable in drone operations, a certificated drone pilot and user of a drone. It is evident that this group has a diverse background and can discuss flight operations and limitations, but like full scale aircraft, there will be serious incidents and accidents that must be dissected to understand the root causes and determine the appropriate applications of the lessons-learned to improve safety.

I applaud the fact that the DAC was created but it should have some qualified aviation safety expertise.

Gregory Feith
Former NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator