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RTCA Drone Advisory Committee Meeting Highlights Road Ahead

Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert has served on the RTCA Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) since it first met in September 2016. The committee was established to provide an open venue for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and key decision-makers supporting the safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). The Committee seeks to identify and propose actions for the FAA on how best to facilitate the resolution of issues affecting the efficiency and safety of integrating UAS into the NAS.

The DAC recently met on March 9 in McLean, Va. The meeting opened with stakeholders giving reports on the status of drone technology in the U.S. Over a million drones have been registered within the NAS, meaning the next 12 to 18 months are critically important to integration work.

Currently, 300 FAA facilities are taking part in a UAS integration pilot program. DAC members discussed national security and law enforcement concerns and emphasized the need to “innovate while maintaining safety.”

The DAC subcommittee TG3 (UAS Funding) reported out during the meeting, discussing possible funding mechanisms for UAS integration and recommendations, including the commercialization of drones. Their approach included analyzing current policies and procedures, rulemaking, and standards; outreach, communication, and training; research and development and systems; and potential funding mechanisms. The result of these findings is that additional funding is necessary to safely integrates drones into the NAS, a common issue across programs in the NAS.

“The collaborative culture that allows the DAC to come together to learn, give input, express concerns and make recommendations to the FAA is imperative in order to ensure the safe integrations of drones in the skies above our heads,” Gilbert says. “It is even more imperative, with this group, as many of the stakeholders on the DAC are not from the aviation industry.”