FAA Administrator Michael Huerta delivered the grand opening keynote to thousands of attendees at the InterDrone conference in Las Vegas this morning. His speech was largely devoted to promoting collaboration between government and industry, and touting the new and more open regulations.
Huerta, the main spokesperson for the FAA, said that the drone explosion is one of the “critical moments” in the history of aviation; and that drones have “fundamentally changed” the world.
Saying that all stakeholders in the drone industry could agree that they wanted to see safe integration of unmanned aircraft, Huerta began his speech with his now familiar affirmation of the “collaborative approach” that the FAA is now taking. Citing the recent implementation of the Small UAS Rule (Part 107) to regularize commercial drone operations as an example of successful cooperation between government and industry, Huerta called Part 107 “one of the most significant milestones in our evolution” towards integration of unmanned aircraft.
The Administrator said that the influx of new talent into the aviation industry via drones meant that “the only bounds on this technology is our imaginations,” and pointed out the economic benefit that the drone industry holds for the US. Huerta says that the FAA recognizes the need to be flexible – and is trying to “stop moving at the speed of government.”
On a negative note, the administrator pointed out that the number of unauthorized drones around airports continues to increase – over 1200 sightings this year – despite efforts to educate the public. Combined with continued complaints of rogue drones around wildfires, Huerta said that the situation has led to the need for stronger enforcement actions. This safety issue is “of significant concern to Congress,” he says, who have authorized the FAA to levy fines of up to $20,000 against operators who violate restrictions against flight over wildfires and other emergencies.
Huerta also emphasized that it is illegal to shoot down a drone, and cautioned states and municipalities against attempting to enact their own drone regulations, commenting that a “consistent regulatory system” will ensure the highest level of safety.
The InterDrone 2016 conference – the largest dedicated commercial drone conference in the world – will also feature keynote speakers from Amazon, ABC News, DJI, 3DR, and Intel.