DMA applauds President-elect Trump’s nomination of Elaine Chao to become Transportation Secretary, calls on new Administration to support vibrant and innovative drone market

The Drone Manufacturers Alliance applauds President-elect Trump’s nomination of Elaine Chao to serve as the next Secretary of Transportation. “Secretary Chao is a proven leader, and we are encouraged by her long-held approach to balanced regulation. We look forward to working with her and her team on policies that promote innovation and allow the drone market to flourish in a responsible and safe manner,” said DMA Executive Director Kara Calvert.

DMA also released a letter today calling on President-elect Trump and his team to pursue a balanced legal and regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, that prioritizes safety, education and technological innovation. Specifically, DMA encourages the new Administration to preserve the role of the FAA and Congress in regulating the national airspace for drones, create a regulatory framework for micro-drones, and foster technological solutions, rather than create static technology mandates. A .pdf copy of the letter can be found here.

The text of the letter is below:

November 29, 2016

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States
Trump-Pence Transition Team
1717 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Dear President-elect Trump:

On behalf of the Drone Manufacturers Alliance, we extend our congratulations on your election. We represent the companies that make personal and professional drones, which businesses, farmers, governments and educators are using to help inspect and build infrastructure, save money, create jobs, operate more efficiently and even save lives all across the country. We look forward to working with you, your transition team, and ultimately the individuals you choose to help lead the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration. We applaud the efforts of Administrator Huerta, who during his tenure has made clear that drones are good for America and that drones can be safely integrated into the national airspace. More broadly, we are pleased the FAA is developing and executing drone policy that recognizes the benefits of a vibrant and innovative drone market. We urge your Administration to continue the trend. If we move forward with a balanced regulatory structure, we believe the market will meet the projections of $82.1 billion in economic impact and 100,000 jobs by 2025.1

The Drone Manufacturers Alliance is composed of the world’s leading drone manufacturers, 3DR, DJI, GoPro and Parrot. Our drones represent the vast majority of drones sold across the world, and thus aim to serve as the voice for drone manufacturers and our customers across civilian, governmental, recreational, commercial, nonprofit and public safety applications. We advocate for policies that promote innovation and safety, and create a practical and responsible regulatory framework for the broad range of today’s operations and tomorrow’s opportunities.

We have worked closely with Congress and the key agencies to help promote a balanced legal and regulatory framework that prioritizes safety, education and technological innovation. By highlighting innovation and emphasizing education, we work with policymakers to ensure drones continue to be safely integrated into the national airspace.

Our top policy priorities include:

  • Educating consumers and commercial users about aviation rules and regulations that provide for safe operations
  • Creating a regulatory framework for micro UAS
  • Preserving the role of the FAA and Congress in regulating the national airspace
  • Protecting innovation by recreational operators
  • Working together to protect privacy
  • Fostering technological solutions, rather than creating static technology mandates

Education: Steps to Safe Operations
It is imperative that users of drones understand how to operate drones safely and in compliance with aviation rules and regulations. The Drone Manufacturers Alliance strongly supports the FAA’s current public-private education efforts, including the Know Before You Fly campaign, to help recreational users understand when, where, and how they can fly safely. It is also important that commercial, educational, civic, and humanitarian users understand their parameters for flight. We are partners in educating our users and work hard to provide up-to-date information about aviation requirements, including through the development of technology features that facilitate safe operation. We would encourage your Administration to continue the education efforts focused on safe, responsible, and courteous operation and resists calls for artificial blanket restrictions on the use of drone technology that would impose unwarranted burdens on responsible operators.

Micro UAS: A Framework that Fits
The Drone Manufacturers Alliance strongly supports creating a “micro” category for drone operations in the U.S. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 set forth a framework for risk-based regulation of a “micro” classification specifically for public safety agencies, weighing 4.4 pounds or less and operated within line of sight, less than 400 feet above the ground, and more than 5 miles from airports. This type of “micro” classification, which exists in other countries like Canada and Australia, should be expanded to all operations, including commercial, educational, humanitarian and civic uses, and provide a clear exemption of such operations from airmen and airworthiness certifications. Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives recently recognized the value of a micro classification by including such a category in their respective FAA reauthorization bills.

Creating clear rules and eliminating the distinction between recreational and commercial use for the smallest and safest classification of UAS would cut red tape for entrepreneurs and encourage a culture of safety and compliance. A “micro” category would also relieve the FAA from the burden of licensing and other managerial and logistical considerations for low risk commercial operations, allowing the agency to focus its resources on more challenging UAS integration efforts. We would appreciate working with your Administration to find a path forward on a “micro” category.

Preemption: Preserving the Role of the FAA and Congress
The FAA has sole jurisdiction over the national airspace and aviation safety, and we would urge you to maintain its authority to regulate the national airspace for unmanned aircraft systems.

More than 45 states and hundreds of local jurisdictions have attempted to regulate UAS in the past two years. State and local legislators have introduced more than 280 state bills since January 1, 2016 that would impose new and burdensome restrictions on drones, and many of those proposals are contradictory with each other or with federal regulations. This potential patchwork of state and local laws will create an unworkable — and less safe — system for our customers, law enforcement, the general public, and manned aircraft.

As manufacturers, we work hard to educate our users about the regulatory environment. A patchwork of state and local laws will make it impossible to provide the most up-to-date information to our users about current rules, especially when certain laws may conflict with others in the same geographic region. Further, federal and local enforcement of aviation regulations will create inconsistency and invite chaos in the application of regulation. We support working together to address drone policy issues that are sometimes first raised by local lawmakers, but believe it is critical that we do so in a consistent, thoughtful, and reasonable way nationwide.

Model Aircraft: Innovation by Hobbyists
We support the existing statutory framework set out in the 2012 FAA Modernization & Reform Act that provides important legal protections for model aircraft developers and operators, and we would kindly ask you to help us maintain those protections. The protections are necessary to ensure individuals and companies can create, test, and demonstrate drone equipment that will bring tomorrow’s innovation to life. Many of the benefits and innovations in our industry flow from endeavors that start off as “recreational” in nature. We advocate for public policies that nurture and protect recreational users’ freedom to operate while preserving airspace safety.

Privacy: Working Together to Protect Privacy
The emergence of new technologies has historically generated public policy questions related to privacy — and drones are no different. However, the expectation of privacy is technology-neutral. We support state and local laws that address the problematic behaviors associated with infringing another individual’s privacy, such as “peeping Tom” and unlawful surveillance laws, and the use of existing laws to deter and punish wrongdoing. However, drones are often used in ways identical to other technologies, including security cameras or cameras mounted on ladders for inspection purposes, and are most often used simply to capture beautiful wide-angle aerial images. Drones should not be subject to additional requirements when used in similar ways to existing technology. We want to work with your Administration and all stakeholders to develop sensible “good neighbor” guidelines and then educate our users about reasonable actions that help protect privacy.

Standards: Foster Inventive Solutions, Not Static Mandates
The world of drones is constantly evolving and expanding. We support efforts to create industry-led standards related to drones, but they must reflect the rapidly changing technological capabilities and advancements. We believe standards can help create useful and necessary parameters, but strict technological mandates can have the unintended consequence of locking in old technology and impeding the development of new hardware and software solutions. As drone-related standards are considered, it is critical they are federal in nature to avoid a patchwork of cumbersome state and local technology mandates. We are hopeful we can work with you and Congress on a reasonable approach related to standards.

In closing, we are very excited to work with you, your transition team and your new Administration on a range of policy questions related to drones. Thank you for considering our point of view and we look forward to 2017.

Sincerely,

Kara Calvert
Director
Drone Manufacturers Alliance