Michael P. Huerta, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Adiministration, took the stage at InterDrone to deliver the Grand Opening Keynote Address of the Conference for the second year in a row. Huerta highlighted the great progress drones have made in a short three-year span and the new role they are playing in the Hurricane Harvey disaster relief effort.
To safely open up the skies to help those who wanted to help the eergency response teams in Texas, the FAA removed restrictions for anyone with a legitimate reason to fly. During the recovery effort, the FAA has granted more than 100 authorizations. "The hurricane will be a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country," Huerta said.
Huerta stressed that the future of UAVs will be forged by collaboration between all the stakeholders in the commercial drone industry. "It's important to recognize that aviation and aerospace has always been founded on collaboration," Huerta said adding " The difference will help bring us all to the middle to find the right balance we are trying to achieve"
Among the other FAA projects he listed during his talk was a drone detection system currently being tested at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The results from their initial testing will help the FAA define the minimum safety performance standards for drone detection technology around airports. Also, the FAA Center for Excellence is researching the potential safety implications if a drone were to hit a person on the ground.
The FAA recently passed the 1 year anniversary of Part 107. Huerta stated that in that time, the FAA has registered 79,000 commercial unmanned aircraft and 59,000 remote pilot certificates.
Huerta ended his keynote re-emphasizing the need for collaboration while shining light on the FAA's interest in the community. "We want to hand you the ball and we all have to figure out how to get into the end zone as a team," Huerta said closing with a reflection on the history of aviation, that there was once a time when people thought Orville and Wilbur Wright's airplane was just a fad. "This industry is in its infancy, we can't possibly predict everything drones will be doing 5 - 10 years down the line."