U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, will convene a hearing titled “Keeping Pace with Innovation – Update on the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems into the Airspace,” at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. The hearing will provide a status update on efforts to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system without compromising safety.
- Mr. Earl Lawrence, Director, Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Federal Aviation Administration
- Mr. Brian Wynne, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
- Mr. Matthew S. Zuccaro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Helicopter Association International
- Mr. Todd Graetz, Director of Technology Services, BNSF Railway Co.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Roy Blunt
Good morning. Thank you to each of our witnesses for being with us today to discuss Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or what most refer to as drones.
The Commerce Committee overall understands the importance of technology. We have learned through our hearings, meetings, watching or reading news through the many variety of today’s sources, and our own activities daily, that technology plays a central and critical role in our society.
Keeping pace with innovation and technology, as well as the challenges, includes the space of drones.
While the benefits of drone technology are pretty clear, how are we keeping pace as technology and innovation advances more rapidly?
Are we identifying and working through the challenges as fast as the technology evolves?
Are we working to ensure that regulations are balanced to ensure that innovation and growth continues, but public safety is at the forefront?
At one point, many thought of drones as either a hobbyist’s tool for capturing images or as a sophisticated military technology. We know that drone technologies are improving at a rapid pace. Today, we have big tech companies investigating and investing in future drone-delivery services, drones are putting on light shows at events, precision agriculture is aided by drone use, and drones are putting eyes in places difficult for people to get to so safety checks can occur more frequently.
Drones have multiple applications which I am confident we will hear about today.
The 2017 World Civil Unmanned Aerial Systems Market Profile & Forecast says the value of drone activity rose from $40 million in 2012 to about $1 billion in 2017. By 2026, they estimate that both corporate and consumer applications of commercial drones will have an annual impact of $31 billion to $46 billion on the country’s GDP.
According to an article I read in the Wall Street Journal, the FAA has increased its projections for commercial drone pilots to more than 300,000 by 2022.
Anticipating the need for a skilled workforce related to drones and drone technologies, Southeast Missouri State University has a Bachelor of Science program in unmanned aircraft systems where students will learn the fundamentals of the machines, but also maintenance, customization, acquisition and commercial use.
I know my friend from Kansas, Senator Moran, is likely aware of the drone-related programs at Kansas State Polytechnic University and Senator Cantwell of the drone-related programs at Green River College in Washington. A number of my colleagues on this subcommittee have institutions of higher education that have accredited drone programs, drone research activities, and active student groups involved with drones.
The new drone programs at schools across the country are a clear indication of the future growth of this industry.
While the industry, and the technology and innovation related to it, is growing, it is not surprising that we are grappling with regulatory issues related to drones—we would with any innovation that has implications for public safety.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao at a drone conference last year said, “The integration of drones into our national airspace will be the biggest technological challenge to aviation since the beginning of the Jet Age….Our job is to prepare the way for new technology, so it can be deployed safely and usher in a new era aviation service, accessibility and ingenuity.”
For this reason, the members of this subcommittee are here to listen, learn, ask questions, and figure out how Congress can help the FAA safely advance in a way that manned aircraft, commercial drone operators, and hobbyists all operate safely and together.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Earl LawrenceDirectorOffice of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Federal Aviation Administration
Mr. Brian WynnePresident and Chief Executive OfficerAssociation for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Mr. Matthew S. ZuccaroPresident and Chief Executive OfficerHelicopter Association International
Mr. Todd GraetzDirector of Technology ServicesBNSF Railway Co.