Drone Industry Descends on Washington for Remote ID Talks

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By Shaun Courtney

Drone industry leaders, like Amazon Prime Air and Kespry, are descending on Washington this week for meetings with the Trump administration to discuss new standards for the aircraft, industry experts told Bloomberg BNA.

The Remote Identification Aviation Rulemaking Committee of the Federal Aviation Administration will meet for the first time June 21. The panel will discuss the creation of new standards that could allow law enforcement and a future air traffic management system to remotely identify and track unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Industry groups believe the creation of remote ID standards will pave the way for additional waivers and perhaps greater access to the airspace for drones, which are currently limited from flying over people or beyond the line of sight, among other restrictions.

“If you can remotely ID and put together a system by which you have certainty about safety and security, then I see no reason to delay further work on expanded operations,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition.

Ensuring Drone Security

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta first announced the creation of the committee during the March Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium in Reston, Va.

"[Remote ID] is one of the law enforcement community’s top concerns, and we hope the recommendations we receive will pave the way for expanded drone operations over people and beyond visual line of sight,” Huerta said at the time.

The FAA didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The current anonymous nature of drone use in airspace means law enforcement agencies are unable to distinguish genuine threats from innocuous uses. These concerns have contributed to what several industry leaders describe as a hold on desired changes to the U.S. drone regulatory environment.

“Security is an important overall part of the equation for commercial drone integration,” Lisa Ellman, co-executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, told Bloomberg BNA.

The Commercial Drone Alliance hopes to ensure that any new safety policy measures are “carefully tailored,” Ellman said.

The remote identification group that meets for the first time June 21 will have working groups the week of June 26 as well, according to several industry leaders attending the meetings.

“My hope is that remote ID and full-day meetings this week and next demonstrate that industry is not only prepared but has tech to bring to bear,” Drobac told Bloomberg BNA.

Access

The FAA Part 107 rules issued a year ago limit the commercial drones, like those used for delivery, photography and even infrastructure inspection, because the technology is not allowed to: operate at night, be flown over people, go beyond the line-of-sight or fly higher than 400 feet above ground level.

In announcing the new rules last year, the FAA advised drone users: “You can request a waiver of most operational restrictions if you can show that your proposed operation can be conducted safely under a waiver.”

Several companies have taken advantage of options like night flight, but drone technology groups hope to see an increase in the number of available waivers and eventually new rules that would render the waivers null.

For instance, the creation of an unmanned traffic management system, much like the air traffic control system for airplanes, is in the works, but has not been officially launched.

Drobac of the Small UAV Coalition said other countries seem to have a “heightened sense” of the significance of drone technology for their economies.

“We seem to be taking more of an approach where we’re looking at it carefully, but we don’t seem to be making a lot of progress,” said Drobac.

He said his members participating in the FAA’s meetings and several who are meeting at the White House the week of June 19 hope to impress upon the administration the opportunity drone technology presents for the economy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shaun Courtney in Washington at scourtney@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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