LAS VEGAS — It was a landmark year for unmanned aircraft with commercial operations cleared for takeoff, but the head of the Federal Aviation Administration says his agency has more left to do.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta outlined a year of accomplishments and challenges during his Jan. 6 address at the Consumer Electronics Show. Though the launch of Part 107 in August was a major milestone for the U.S. drone industry.
Since the regulations became active, more than 30,000 have started the process toward receiving a remote pilot certificate necessary to fly commercially. Around 16,000 have taken the test, with Huerta reporting a 90 percent passage rate.
Despite the fanfare, many in the industry will note the road to Part 107 was a long one mired with setbacks and red tape. Moving forward, the path for continued integration of drones will likely be just as complex.
“Our challenge is to find the right balance where safety and innovation co-exist on relatively equal planes,” Huerta said. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we have accomplished more toward this goal in the past year than we did in all previous years combined.”
In addition to touting Part 107, Huerta highlighted the work of the Drone Advisory Committee, established this year to assist the FAA with the integration of UAS technology by identifying challenges and priorities. The group, headed by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and composed of representatives from defense contractors, politicians, drone manufacturers and trade groups.
The group has two main tasks, the first of which is identifying high-priority operations and how to conduct them in the national airspace. Second, its members will help shape the roles and responsibilities of drone operators, manufacturers, and federal, state, and local officials when it comes to using the aircraft in populated areas.