Drone Advisory Committee Takes on Central Challenges of Integrating Drones into the Airspace

November 20, 2017

DAC MtgThe Drone Advisory Committee, led by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and Designated Federal Officer (DFO) and FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell, held its 5th meeting on November 8th and was hosted by Amazon in Seattle, Washington. Following opening remarks from Mr. Cleveland (representing Chairman Brian Krzanich of Intel Corporation) and Deputy Administrator Elwell, key topics covered were the Trump Administration’s new UAS Integration Pilot Program, outreach to local communities, and reports from the three DAC Taskgroups including one set of final recommendations on priorities for enabling access to drones in the low-altitude airspace. 

In his opening remarks, Mr. Elwell stressed that "the need to integrate drones in the National Air Space is imperative." He highlighted the helpful use of drone technology in the aftermath of the recent natural disasters and recovery efforts. FAA officials provided an overview of the UAS Integration Pilot Program highlighting the 36-month program timeline and application process for interested local and state governments. They continued that applicant proposals should provide ways and means to develop and test innovative concepts and drone integration objectives while employing a diverse set of operators in the airspace.

DAC Group

Robust discussion occurred associated with the common ground principles that are intended to guide subsequent development of recommendations to the FAA on the relative roles and responsibilities of the government and industry in drone regulation and oversight.  The report of Task Group 1 (Roles and Responsibilities) included several principles upon which consensus has not yet been reached by the group.  In these cases, both opinions were presented.  Principles covered issues such as privacy, UAS take off and landing, policy and guidance for local authorities, altitude estimation challenges, certification, and applicability of local laws.

In addition to the content of the principles, concerns about the balance of views in the process were expressed by a representative of one member of the DAC, and were subsequently discussed by the group. The majority of members understood the difficulty of the subject matter, but expressed support for the manner in which the work was conducted. Concluding the Committee deliberations, Mr. Elwell thanked the Task Group members for their commitment and energy on a very complicated issue. He commented that the FAA "seeks recommendations, as well as, optional opinions." The DAC awaits further tasking from the FAA in this area.

TG2 presented consensus recommendations for priorities and means of enabling access to airspace for the next set of drone operations, including operations beyond the operator’s line of sight and flights over people.  The recommendations were accepted by the DAC and are being forwarded to the FAA.  The DAC concurred with an action to continue the work of TG2, addressing the details of implementing their recommendations.  TG3 presented a status of their work on mechanisms to fund the government’s work of integrating drones into the airspace.  Their final report will be presented at the next meeting, in 2018 Spring.  A date will be announced by RTCA soon.

This meeting marked the final time the DAC would meet under the term of Administrator Michael Huerta. Mr. Cleveland thanked Administrator Huerta for his leadership and his commitment to working with the industry. In his closing remarks, Mr. Elwell thanked the Task Groups for their efforts while welcoming feedback from all groups. He commented that the UAS Pilot Integration Program would provide quantitative and qualitative data that would facilitate decision-making and prioritization for years to come.

The presentations and more information about the DAC are available at www.rtca.org.