The U.S. Department of Transportation has added two new members to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Advisory Committee, and some in the drone industry aren’t happy about it.
Two new members joined the FAA Drone Advisory Committee on Feb. 5: Christian Ramsey, who is President of uAvionix Corp.; and Lee Moak, who is founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Moak Group.
uAvionix, headquartered in Bigfork, MT, is a startup avionics firm that designs and builds what it advertises as low-cost and easy-to-install ADS-B solutions, designed for general aviation airplanes.
The Moak Group is a government relations, public affairs and business consulting company. Its CEO, Lee Moak, has served as a Marine Corps and Navy fighter pilot, B-767 Delta Air Lines captain, and as President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA).
The FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee was designed as a “broad-based, long-term federal advisory committee that provides the FAA advice” on drone-related integration issues.
The committee is intended to include representatives who bring a range of drone-related perspectives, including industry, research, academia, retail, technology and state and local government. And the committeeis designed to weigh in on topics ranging from the Knowledge Test for Recreational Flyers to the controversial Remote ID proposal.
The two latest additions to the committee come from manned aviation backgrounds. New additions will inevitably bring new perspectives, and it’s important to have people with extensive airspace knowledge on the committee — which could reasonably mean people with manned aviation backgrounds.
But drone pilots are questioning whether the committee is balanced. If two manned aviation experts join, then some thing people who fly drones should also have spots on the FAA drone advisory committee.
When the news was posted to the FAA Facebook page, a number of people commented, primarily against the news. Drone pilots said the FAA’s group needs “some actual drone pilots who fly for a living on that committee,” adding that it’s “way too top heavy.” Others suggested that “time and time again, drone service providers are ignored” and that “drone service providers are left without representation.”
One commenter went on to say, “the complete lack of actual drone operators on this committee is embarrassing.”
In its charter, it can have up to 35 members (14 members have been added since May 2019 to fill open vacancies).
The current committee is led by FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell and chaired by Michael Chasen, CEO of PrecisionHawk — which is a drone-focused company. The committee also includes representatives from airports, local governments, aviation associations, big aviation companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and more. Drone representatives primarily come from major companies like Wing (a spinoff of the company formerly known as Google), Amazon Prime Air and DJI.
There are two members who represent drone operators: Greg Agvent, Senior Director of National News Technology at CNN; and Todd Graetz, Director of Technology Services at BNSF Railway.
There are also two representatives from groups that advocate for drone pilots: Rich Hanson, President of the Academy of Model Aeronautics; and Brian Wynne, President and Chief Executive Officer of AUVSI.
Are you happy with the makeup of the FAA Drone Advisory Committee? Do you think it should include more drone pilots? Leave a comment below!