I mentioned in my earlier post how so often, technology moves quicker than policymaking – and this has certainly been the case for drones. One of the hold-ups on the policymaking side over the last few months has been staffing of the federal government. In the spring Jim Williams, former head of the FAA UAS Integration Office, left the FAA, and that slot remained vacant all summer.
Today, the FAA announced a long-awaited development: Two officials have been appointed to manage and coordinate the agency’s policymaking on domestic integration of UAS into our national airspace. One of these new hires replaces Jim directly, and one fills a new role. Hopefully these hires will be helpful to move UAS policymaking along expeditiously.
According to the FAA release, Marke “Hoot” Gibson will become the Senior Advisor on UAS Integration, a new position established by the FAA to focus on external outreach and education, inter-agency initiatives and an enterprise-level approach to FAA management of UAS integration efforts. Gibson previously served as Executive Director of the NextGen Institute, a multi-agency initiative that was intended to transform the air transportation system. Gibson will report directly to the FAA Deputy Administrator. This new position was designed to foster greater communication between the UAS Integration Office and FAA political leadership, as well as to improve the agency’s outreach efforts with industry and advocates. Let’s hope this new position proves to be more than just bureaucratic reshuffling, and that Gibson will play a pivotal role in fostering constructive conversation between innovators and policymakers.
Earl Lawrence will become the Director of the UAS Integration Office within the FAA’s Aviation Safety organization. He will lead the FAA’s efforts to safely and effectively integrate UAS into the national airspace. Most recently, Lawrence led the work of the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate; before that, he worked for the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Notably, both new hires come most recently from within the FAA; neither were hired out of industry. But both individuals have the reputation to be promoters and believers in UAS technology, so we trust they will work closely with innovators.
We look forward to engaging with Gibson and Lawrence in their new roles. Innovators in the UAS community should take the opportunity to educate Gibson and Lawrence about new UAS technologies and capabilities that affect our policymaking. We will all be better off for it.