The FAA. We met Michael Huerta!

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.

 

The FAA Ted Bahr

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta with Ted Bahr of BZ Media and 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.

 

The FAA That Drone Show Huerta

David and Sarah Oneal, founders of International Drone Day, with Ted Bahr of BZ Media, and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta

 

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.

Like us, he was particularly pleased about the recent Iowa and Virginia International Drone Day events held at airports.

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!

 

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The room was packed for Michael Huerta’s Grand Keynote

 

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.

The FAA Anthony Foxx

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx recently held a press conference about Part 107 with Michael Huerta

Addressing mainstream concerns about safety and privacy, Huerta commented that both are a key area of focus for the FAA.

Concern about sightings of drones at and near airports remains high, with 1,200 reports so far this year. Drone detection equipment is in place at some airports, and Huerta emphasized the need for the use of it to be carefully controlled.
Huerta reiterated the hope made at the earlier press conference that there would be a ruling on flying over people by the end of 2016. He also confirmed that rules for flying FPV are being looked at.
The FAA FPV Fatshark

Flying FPV may be more accessible following further attention from the FAA

Commenting that soon 333 exemptions will be “antiquated”, there was a strong message as that the FAA are committed to collaboration with the drone community; that they are listening and reacting to feedback and welcome it.
Huerta gave the example of Part 107 being very rigid when originally tabled, but when opened up for comments it was deemed that exemptions were needed, hence the popular addition of waivers. Open to communication, he said that at the “FAA we don’t have all the answers in this rapidly changing industry”.

You can watch the full speech here.