Photo by Mark Colborn
Members of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) and stakeholders from around the industry convened in Reno, Nevada, on Jan. 31 for the committee’s second meeting. Hosted by the Reno Airports Authority, the meeting was held on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus — one of six FAA unmanned aerial system (UAS) test sites, approved in 2013.
An organizer from the university said she was told to expect some 200 people; the committee has just over 30 members. The majority of nonmembers in attendance were from the committee’s subcommittee. However, other observers in attendance were either interested in becoming a part of the committee and/or subcommittee or there to observe the proceedings, like drone service providers and consultants.
The main goal of the meeting was to approve direction for three task groups. These task groups are divisions of the Drone Advisory Committee Subcommittee (DACSC), which is co-chaired by Nancy Egan of 3D Robotics and Bryan Quigley of United Airlines. The subcommittee comprises more than 75 members who are not on the main panel, Egan said. However, many members of that panel have assigned representatives from their respective companies to the subcommittee. That includes representatives from the two helicopter stakeholders.
Steven Rush, president of Professional Helicopter Pilots Assn. and Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of Helicopter Assn. International (HAI), told R&WI their associations are represented in the subcommittee. While the main body is scheduled to meet about three times a year, the subcommittee and its various groups have already conducted several meetings and carried out several actions.
The committee generally approved the tasking statements for two groups after several revisions.
Task Group 1's long-term purpose includes collecting data and fact-finding to analyze interests concerning drone regulations at the federal, state and local levels.
“I think we need to dig deeper as a group into understanding what [are] our state and local governments’ real needs and interests, and talk about that. We need to understand what the actionable activities that we can implement to satisfy what state and local governments really want to see out of commercial and noncommercial [drone] operations, and then act on that, especially for manufacturers and operators who really want to comply,” said Paola Santana of Matternet. “At the end of the day, there’s this gap between FAA and what state and local governments really want to optimize for."
The main committee voted to delete a task from Group 1’s statement of recommending countermeasures and other active responses regarding intercepting drones in the airspace that are a safety or security threat. In lieu, the subcommittee is to develop tenets on ethical decision-making in order to better make those recommendations at a later time.
Task Group 2’s duties include reviewing use cases, activities and materials concerning drone integration into the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). It also is charged with providing recommendations regarding drone operations and missions beyond those currently permitted, defining procedures for airspace integration and providing recommendations regarding expanded access for drone missions and operations.
Task Group 3 focused on finances and allocation of resources that it might take to successfully integrate drones into the airspace system. The main committee scheduled a virtual meeting for July to address specifics. This group was still in need of a full roster of members; members are to be recruited voluntarily by polling the subcommittee.
The next Drone Advisory Committee is slated for May 3 in Washington, D.C.