Industry involvement with the integration process for unmanned aircraft will be the key to getting it done in a timely way, Federal Aviation Administration officials said Monday at the kickoff of the 2017 FAA UAS Symposium.
FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta said often there is a combative atmosphere between government and the industries it regulates, “but I don’t think we have that here.”
The symposium is the second one the FAA has held. This one, in Reston, Virginia, was held in partnership with AUVSI.
He noted the progress made thus far in allowing the safe, commercial use of small unmanned systems, but said, “this was the easy stuff. As we move toward integration, the questions we need to answer are getting more and more complicated,” such as flying drones over people and beyond visual line of sight.”
There are valid concerns about safety with these areas, and others, but “FAA can’t and shouldn’t solve these on their own,” he said. “As we tackle these new safety and security challenges, we’re coming to you [industry] again.”
For example, he said FAA is setting up a new rulemaking committee to create standards for remotely identifying and tracking unmanned aircraft, “one of the law enforcement community’s top concerns.”
That process, and the existing Drone Advisory Committee, are examples of how the FAA wants to provide venues “for smart people in technology and aviation,” he said.
“We all need to have skin in the game, and be invested in producing the best possible outcomes for all parties,” he said.
“We know how fast you’re churning out new drone designs … and we don’t want the bureaucracy to hinder your progress,” Huerta said. “In fact, we want to be supportive of it.”
At a panel discussion with top FAA officials, the speakers gave other examples of industry involvement in rulemaking.
Terry Bristol, chief operating officer of the FAA’s air traffic organization, said the agency is seeking to automate the LLANC, or Low Altitude Authorization Notification Capability process, to allow UAS to notify air traffic control of flights within five miles of an airport, or to get authorization to fly in certain airspace classes.
The existing notification process is manual, which worked fine before unmanned aircraft, but now the demand is too high “so it’s not unusual to have thousands of authorizations waiting to be processed,” she said.
The solution is to partner with industry, she said.
“The agency has developed maps for all of our airports with the important info that needs to be on them, and the industry will manage through that,” she said. “So if you want to operate your UAS in a controlled airspace near an airport … it could be a very rapid authorization.”
The FAA expects to have this capability “online before the end of this year,” she said. “We’re going as quickly as we can.”
Testifying before Congress on March 15, Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s Unmanned Systems Integration Office, said automating LLANC is “the first step” toward an unmanned traffic control system.
Jim Eck, the assistant administrator in the FAA NextGen Office, said eventually a UTM system and automated LLANC will go a long way toward helping counter problems from rogue UAS operators.
Once “things like LLANC and UTM move into the community,” air traffic control will know that most vehicles are where they are supposed to be. If there’s an aberration, it’s either “a blunder or something nefarious,” he said.
“So the sooner we can get to these automated systems, where everyone is filing, the better off we will be as a community,” he said.
The symposium continues Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information, go here: http://www.auvsi.org/faa2017/home
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