2017: New President, New Transportation Secretary—Where Do Drones Fit?

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The Drone Manufacturers Alliance (DMA) has voiced approval of President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Elaine Chao as the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation in its November 9 letter to Trump and the Trump-Pence Transition Team. But with that approval comes a request for Trump to “pursue a balanced legal and regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).” DMA’s Director, Kara Calvert, said, “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.” DMA also cited to an Associated Press article stating that Secretary Chao would not be “especially inclined to second-guess the industry” on the safety of new technology, like UAS.

Secretary Chao served under President Bush’s administration for eight years back in 2001 when she was elected U.S. Secretary of Labor. In President-elect Trump’s press release regarding his nomination, he said, “Secretary Chao’s extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.”

While the DMA praises the efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) administrator, Michael Huerta, for ‘making it clear’ that drones are beneficial to the U.S. and that they should be safely integrated into the national airspace, the DMA hopes to send a message to the new administration stating, “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.” The letter also includes DMA’s ‘top policy priorities’ which include education; establishing a micro UAS rule; preserving the role of the FAA and Congress; protecting the freedom of model aircraft operators; and privacy protections –but without strict technological mandates that may impede technological developments. DMA says it is “very excited” to work with Trump, his transition team and his newly elected administration “on a range of policy questions related to drones.” The full letter can be found here.

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