Washington D.C. – The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today held a hearing to review research and development (R&D) performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA that could facilitate commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly called drones, to be integrated into the National Airspace System.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Commercial drones have the potential to carry out a wide range of tasks across a broad range of sectors, including agriculture, weather, energy and disaster relief. However, due to the delays in integrating UAS into the National Airspace System, the public is not yet allowed to use drones to do any of these things.  Many other countries have developed a regulatory framework supportive of drone use for such activities.  Consequently, some U.S.-based companies have moved research, development, testing and high-paying jobs overseas.”

In 2013, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimated that in the next ten years over 100,000 U.S. jobs could be created as a result of UAS integration into the National Airspace System. The report also notes that continued delays in integrating drones in the National Airspace System could cost the U.S. more than $10 billion per year, or $27.6 million per day, in potential earnings from investment in drone R&D.

However, last June the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General released an audit report that criticized the FAA for being slow to integrate drones into the National Airspace System.  The audit concluded it’s unlikely that integration would be completed by the September 2015 deadline.

The FAA and NASA are working together to ensure safe and successful integration of drones in the National Airspace System.  Some of the research being done includes sense-and-avoid capability and command-and-control technologies.

The following witnesses testified today:

Dr. Ed Waggoner, Director, Integrated Systems Research Program, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA

Mr. James Williams, Manager, UAS Integration Office, Aviation Safety Organization, FAA

Dr. John Lauber, Co-Chair, Committee on Autonomy Research for Civil Aviation, National Research Council

Mr. Brian Wynne, CEO and President, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)

Mr. Colin Guinn, Chief Revenue Officer, 3D Robotics, Small UAV Coalition Member

Dr. John R. Hansman, T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)