FAA Official Doubts Safety of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Posted by Betsy Lillian on October 22, 2014 No Comments
Categories : UAV Safety

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official has reportedly expressed what the Small UAV Coalition is calling a ‘conclusory and indiscriminate statement’ concerning the safety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

According to a POLITICO report, John Hickey – the agency's deputy associate administrator for aviation safety – was cited as saying there is an ‘absence of conversation’ on ‘the actual technological safety of [UAVs].’

In comparison to manned aircraft with “very high levels of safety,” UAVs are “not very good,” he said. He explained, according to the report, that manned commercial aircraft and UAVs get in an accident 0.000000001% and 1% of the time, respectively.

The Small UAV Coalition, a recently formed group of technology companies with the goal of paving the way for commercial, philanthropic and civil use of small UAVs, responded to Hickey’s statements in the POLITICO report and says it is “extremely disappointed.” According to the coalition, companies are capable of demonstrating the safety of UAV technology; however, it cites FAA bureaucracy for the delays in being able to do so.

“At a time when the FAA is currently behind schedule in developing a rule for commercial use of small UAVs, any conclusory and indiscriminate statement about the safety of UAVs when only a handful of commercial operations are allowed is simply not credible,” the group says in a statement from Michael Drobac, executive director of the coalition and senior advisor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, whose attorneys support the group.

Hickey, who has been with the FAA since 1990, was named deputy associate administrator for aviation safety in December 2008. In his role, he assists the associate administrator in setting and enforcing safety standards for all sides of the aviation industry, according to the National Business Aviation Association.

“It is profoundly dismaying as well as unproductive for a senior official of the agency tasked with writing a rule on small commercial UAVs to question the technological safety of UAVs when hundreds of companies can demonstrate that the technology is safe but have been frustrated in doing so due to delays and restrictive processes at the FAA,” the coalition says in its statement.

Drobac had said when the coalition was formed that it would be working with the FAA “to ensure [the UAV] industry can flourish.” He notes in the most recent statement that the aircraft “have been operating safely in other regulated countries for years.”

In fact, as of press time, the Small UAV Coalition is taking part in London’s Commercial UAV Show, where Drobec and an Akin Gump partner are presenting a discussion that includes regulatory developments on UAVs in the U.S.

Members of the Small UAV Coalition include 3D Robotics, Aerialtronics, Airware, Amazon Prime Air, DJI Innovations, Google[x]'s Project Wing, GoPro, Parrot, PrecisionHawk and Skyward.

The entire POLITICO report can be found here.
The Small UAV Coalition’s statement can be found here.

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