Drones Take to the Air at CES, Promoting Safety



Huerta speaking at CES 2016. Photo: AUVSI.

Exactly 181,061 drones had been registered with the Federal Aviation Administration as of this morning, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at the agency's first press conference of the year.

The FAA held the press conference at CES 2016, showcasing the increasing role that unmanned aircraft have in aviation.

He said the agency and its industry partners are not standing still in the push to make skies safer while still allowing the drone market to flourish.

The creation of the drone registration system was a successful government-industry collaboration, which included the FAA, drone makers like DJI and 3D Robotics, and groups including AUVSI.

Huerta also said the agency is working with industry to create new apps that would automatically register drones at the point of sale.

The FAA's app, B4UFly, has also moved out of beta and is now available for iOS users. An Android version is now in the beta stage, he said.

Additionally, the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on CES, is working with Google and Parrot to create standards for drone registration numbers.

"Our job is to create a new culture in innovation," Huerta said.

The next step is the small UAS rule, which would allow commercial use of such systems.

"We expect to finalize the rule in the spring of this year," Huerta said.

He appeared at the press conference along with partners from the registration effort including DJI, Google and 3D Robotics. All praised the registration process as showing how government and industry could work together to get things done relatively quickly, and the industry representatives said they expect more such collaboration in the future.

Drones and robotics are a big part of the mammoth CES show, and are getting bigger.

CTA estimates that about 400,000 drones were sold in the United States this holiday season, and estimates that one million will be sold in 2016, a 145 percent increase.

Drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds — which means they will need to be registered — will account for $953 million in sales in 2016, an increase of 115 percent, according to CTA projections.

Many drones are in evidence at the show, with an increasing number highlighting their safety features, such as DJI's geofencing software, which keeps the drones from flying too close to airports and other potentially dangerous areas.

The company AirMap provides that functionality to DJI and other partners, as well as to the Know Before You Fly website, a partnership between AUVSI, the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the FAA.

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