Research and development to advance Unmanned Aircraft Systems is critical but currently burdened by regulation, according to speakers at a recent House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee hearing.
One of the main issues discussed during the hearing was the existing burdensome regulations for UAS operation, which purportedly hinder innovation and R&D efforts. “The absence of a viable UAS regulatory framework continues to be the most significant barrier to integration [of UAS into the national airspace], and a robust R&D program will only succeed if accompanied by a reasonable regulatory environment,” Lisa Ellman, executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, said.
She urged Congress to address these issues by further utilizing current resources like BEYOND—an FAA pilot program to help collect data and establish standards—and UAS test sites, allow programs to function how they were designed, focus R&D efforts on “validating future UAS capabilities and complex airspace,” support growing UAS in AAM manufacturing and integrate counter-drone technologies into this ecosystem, among other things.
Furthermore, according to the speakers, R&D efforts should focus on disaster relief and firefighting, UAS traffic management and congested airspace navigation, among other things.
In addition to addressing regulation, it is also important for Congress to fund R&D efforts.
“Government funding has been a powerful driver in pushing technology from the laboratories to end-user adoption, crossing the valley of death that many innovations never bridge,” said Jamey Jacob, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Research and Education.
The speakers noted the importance of building a robust workforce to support the UAS industry through partnerships with universities and other educational institutions to develop and train the workforce. However, there are limitations.
“The university impact is really limited by access to the airspace and being able to test the systems,” Jacob said. “We’ve certainly found that not only in terms of what we’re evaluating on the counter-UAS side, but then how we take this out to the community. That’s where we start to educate the public about how UAS can be used for both good and for ill, how they’re going to be integrated in the airspace, and we start to be able to spark those ideas from community members about not only acceptance of the technology, but also entrepreneurial ideas about how they can use the systems to be able to start up new businesses or engage with their community.”
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Be sure to visit the BWU Technology Partnerships Initiative website to learn more about how our NEOFIX program drives economic growth, promotes policy and infrastructure to improve drone safety and efficiency in various industries, and ensures that drone technology is being used responsibly.