Press Release

Committee Examines Status of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Regulations, and Research

By SpaceRef Editor
January 21, 2015
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Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to examine the research and development (R&D) related to integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) and how that research is informing the regulatory process needed to ensure safe UAS operations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carry out research on UAS integration into the NAS. 

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her statement for the record, “I want the UAS industry to grow, because it offers the promise of societal benefits, economic growth, and skilled jobsand those are good things for our nation. However, this industry will only prosper if it is clear that UAS operations will be safe and not put at risk either the public on the ground or the airline passengers who will share the skies with some of those UAS vehicles.”

Currently, FAA has responsibility for authorizing UAS operations in the National Airspace System (NAS). These operations include a variety of uses for the military; federal, state, and local governments; law enforcement; and the private sector. In addition, there is growing interest and activity among recreational flyers. However, the recent rise in and varied use of unmanned aircrafts has introduced concern about how UAS will affect the safety of operations in the NAS. For example, concern has been expressed about the ability of commercial passenger-carrying aircraft operating in the NAS to be able to see and avoid UAS aircraft that may be operating in the same airspace.

Committee Members discussed the growth of the UAS industry, current research and development efforts to integrate unmanned systems into congested airspace, and the R&D necessary to inform the FAA’s development of new regulations. The many applications of this burgeoning technology was also a key discussion point of the hearing.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said, “The potential benefits of UAS technology to agriculture, environmental research, and natural resource management are multiplied by a growing workforce focused on the development of new products that are creating new job opportunities throughout my state. I look forward to hearing how we in Congress, and across the federal government, can help safely and responsibly support the development of this exciting industry.”

Testifying before the Committee were Dr. Ed Waggoner, Director Integrated Systems Research Program, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA;  Mr. James Williams, Manager, UAS Integration Office, Aviation Safety Organization, FAA; Dr. John Lauber, Co-Chair, Committee on Autonomy Research for Civil Aviation, National Research Council; Mr. Brian Wynne, CEO and President, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International; Mr. Colin Guinn, CRO, 3D Robotics, Small UAV Coalition Member; and Dr. John R. Hansman, T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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SpaceRef staff editor.