Advanced Aviation Innovation Summit

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen (April 1, 2022 – present)

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Lisa, for the introduction and your invitation to join today’s Innovation Summit.  I greatly appreciate the Commercial Drone Alliance’s efforts to unite innovators and policymakers in settings like this, and I’m pleased to see so many of my FAA colleagues involved today, alongside their counterparts in industry.  

In his remarks, Carlos Monje told you about the work that is happening across the government, and efforts to make sure that all work is coordinated.  I believe working together has never been so important, because we truly are in uncharted territory!  We have a dynamic and exciting industry ready to take on the world . . . but to take it on, the government has to make sure it’s safe. That’s right. The government!  

I can almost hear your eyeballs roll. But seriously… if we want flying taxis and BVLOS deliveries to be as routine as riding in an Uber, the public must have faith that these operations will be safe. And that’s the FAA’s responsibility. The public has the same safety expectations for all of you that they do when they fly commercial— as do our lawmakers. 

The FAA does have some heavy lifting to do.  I’m sure most of you know that it takes on average about 18 months to complete a rule. That is why whenever possible, we use existing frameworks to certify your vehicles. We are laser focused on clarifying our certification processes, and I welcome your feedback. You absolutely deserve to know how the process works and how to get started. 

We are making progress.  For example, on the AAM side, we have issued the certification basis—think of it as the blueprint that manufacturers need to meet—for two vehicles. And we anticipate more to come. 

We are on pace to release the standards pilots must meet by the time the first generation of AAM aircraft are certified. They will ensure a pilot can operate aircraft that have characteristics of both helicopter and fixed-wing.  And in May, we will release the FAA’s AAM Implementation Plan, which will show how all these pieces will come together allowing the industry to scale safely. 

While we have made progress on the AAM front, we know that efforts on drones have taken longer than you want – longer than we want.   During my year leading the FAA, we have started to fix this. Last year, we issued the first type certificate for Matternet. 

Completing BVLOS is a top priority for all of us, and we’re in the early stages of developing the rule. We are committed to creating a regulatory framework that matches drones’ capabilities and benefits.

We have your input from the BVLOS Aviation Rulemaking Committee, and we are going to use that to do work diligently.  Your input will also benefit the Advanced Aviation Advisory Committees meeting tomorrow.

In the meantime, we are issuing an increased number of waivers, which will help all of us better understand the capabilities of drones—and the mitigations necessary to safely fly them. Of course, the goal is to finalize a rule so we don’t have to issue waivers, but we do not want innovation and operations to stop while we work on the rule.

I know some of you are concerned that our safety mission puts us at odds with your desire to enable advanced aviation technologies … and with the process being made by our international counterparts. I’ve heard the urgent message loud and clear. And here’s what I want to tell you: there’s really not as much of a conflict as you may think…

By continuing to work together, we are moving toward a faster pace of integration while maintaining our laser focus on safety. 

We do not want to slow your roll, but we will require that you roll out safely.

Since ushering in the Jet Age, the United States has regulated the world’s most complex airspace—all while maintaining an unparalleled safety record.  You have heard me say this before—I repeat it often because I am that certain the FAA will continue as the exemplar for safely incorporating the novel and groundbreaking technologies that your companies represent.

That said, this body of work—safely integrating new users into the world’s most complex airspace—is no small task.  It takes hard work, cooperation and commitment from all quarters.  But I’m confident, as I have been all along, that with your partnership, passion and good-faith efforts, we will make this new era of aviation as magnificent as those that came before it.  

Thank you.