Wicker Convenes Hearing on New Entrants in National Airspace

May 8, 2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for a hearing titled, “New Entrants in the National Airspace: Policy, Technology, and Security Issues for Congress.” During the hearing, witnesses discussedthe current state of our National Airspace System (NAS), the status of integration efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for new entrants into the NAS, and the policy, technology, and security challenges that remain.  

Excerpt from Chairman Wicker’s opening statement, as delivered, below:


Last year’s FAA Reauthorization Act helped pave the way for the new rules recently proposed by the FAA to expand opportunities for drone use.The drone community is also eager for a rulemaking process regarding remote identification of drones or “Remote ID.” The Remote ID rulemaking will be an important milestone because many operational, privacy, and security concerns can be addressed by readily identifying each object in the sky and its operator, and we certainly hope so. Perhaps we will hear an update on the agency’s rulemaking at this hearing. 

R&D (research and development) is essential to understanding and mitigating safety risks and to improve the performance of systems and operators. In partnership with the FAA, our research universities are helping to improve air traffic control interoperability, safety, pilot training, and drone traffic management systems. Managed by Mississippi State University, the ASSURE Center of Excellence is comprised of 23 universities tasked with much of this research agenda. I would note that those universities are represented by seven senators on this committee, can you imagine? So, we will hear about that today. 

The commercial space launch sector is another growing industry that requires our attention. Once the domain of powerful nation-states, commercial space launch is fast becoming an affordable commercial service, that may soon include space tourism.  Rockets must transit the airspace to and from space. General Montieth’s organization is responsible for licensing commercial launch and reentry operations. The companies represented by Mr. Stallmer’s organization are making sure that General Monteith stays busy. So, I hope witnesses will provide their perspectives on how the FAA can support this industry while maintaining a safe and efficient airspace system. 

Finally, many companies are developing electrically powered aircraft that can quickly take a few passengers between fixed spots in a crowded city, and I want to be one of the people to avail myself of these “flying taxis” — a promising aspiration for many who wish to avoid today’s congested highways — and who doesn’t? However, many technical and policy questions remain for what is called “urban air mobility.”   

The committee is interested in hearing from witnesses about some of the future possibilities associated with urban air mobility. The skies of the future are sure to look different from those of today. While there should be concerns with the safety, efficiency, and security of new technologies, we need to be prepared to enable innovation and change.