We live-tweeted House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the status of UAS integration, oversight and competitiveness. You will links to the prepared testimony of the witnesses at the link. Our real time comments can be found on twitter at @dronelawdotcom.
Some interesting themes emerged from this hearing. Everyone seemed to recognize that the U.S. is falling behind on R&D and investment due to the lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework.
Several of the committee members raised questions over whether the FAA should, like other developed countries, pursue a more risk-based approach to UAS regulations. The FAA’s Peggy Gilligan claimed that her agency is doing just that, at least when evaluating section 333 exemption applications. This was telling. Most of her remarks smacked of happy talk and filibustering.
Rep. Todd Rokita asked, if we are taking a risk-based approach, whether any actuarial studies have been conducted. The answer was yes, but only as to large, high-altitude UAS. There were too many unknowns to be able to evaluate risk profiles for smaller drones.
Another interesting theme was the general frustration with the fact that the much-heralded test sites are not getting much support from the FAA. Some spoke of opening up more test sites. Jesse Kallman of Airware suggested that developers be permitted to operate their own test sites. This made sense to us.
Capt. Lee Moak of the Airline Pilots Association began his testimony by putting a brand new DJI Phantom on the table. He compared the risk of collision with small drones to the risk of bird strikes. His testimony made it clear that the airline pilots are lobbying for a go-slow approach. In other words, the FAA might not be aggressive enough in trying to shut this madness down.
The overall impression was that Congress understands the problem and is losing patience with the FAA. We might see more legislative involvement if things don’t start picking up speed.
A full video of the hearing can be viewed, below: