Administrator Huerta on FAA UAS Regulation
at Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
FAA Adopts Missouri Model: Show Me How Safe Your UAS Is
Administrator Huerta gave a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV, entitled “Drones: A Story of Revolution and Evolution”. His theme was that the UAS technology has grown at a revolutionary rate while the regulations have evolved, however slowly.
The drone advocates, particularly the libertarians, have attacked the FAA for strangling this nascent industry by its unduly lethargic pace of setting the rules for the operation of this disruptive technology. They will not be pleased by the Administrator’s most recent pronouncement on the future evolution of the regulatory scheme applied to the industry. Basically, the FAA has adopted the Missouri test and in fact, since 1938, the FAA has required that the applicant for an airworthiness certificate must show that the proposed design is safe.
The growth uber alles philosophy articulated by the critics suggest that these new vehicles should be allowed to fly without restriction. To allow the revolutionary development of technology to be subjected to a laissez faire (excuse the linguistically mixed metaphor) safety regimen. They would prefer to have the FAA use as the model for the UAV restrictions the safety approach applied to the Wright Brothers and Lindbergh.
Today’s UAS industry’s evolution is somewhere between 1903 and 1927 historically; there is great commercial and personal potential in the development of drones. There was no FAA in those years; so, there were no regulatory requirements or standards. Fortunately, those intrepid aviation pioneers flew solo and flew in areas in which an accident posed no risk to the general public (Kill Devil Hills, NC and the North Atlantic).
The ubiquity of these unmanned aircraft poses a greater risk if their “experiments” were permitted on an unbounded basis.
Since the issuance of Part 107, the FAA has received and granted a large number of waivers from the basic set of limitations. Each of the FAA’s grant of additional degrees of operational freedom has been based on the applicant’s proof that the exception is based on individual demonstration that the machine, the operator and the procedures developed by the entity provide an equivalent level of safety. The FAA is not, nor should it be, in the business of creating templates for new, safe commercial applications.
Private industry has greater insights into what new forms of flight are needed and can better solve the calculus of trade-offs between the needed levels of safety and the economics. The FAA, however, is an excellent arbiter of whether the proposed set of protections are adequate.
The critics back in 2015 all averred that because the FAA was so slow in issuing the sUAS regulation, America’s drone industry would be surpassed. The American UAV industry seems to be flourishing and oh by the way, EASA has yet to issue its final regulation.
That is a backhanded compliment to Administrator Huerta, Associate Administrator Gilligan and their staff for their thoughtful creation of the US UAS regulations!!!