FAA to Convene Companies, Law Enforcement on Drone Use

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By Michaela Ross

The Federal Aviation Administration May 22 will host a meeting of law enforcement officials, drone manufacturers and others as it moves to address public safety concerns around commercial drone flights over people, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg BNA.

A group of drone industry stakeholders is slated to meet with representatives from the FAA, Justice, Homeland Security and Defense departments and other law enforcement officials, the sources said. Recommendations for how the drone industry can work with law enforcement to develop systems to remotely identify a drone mid-flight will be one of the most pressing topics at the meeting, they said. Intel Corp. is among the companies that plan to attend, a company spokesperson confirmed to Bloomberg BNA.

Companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are eager to begin using the unmanned craft to make aerial deliveries. An FAA plan to issue a draft rule that would allow commercial drone operators to fly small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) over people without a waiver has been delayed in part because of law enforcement concerns.

An FAA spokesperson declined to comment.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in March said the agency would launch an advisory and rule-making committee to recommend standards for remote identification of drones. The agency has signaled that the group discussion could establish broad parameters for the rulemaking committee, according to one industry source familiar with the matter. The committee would then be given three months to make its recommendations to the agency, the person said.

“There’s broad agreement that anonymous flying is a challenge that needs to be addressed right away,” Brian Wynne, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit advocacy group Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), who plans to attend the FAA meeting, told Bloomberg BNA.

Wynne said he expects a broad range of drone issues to be addressed at the May 22 event, but is optimistic that industry and law enforcement will find constructive solutions.

“There are a lot of law enforcement agencies that know the value of this tool, and they want to use it themselves, so this is a community that we are talking to a lot in any case, and I think this is a natural extension of that,” Wynne, whose group represents companies such as Amazon.com and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., as well as government organizations and academic researchers, told Bloomberg BNA.

Wynne said his organization worked on behalf of the FAA earlier this year to solicit different solutions and standards from AUVSI members to remotely identify drones. The group received about 50 reports within two weeks, indicating a high amount of industry interest in the topic, Wynne said. The FAA is reviewing those recommendations, Wynne said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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