Lewis: the President takes a good first step on drones, but we need more

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Washington, October 25, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jason Lewis (MN-02) issued the following statement after President Trump issued a memo instructing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to draft a pilot program for the integration of drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS):

“I’m pleased to see the President take this important action today recognizing the significant role that drones have to play in a 21st century economy. As this technology continues to grow and develop, we have to work to successfully incorporate drone use while keeping in mind the specific needs of each of our local communities. That’s exactly what my Drone Innovation Act does. 

“While this pilot program recognizes some of the principles I’ve advocated for, unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough in protecting local control and the rights to privacy and property.

“As we move forward, the next step is to ensure that our communities cannot only help expand the beneficial uses of drones, but that they also have the ability to take effective action when it comes to putting in place reasonable limitations on public use.  I look forward to continuing to work alongside the White House and Secretary Chao to see that these foundational principles and rights are upheld.”

Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie expressed support for Lewis’ bill, saying: “We in law enforcement are uniquely interested in drone technology, and we already use it in emergency management and operations to help save lives.  But we can do more. Drone operations can be expanded while still ensuring that public use of drones works well within our communities. I'll keep working with Rep. Lewis towards that goal.”

Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz also said: “The drone industry poses exciting new opportunities, as well as challenges, for our local communities. As Mayor of Burnsville, I applaud Rep. Lewis’ efforts to ensure that local control, acceptance, and competitiveness is respected as drones become more and more a part of daily life.  I was pleased that Rep. Lewis highlighted this technology earlier this year and has worked in Washington to ensure local and state involvement in integration.  I look forward to working alongside Rep. Lewis, the FAA, and our state government to ensure our community can let drones thrive, while always keeping the needs of people in Burnsville as my first priority.”

Background: Lewis introduced the bipartisan Drone Innovation Act (H.R. 2930) on June 16, 2017. Today, the White House sent DOT guidance for drone integration including a pilot program with a voice for tribal, state, and local governments.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is permitted to form ‘test zones’, and is expected to start the first program within a year. The government, and industry, will be able to increase flight operations including beyond visual line of sight.  Data on community participation and unmanned traffic management will be collected to better inform FAA and Congressional decision making in the future.

The Drone Innovation Act and Lewis’ subsequent work embodies a new approach to civil UAS, commonly known as drones. Lewis’ approach seeks to ensure safety in the national airspace, as well as balance the principles of local control and a right to privacy with a need to continue encouraging American innovation in cutting-edge technology.

H.R. 2930 addresses civil UAS flying up to 200 feet above ground level within a state, local, or tribal government’s jurisdiction. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) retains control over the national airspace. The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to work with state and local officials to develop a framework for local operation, around a set of principles Lewis outlines to encourage innovation and protect privacy. The bill also establishes a pilot program for federal partnerships to assess best practices. 

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