FAA Announces UAS Advisory Panel, Loosens Rules on Student Flights



Speaking at Xponential on Wednesday, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency is setting up an unmanned aircraft advisory committee, similar to the one for NextGen.

He also announced that the FAA will no longer require schools to obtain a Section 333 exemption to fly unmanned aircraft for educational purposes, which he said should help spur innovation.

The FAA’s recent experience with the task force for UAS registration and the micro UAS advisory rulemaking committee was so positive that it decided to create the new advisory committee, which has yet to be named but will be chaired by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, because he has “a passion for leveraging technology” and is also a pilot.

It’s intended to be a long-lasting group that “will essentially serve the same purpose as the NextGen advisory committee,” Huerta said.

“One thing we’ve heard from the registration task force and micro UAS ARC is the industry wants more engagement, not less,” Huerta said. “They also want to be able to work on focused problems.”

“The FAA’s creation of a long-lasting, broad-based advisory committee to provide advice on how best to integrate UAS into the national airspace is yet another example of government and industry collaboration AUVSI has been advocating, and we look forward to participating in the process,” said AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne in a statement.

Earlier the same day, the FAA issued a legal interpretation that says schools that operate unmanned aircraft as part of their coursework will no longer need a Section 333 exemption. That doesn’t apply to things like flying a drone over a football game for fun, but would apply to any educational uses.

“We think this is going to be a big shot in the arm for innovation,” Huerta said.

The same interpretation also says that operators can fly UAS at educational or community-sponsored events, as long as they aren’t compensated for it.

Huerta noted that collaboration between the government and industry has increased in recent years. When he was onstage at AUVSI’s event in 2012, he says it “felt more like I was walking into a lion’s den than a family reunion.”

That was when drones were being sold in the thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands; now the FAA predicts drone sales hitting seven million in 2020 and uses are ranging from movie filming to real estate to agriculture to flare stack inspections.

“The innovation in this field is speeding forward at a breakneck pace,” he said.

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