White House workshop launches new UAS initiatives

By Patrick C. Miller | August 04, 2016

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on Wednesday held a workshop on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to launch several initiatives aimed at the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace.

The first-of-its-kind event brought together experts from government, industry and the academic research community in an effort to accelerate UAS opportunities and address technology challenges. The new measures include:

  • A National Science Foundation program to provide $35 million in research funding over the next five years to accelerate the understanding of how to design, control and apply UAS to beneficial applications. 
  • A broad range of actions by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to use UAS to support search and rescue operations, augment manned aircraft operations and improve government processes around technological adoption.
  • A $5 million down-payment by the state of New York to support the growth of the UAS industry across the state.
  • A commitment by UAS industry associations to implement a broad educational effort around privacy and best practices for users.

“It’s incumbent on industry to bring technology solutions to the marketplace,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). He headed a panel, which included representatives from Trumbull Unmanned, Lockheed Martin, Google and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), opened the morning session at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus and reiterated the FAA’s commitment to UAS integration into the national airspace.

“Safely integrating drones into our airspace is one of the FAA’s top priorities, and we’re determined to get it right. It’s essential for our economy and our role as a global aviation leader,” he said.

He noted that the FAA has now registered more than 500,000 hobbyist drones in the past eight months.

“To put that in perspective, we only have 320,000 registered manned aircraft—and it took us 100 years to get there,” Huerta said.

The FAA administrator also noted the establishment of a Drone Advisory committee headed by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. The committee will help the FAA prioritize its UAS integration activities, including the development of future regulations and policies.

Also speaking at the event were Megan Smith, U.S. chief technology officer, and Krzanich. Government agencies represented included NASA, the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford University conducted live UAS flight demonstrations. Breakout session were held on major UAS policy areas such as low-altitude airspace management, expanded operations for small UAS, implementing comprehensive integration into the national airspace, privacy, spectrum and UAS security.