At a hearing today by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), called for appropriate levels of funding for the FAA to facilitate the full integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace.
“The UAS industry is primed for incredible growth, thanks to industry representatives and government regulators nurturing innovation that helps more businesses be more competitive in the marketplace than ever before. We hope that these efforts can be sustained and that we continue to reach new historic milestones in integrating this technology into the national airspace,” Wynne said in prepared testimony. “Vital to these efforts, however, is an FAA that is appropriately funded and empowered to engage meaningfully in the process, alongside industry stakeholders.”
Last August, the FAA finalized its small UAS rule, also known as Part 107, paving the way for anyone who follows the rules to fly UAS for commercial purposes. According to the FAA, today there are more than 820,000 UAS registrations with the FAA, the vast majority of which are for recreational use. Of those, about 62,000 platforms have been registered for commercial operations. The FAA expects more than 400,000 UAS could be flying for commercial purposes over the next five years – a more than six-fold increase from today.
“The recent budget agreement that this Congress passed and President Trump signed into law made some significant investments for the FAA’s UAS-related activity. At the same time, there is much more work to be done to help pave the way for a true, holistic plan for full UAS integration that includes beyond line of sight operations, flights over people, access to higher altitudes and platforms above 55 pounds,” Wynne said.
“To safely manage the hundreds of thousands of UAS anticipated to operate in American skies, the FAA needs, first and foremost, to automate its UAS processes,” Wynne added. “Automation will also be important beyond Part 107 for more complex operations. Many of its important management tools and processes, which facilitate safer and more seamless UAS operations, currently operate by manual data input or processing.”
Wynne said the FAA also needs more employees dedicated to developing UAS rulemakings for more complex operations beyond Part 107. He said the additional resources are necessary to advance UAS regulations that will help enhance the safety and security of the national airspace.