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FAA Administrator Michael Huerta Calls Drone Aid During Hurricane Harvey a Landmark in the Industry in InterDrone Keynote

BY Zacc Dukowitz
6 September 2017

InterDrone is off and running!

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta just delivered the first keynote talk here at the conference. Although we were eager to hear any new stats from the FAA, we also enjoyed hearing about Huerta’s vision of collaboration between private and public organizations, which has been a consistent part of his message in his role, and which has born real fruit in the work done with the Pathfinder Program and the LAANC, among other instances.

Michael Huerta_InterDrone

Huerta emphasized how quickly the industry has grown, pointing out that InterDrone itself didn’t exist three years ago, and that it’s grown exponentially since kicking off.

Last year the number of attendees and exhibitors was 50% higher than the first year, and this year—the 3rd year of the conference—it’s grown even more, with 4,000+ attendees from all 50 states and 59 countries, 190 exhibitors, 125 sessions.

Parallels were drawn with his own experience at the FAA. When he first became the FAA Administrator in January of 2013, no one thought the drone industry was going to be the fastest growing sector of aviation, but here we are in 2017, and it is.

One Year Anniversary of Part 107

It seemed fitting for Huerta to kick things off, given that the FAA just celebrated its first anniversary of the implementation of the small unmanned aircraft rule, also know as  the FAA’s part 107 regulations.

Since the Part 107 rule became effective last August, more than 80,000 individual drones have been registered for commercial and government purposes, and more than 60,000 people have obtained a Remote Pilot Certificate required to operate a drone under Part 107.

And look at where we are now. As Huerta emphasized during his keynote, drones are now integral to disaster relief.

Hurricane Harvey Efforts Landmark in Drone Industry

Huerta went on to note that we just witnessed a historic moment in drone use during Hurricane Harvey, where drones were deployed in several scenarios to help during disaster relief, including:

  • Raildroad used drones to survey damage in and out of Houston
  • Oil industry used drones to evaluate damage
  • Damage to roads, bridges, water treatment plants, and several other key facilities was evaluated by public agencies
  • Cell companies flew drones to assess damage to towers
  • Insurance companies assessed damage to neighborhoods

The FAA was so supportive of the use of drones during disaster relief in Texas that they made a point of expediting airspace authorizations and Part 107 waivers for any legitimate reason in the area.

Huerta said that anyone with a legitimate reason to fly UAS was given permission to do so, and in most cases the authorization was granted within minutes. By the end of last week the FAA had issued over a hundred authorizations to drone pilots in Texas to help with disaster relief efforts.

The response to Hurricane Harvey will be looked upon as a landmark in the industry.

– FAA Administrator Michael Huerta

What’s more, given that resources were so strained, every drone that was in the air helping essentially meant one less manned aircraft that had to go in the air and use gasoline and personnel resources that were incredibly scarce.

The FAA’s nimble response to granting authorizations during the hurricane are representative of the pragmatic approach to regulations that Huerta advocated several times during his keynote, underscoring that his goal is for regulations to support growth in the industry in a safe, thoughtful, but also expeditious manner.

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