The FAA and the drone community have long had a complicated, and at times tense, relationship.
At previous drone conferences there has tended to be little interaction between FAA representatives and drone enthusiasts. So we were very excited when we heard that Administrator Michael Huerta was to deliver the Grand Keynote speech at InterDrone.
Coming hot on the heels of a press conference given alongside Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne, we were intrigued to hear what he would say – and how it would be received.
Before his Keynote we were able to meet Michael and speak to him about his and our experiences in the drone world.
Having thanked him for the support of the FAA at many US International Drone Day events, we confirm that he is aware and supportive of International Drone Day and what the Team Captains and drone community are achieving.
Huerta was applauded as he took to the stage, and the applause kept coming. Seems Part 107 was a big hit with the InterDrone crowd!
Huerta kicked off by talking about aviation history and the journey to the moon. To a keen audience he followed this up by saying “Unmanned aircraft deserve a place at this table”.
Huerta noted that the rate of growth in numbers of drone pilots compared to the number of mainstream pilots is phenomenal, and that this has historically resulted in slow movement by the FAA.
Huerta noted that the FAA has to move quickly to keep up with this growth, stating “4-5 years is aeons in terms of unmanned aircraft”. Times have moved so quickly that starting the 333 exemption process “feels like the ice age”.
In an overwhelmingly positive speech, Huerta spoke about the many good ways in which drones may be used. He listed film making, first response, transportation infrastructure maintenance, and “dangerous jobs”.
Commenting that drones are “capturing young minds” and “opening up aviation” with careers in as engineers, pilots, and lawyers, Huerta noted the “”only barrier on this technology is our imagination”.
Clearly pleased about Part 107, Huerta stated that it “will enable innovation to flourish” and that obtaining one “makes it easy to fly commercially” as it ‘greatly simplifies the pilot qualification process and requirements”.
Confirming that drones are a major news story, Huerta revealed that he was surprised by how much media attention the recent Part 107 press conference attracted.
Addressing mainstream concerns about safety and privacy, Huerta commented that both are a key area of focus for the FAA.
You can watch the full speech here.