What Secretary Pete’s confirmation means for drone regulation

Following now-Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s confirmation this week, the enterprise drone sector is abuzz over what the next four years may bring in terms of drone regulation. The FAA has taken a methodical and decidedly cautious approach to enterprise drone restrictions, but over the last few months, and on the heels of substantial testing and stakeholder outreach, the agency has begun to put in place a regulatory framework to guide more robust adoption of unmanned commercial drones over populated areas.

Of course, many in the industry feel the agency can do more to encourage a sector that could be worth more than $43 billion globally over the next few years.

Which brings us back to the man known affectionately for the past few years as Mayor Pete. The 39-year-old doesn’t have a track record in federal transportation regulation, but industry insiders are reading the tea leaves of his Navy Reserve experience and infrastructure oversight as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and there’s reasons to be hopeful.

To find out why I reached out to Romeo Durscher, Vice President at drone software company Auterion, for insights. One of the drone industry’s top executives and a highly experienced leader in aerospace and unmanned aerial systems, Durscher joined Auterion from DJI, where he held the role of Senior Director of Public Safety Integration. During Romeo’s six years at DJI he built the Public Safety vertical and has become a well known and respected thought leader in the space. His opinions here are his own, but they give good context to and insight on sentiment within the sector. 

Read more: Drones & AI Pose Police Policy Choices

GN: Why is this a critical moment to be paying attention to the regulatory environment surrounding commercial drones, and what’s the top line takeaway as we head into Secretary Buttigieg’s oversight of FAA?

Romeo Durscher: The next few years are absolutely critical for the United States to meet the exploding demand for drones in government and business. What the COVID pandemic has taught us is that this technology is essential for public safety. Steps have already been taken by the U.S. government to enable the national drone industry and President Biden has previously expressed support for additional investment in essential US technology. Pete Buttigieg has a proven track record of embracing autonomous vehicle technology and understanding the benefits that it can offer. As mayor he was the driving force behind initiatives to position South Bend as a testbed for drones and wireless technology. We’re optimistic that, as Secretary of Transportation, he will set the tone for a positive, open environment where we can continue to expand upon the milestones achieved to date and accelerate the safe and valuable use of drones.

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Source: Greg Nichols

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