White House Drone Day

Former Administrator, Michael Huerta (January 09, 2013–January 05, 2018)

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for that introduction, Megan.

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for being here today.

American ingenuity has fueled our nation since its earliest days. It’s created businesses, improved lives, and cemented our place on the world’s stage.

Ingenuity has defined aviation, as well.

It all started with a pair of brothers who owned a bicycle shop and solved a riddle that had baffled man for centuries – how to take to the air.

It continues to this day, where one of the most exciting sectors of the aviation industry doesn’t even require a pilot to be physically present in the cockpit.

Highly automated unmanned aircraft come in all shapes and sizes. Some can fit in the palm of your hand. Others can deliver packages. I even saw one concept at the Consumer Electronics Show this year that proposed using drones as taxis.

As varied as these designs are, their potential uses are even vaster.

Unmanned aircraft are transforming industries – providing filmmakers with a fresh angle on the world, and giving first responders a new tool for search-and-rescue operations.

They’re improving the safety of our transportation infrastructure – inspecting miles of rail tracks and pipelines that crisscross our country.

And they’re tackling jobs that can be dangerous for people or other aircraft to do.

Just last week, two people were killed in two different accidents involving crop dusters – exactly the type of job a small unmanned aircraft could do with much less risk to people and property on the ground.

These are just a few examples of the potential drones have to change our world for the better. There are countless others.

Unmanned aircraft have sparked excitement among hobbyists and businesses alike – and manufacturers are stepping up to meet this interest.

The unmanned aircraft industry is moving at the speed of Silicon Valley. And the FAA knows we can’t respond at the speed of government.

America has the most complex airspace in the world – and it’s the FAA’s job to ensure the safety of it for the public and everyone who wants to use it.

We need to incorporate unmanned aircraft and their users into our culture of safety and responsibility. But we need to do it in a way that doesn’t stifle the enthusiasm for this growing industry.

We’ve found that the best way to accomplish this is to partner with a wide range of government, aviation, and technology stakeholders.

We’re receiving valuable input on regulations, and building consensus around public education campaigns. And it’s helping us make substantial progress on integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace.

Now we’re taking the next step, and formalizing this partnership.

The FAA is chartering an Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team that will include a wide variety of stakeholders from the drone and aviation industries. Similar to the highly successful Commercial Aviation Safety Team, this group will analyze safety data to identify emerging threats that drones may pose to aircraft, people, and property. They will also develop mitigation strategies to address these threats and prevent future accidents.

We’re also establishing a Drone Advisory Committee that will be chaired by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who’s here with us today. This Committee will help us prioritize our unmanned aircraft integration activities, including the development of future regulations and policies. It will include representatives from across the aviation spectrum, and we’ll be announcing the members soon.

The creation of the Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team and the Drone Advisory Committee reflects the importance of this issue to our agency, and the value of our collaboration with stakeholders.

We saw this firsthand when an industry task force developed recommendations that helped the FAA create a drone registration system in just a matter of weeks.

That’s not a timeline that’s supposed to be possible in government. But by working together, we got it done – and we’ve registered more than 500,000 hobbyists in eight months.

To put that in perspective, we only have 320,000 registered manned aircraft – and it took us 100 years to get there.

Registration helps us connect a drone with its operator in cases where people aren’t following the rules – an important step forward for our enforcement efforts.

It also gives us a valuable opportunity to educate users about how to fly their unmanned aircraft safely.

We’re encouraging operators to download our free smartphone app, B4UFLY, which lets you know where it’s safe and legal to fly a drone. It’s available for both Apple and Android devices, and it’s already been downloaded more than 85,000 times.

We also use our ongoing “No Drone Zone” campaign to remind people to leave their unmanned aircraft at home during major public events like the recent conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

In addition to educating hobbyists, we’re putting a regulatory framework in place to address the commercial use of drones as well.

On August 29th, our first regulation for the routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft takes effect.

It allows unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds to fly in sparsely occupied areas, up to 400 feet high, and up to 100 miles per hour during the day.

This rule is designed to allow commercial drone operations while minimizing risks to other aircraft, as well as people and property on the ground. And it will provide an important regulatory foundation for allowing additional operations in the future.

We’re partnering with private industry through our Pathfinder Program to research activities that aren’t covered under our current rule.

Companies including CNN, PrecisionHawk, and BNSF Railroad have committed extensive resources to studying urban operations over people, and flights beyond visual line of sight – and they’re sharing the data with us.

The information received from Pathfinder, along with our work at the FAA’s drone test sites, will help us draft our next round of regulations.

We hope to propose a rule on unmanned aircraft operations over people by the end of this year.

Some have called the birth of the unmanned aircraft industry the “Wright Brothers moment” of our time – and that may be so.

But if there’s one thing I am sure of, it’s that the only limit to this technology is imagination – and our nation has no shortage of that.

Safely integrating drones into our airspace is one of the FAA’s top priorities, and we’re determined to get it right. It’s essential for our economy, and our role as a global aviation leader.

I’m confident that by working closely with our partners in the aviation industry and the unmanned aircraft community, we will succeed – and continue being a model for the rest of the world.

Thank you.