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FAA Group Weighs Options for Drone Tracking


Paris Air Show

PARIS — An FAA committee is discussing options for identifying and monitoring unmanned aircraft, which is a key step in the creation of drone businesses like package delivery, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said on Tuesday during an event at the Paris Air Show.

This aviation rule-making committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Washington, D.C., says FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette. The meeting, which is to include drone industry members, will begin what will likely be a multiweek process to consider the best technical standards to track commercial drones, Huerta said. These may or may not include transponders as long as the methods mesh well with existing flight surveillance broadcasts and prevent drones from endangering people or other aircraft, he said.

Industry wants remote identification of drones as part of a permissive regulatory framework that would allow companies that provide drone-related services like crop dusting or package delivery to know what is allowed so they can adjust their business accordingly, he said. “Identification is probably one of our highest priorities right now,” Huerta said during remarks at the air show’s USA Partnership Pavilion.

“The first question is what is the information that everyone needs to know. What needs to be broadcast and at what frequency? What are the technologies available to provide that? How do we provide consistency with other broadcast systems that are out there?”

Also, the FAA is still accepting names for its registry of small unmanned aircraft operators, despite a May court ruling that the FAA cannot require hobbyists to register their drones. The court decided that the registry violated the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, a law passed in 2012 that prohibits the regulation of model aircraft.  Huerta said the agency is working with industry on a potential legal or legislative way to address the ruling.

Underscoring the stakes, the Teal Group, a research firm in northern Virginia, estimates in a report released Monday that non-military drone production will total $73.5 billion during the next decade, rising from $2.8 billion worldwide in 2017 to $11.8 billion in 2026.

Photo at top of page: The FAA is discussing options for identifying and monitoring unmanned aircraft such as Horsefly, made by Workhorse Group, which UPS has tested to deliver packages.

Related Topics

Unmanned SystemsCommercial Aircraft

“Identification is probably one of our highest priorities right now.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, speaking at the Paris Air Show
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta speaks Tuesday during an event at the Paris Air Show. Credit: Tom Risen/Aerospace America

FAA Group Weighs Options for Drone Tracking

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