Huerta: Drone Rule Changes Coming


The FAA is working toward allowing more freedom for drone operators, and at the same time is working with NASA on a plan to develop technology that will manage drone traffic, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last week. Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Huerta said “the next step” in the agency’s regulation of drones will be to allow them to be flown above people, “under specific circumstances.” The FAA is working with industry partners to develop technologies to ensure that safety and security are not sacrificed. The next step, Huerta said, further down the road, will be to allow routine unmanned aircraft operations beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

The NASA effort, known as UTM, or unmanned aerial system traffic management, is now undergoing tests at the University of Nevada-Reno, Huerta said. Last October, they flew and tracked five drones at the same time beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight from Reno-Stead Airport. Each drone accomplished a separate simulated task, including looking for a lost hiker, covering a sporting event, monitoring wildlife and surveying environmental hazards. “Tests like these will help build the foundation for managing much greater amounts of drone traffic in the coming years,” Huerta said. NASA has been working on the UTM system for several years and expects to have a fully tested prototype by 2019.