A member of the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) since its inception in 2016, Houston Mills has recently been appointed its chairman, continuing its mission to safely integrate Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) into the National Air Space (NAS). Much like RTCA, the DAC brings together a variety of entities to engage in actively contributing to consensus-based recommendations that are provided to FAA.
“The DAC’s multi-stakeholder composition puts us in a unique position to capture multiple perspectives from the foundational level and help ensure nothing is missed in the regulation forming process,” said Houston.
The challenges Houston sees begin with gaining public acceptance and trust, which he believes is vital to long-term sustainability, as well as ensuring regulations and policies are centered around safety and security. With that as the basis, new users will be able to readily adopt key aspects of safety culture ingrained in traditional aviation. Houston also sees ongoing education campaigns as a part of the process that should ensure public trust continues to grow.
“I applaud the FAA’s risk-based approach of integrating new users into the NAS by ensuring needed performance standards are in place to ensure public safety and long-term success,” said Houston.
The work of the DAC is determined by tasks outlined by the FAA, which tell the DAC the targeted areas the FAA has selected that need further exploration and recommendations. These include: remote identification equipage, UAS Security (geofencing capabilities that will reduce security risks and the creation of a database that will help with critical infrastructure and Temporary Flight Restrictions), improvements to the waiver process, FAA/UAS plan reviews, facility map updates, Beyond Visual Line of Sight challenges, safety culture (including situational awareness), what constitutes acceptable risk, and other factors in integrating UAS.
Ensuring safety in the NAS a mission former fighter pilot and current 757/767 captain Houston feels passionate about, saying, “I’m excited to support this industry because of the promise and innovation it will unlock. This technology is already improving and saving lives via humanitarian relief efforts, search and rescue missions, fire-fighting, and will greatly benefit society by doing the dull (agriculture, mining, mapping), dangerous (powerline/bridge inspections), and dirty (first responders, police) jobs done by humans today.