Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao delivered remarks to the audience at CES 2018 yesterday. During her remarks, she commented that the FAA has registered more than 1,000,000 drones – a figure that the DOT press office says includes “878,000 hobbyists, who receive one identification number for all the drones they own, and 122,000 commercial, public and other drones, which are individually registered.”
Chao’s speech focused on the DOT’s efforts to integrate autonomous vehicles, including drones, into the existing U.S. transportation system. Chao acknowledged that integration would require big changes.
It would be hard to walk away from CES 2018 — the “Global Stage for Innovation” — without optimism and excitement for the future! And a lot of admiration for the human ingenuity that is bringing so many incredible products to market today.
Transformative technologies are poised to revolutionize transportation. Mass integration of self-driving cars, trucks and drones would be an exponential leap in the way we travel and the way we transport goods. But to make that scenario our reality, we will also need to revolutionize transportation policy.
Chao mentioned drones as an example of the success of a new industry – and new regulations. Saying that when developing new policies to accommodate automated vehicles, the agency would adopt a “tech neutral and flexible — not top-down, command and control” approach, she referenced drone registrations and the new UAS Integration Pilot Program as “…a few specific things the Department is doing to encourage innovation.”
“The tremendous growth in drone registration reflects the fact that they are more than tools for commerce and trade, but can save lives, detect hazardous situations and assist with disaster recovery,” said Chao. “The challenge is to remove unnecessary hurdles to enable the safe testing and integration of this technology into our country’s airspace.”
Chao said that interest in the UAS Integration Pilot program has been “outstanding”: “More than 150 completed applications have been received and they involve over 40 states, 75 local government entities, several tribal entities, more than 15 colleges and universities and 6 airport authorities,” said Chao. “That’s why, today, I am announcing that in the first round we will have at least ten lead participants. It’s so important to keep drone innovation in the U.S., so our country remains a leader in this transformative technology.”
Chao ended her remarks with encouragement that the U.S. would work to remain a global leader:
Creativity and innovation are part of the great genius of America. We must safeguard this legacy and allow the human spirit of innovation to triumph. Your companies are part of America’s innovation economy, which is a key driver in creating not only new technology, but jobs, hope and prosperity for others. Let us work together to ensure that our country remains a global technology leader, and that no one is left behind as this historic era of new mobility unfolds.