The drone task force that the Federal Aviation Administration has put together to make recommendations for creating drone registration rules in the United States has named its members, which include representatives from Google, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and a wide range of aviation and other groups.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Registration Task Force is being co-chaired by Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s UAS Integration Office, and Dave Vos of Google X, according to an Oct. 29 announcement from the FAA. The agency had announced the creation of the task force on Oct. 19 as it works to deal with the growing problem of irresponsible drone use across the country.
The task force members are charged with having a set of recommendations ready by Nov. 20, including requirements for drone registration, which would go into effect by mid-December 2015. One of the key goals of the registration requirement is to allow the FAA to be able to identify the owners and operators of unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace.
Participating on the task force are Nancy Egan of 3D Robotics; Richard Hanson of the Academy of Model Aeronautics; George Novak of the Aerospace Industries Association; Chuck Hogeman and Randy Kenagy of the Air Line Pilots Association; Jim Coon of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Sean Cassidy of Amazon Prime Air; Ben Gielow of Amazon Retail; Justin Towles of the American Association of Airport Executives; and Brian Wynne of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Also on the task force are Parker Brugge of Best Buy; Douglas Johnson of the Consumer Electronics Association; Brendan Schulman of drone maker DJI; Paul Feldman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Tony Bates of GoPro; Matt Zuccaro of the Helicopter Association International; Mike Fergus of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; John Perry of the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors; Brandon Declet of drone-as-a-service provider Measure; Randall Burdett of the National Association of State Aviation Officials; Sarah Wolf of the National Business Aviation Association; Baptiste Tripard of drone vendor Parrot; Tyler Collins of data acquisition vendor PrecisionHawk; Gregory McNeal of the Small UAV Coalition; and Thomas Head of Walmart.
Each member was invited by the FAA to participate and volunteered to be a part of the effort.
The FAA is also accepting comments about proposed drone registration rules from the public and any other interested parties through a public docket, while the Federal Register notice about the proceedings is also available for viewing.
The task force members will meet formally from Nov. 3 to 5 to create recommendations about how to assemble a streamlined registration process and minimum requirements for the registration of unmanned aircraft, according to the FAA. “Given the urgency of this issue, the [U.S. Department of Transportation] and FAA will move expeditiously to consider the Task Force’s recommendations,” the FAA said.
Other federal government agencies that will provide help to the task force include the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, the Office of Management and Budget, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of State.
The next steps include deciding which types of unmanned aircraft will fall under the requirement of a drone that must be registered, how those registrations will be recorded and how they will be connected to specific drones. Currently, the FAA is prohibited from creating new rules that would require operators of unmanned aircraft to be licensed if they’re used for recreation, although the agency is now requiring that operators of commercial drones hold pilot’s licenses.
A wide range of businesses, from e-retailer Amazon to agricultural businesses, photographers, energy production companies, news operations and others, have been clamoring for the ability to use drones for several years, but have been prevented from doing so until the FAA implements regulations to ensure their safe operation, according to earlier eWEEK stories. The companies have been arguing that delays in implementing drone rules in the United States have kept businesses from benefiting from cost savings and new revenue from their use.
FAA Drone Task Force Members Include Amazon, Google, Walmart
Walmart recently began to seek permission from the FAA to test-fly package delivery drones outdoors in hopes that it can put together a method to zoom packages to consumers in the future, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The company has applied to the FAA for approval of proposals to provide package home delivery, curbside pickup and warehouse inventory checking as it looks to find new ways of shipping purchases to consumers.
Such a move would echo similar tests that have been underway at Amazon.com, which has for the past several years been planning delivery services using drones that could take packages to online shoppers more quickly than conventional delivery methods such as UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx.
The FAA has been working since 2012 to develop rules and procedures for the commercial use of drones in the United States. In June, an FAA spokesman said the agency is working to have drone regulations in place by mid-2016. Now, the agency has shortened that timeline, saying it will be next April or so. The regulations will govern drone flights and keep them safely away from commercial and private aircraft traffic as well as pedestrians and other hazards on the ground.
Earlier in October, a coalition of 29 aviation groups harshly criticized the FAA’s slowness in approving drone rules, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The groups argued in a joint letter that the agency is to blame for failing to meet a Sept. 30 congressional deadline to get rules in place for commercial drone use in the United States. In 2012, Congress told the FAA to create and integrate commercial drone rules with FAA rules for private and commercial airspace so that they could operate safely in the skies together.
In July, Amazon proposed the use of specific sections of U.S. airspace for drone flights so that it could push forward with its plans to provide package delivery flights across the United States, eWEEK reported at the time. Amazon’s idea is to designate airspace below 200 feet for drones that do surveying or inspections or take videos, while reserving airspace between 200 to 400 feet for delivery drones that are making their way over communities. Such a system would then connect drones as they are operating to an online network that would manage their flights in real time to keep them from harm’s way. The airspace between 200 and 400 feet would allow drones to be flown autonomously, while being equipped with sophisticated sense-and-avoid technologies.
Amazon has been looking at drone deliveries as a way of offering faster service to customers while also saving money, compared with the more costly human-based delivery systems.