The drone community (well, some key members at least) has a message for President Donald Trump: give more power to state and local governments to experiment with ways of integrating drones, but don’t compromise the FAA’s sovereignty of the national airspace.
More than two dozen drone-related companies and organizations signed a controversial letter addressed to Trump this week calling for a pilot program to get input from states and municipalities to develop policy on UAS operations.
The letter was signed by delivery stakeholders such as Amazon, Fedex and UPS, manufacturers such as GoPro and DJI, and other organizations including AOPA and AUVSI.
“A pilot program would allow for a data-driven process, within a controlled operational environment, to explore the best options for states and municipalities to address their needs, as it relates to different types of UAS operations,” according to the letter.
But one thing the letter’s senders making clear: don’t trash the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Federal control of the airspace is a bedrock principle of aviation law that dates back over 50 years, and is the primary reason the United States maintains an aviation safety record that is the envy of the world,” the letter says. “Maintaining the FAA’s authority helps keep the skies safe for all aircraft – manned and unmanned.”
Donald Trump has previously been quite vocal in his criticism of the FAA, calling the group “out of whack” during a February 2017 conversation about the FAA’s air traffic control system.
“It’s way over budget. It’s way behind schedule,” he said. “And when it’s complete, it’s not going to be a good system. Other than that, it’s fantastic.”
But Trump has shown some interest in drone regulation. The president hosted a meeting with major drone stakeholders in June 2017 to discuss government involvement in the drone industry.
“Industry-government collaboration is critical to identifying common solutions to the industry’s greatest challenges, such as airspace integration” said AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne.
However, while it was signed by many “key players” in the industry, the letter has been met with controversy by many others in the industry as well.
This is bad and the AUVSI numbers are totally bogus! Most of those people listed do not represent the drone community. https://t.co/PQELeuac5p
— sUAS News (@sUASnews) October 13, 2017
“It seems like some of the “key leaders” in the drone industry are idiots,” wrote drone pilot Mike Fortin in a comment on The Drone Girl Facebook page.
“For me that seems like the last thing on my mind. The less power the local Barney Fife has to impose his towns poorly written law based off a CSI episode the better,” added Ryan Hawkins.
What do you think? How should the Trump administration approach drone regulation?
Read the full text of the letter, signed by groups including Amazon, AUVSI, DJI and others, below:
Innovation has been integral to America’s economic success and it will also play a crucial role in its future. A technology that shows great promise and tremendous benefits to continue moving our nation’s economy forward is unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which is forecast to create more than 100,000 jobs and over $82 billion in economic impact over the next decade.
However, much needs to be done to realize these gains. In a recent speech at a UAS industry conference, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios noted, “The federal government can’t do it all – we need partners who can stand up and serve as models for this industry, demonstrating to the rest of the world how to deploy this technology correctly, smartly and safely.”
We completely agree and have long said that government-industry collaboration is key to unlocking the tremendous societal and economic benefits of UAS.
In his speech, Mr. Kratsios also highlighted the opportunities of working across federal, state, local and tribal lines toward a common goal of safely integrating UAS into the national airspace. For months, we have advocated on Capitol Hill for a pilot program that allows state and local governments, along with UAS industry stakeholders, to develop a coordinated effort with the FAA concerning UAS airspace integration. We are pleased that your administration has also identified this as a sensible approach.
A pilot program would allow for a data-driven process, within a controlled operational environment, to explore the best options for states and municipalities to address their needs, as it relates to different types of UAS operations. Additionally, a pilot program is the best option for informing future regulatory and congressional action that will help enhance innovation and increase economic impact.
Overall though, the FAA sovereignty of the national airspace must not be compromised. Federal control of the airspace is a bedrock principle of aviation law that dates back over 50 years, and is the primary reason the United States maintains an aviation safety record that is the envy of the world. Maintaining the FAA’s authority helps keep the skies safe for all aircraft – manned and unmanned.
We greatly appreciate your attention to this matter, and we look forward to continue working with your administration and Congress to ensure the United States remains a leader in UAS and the broader aviation sector