Senator Collins Chairs Hearing on the Integration of Drones in our National Airspace

“…Maintaining safety in the air, as well as on the ground, has to be priority number one…”

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired a hearing this morning to examine the steps being taken to integrate unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, into our national airspace. The hearing explored the need for additional safety measures as the Federal Aviation Administration proceeds with its plans to integrate this innovative technology into the national airspace. 
      In her opening statement, Senator Collins underscored that while unmanned aircraft can provide a myriad of benefits, including: job creation, disaster relief, and increased efficiency,maintaining safety in the air, as well as on the ground, has to be priority number one.
      Senator Collins also highlighted “a number of troubling incidents with drones coming in close proximity to aircraft flying near our nation’s airports, as well as other dangerous instances affecting the safety and well-being of people on the ground.”  Just this March, a radio-controlled helicopter approximately eight inches long was found on the Portland, Maine, Jetport at the intersection of taxiways Alpha and Charlie, sitting upright and facing the runway.
      During the hearing, Senator Collins asked Captain Tim Canoll, the President of Air Line Pilots Association International, from a pilot’s perspective “what it is like to spot one of these drones when you’re flying” and “Is there a danger of the drone actually being sucked into the engine?”
      Captain Tim Canoll responded, stating this, “This is an extremely difficult thing to see, even at close range. And when you see it, you will have very little time to react to it… This is a lithium battery that is part of this drone system. We have removed it to show you the size. If this goes down an engine, there is going to be a significant event…Also, impact of the vehicle, even of this weight, in a critical flight control surface could cause control issues for an aircraft…When we hit one of these things, it is going to be a significant event for the crew to safely land the aircraft.” 
      Captain Tim Canoll brought with him to the hearing one of the more popular drone models for recreational use sold today, the DJI Phantom drone.  This is the same type of drone that landed on the White House lawn earlier this year.

Expert witnesses for today's hearing included:

The Honorable Michael HuertaAdministrator of the Federal Aviation Administration 
Mr. Marty RogersDeputy Director of the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence
Captain Tim Canoll, President, Air Line Pilots Association International

Click HERE and see below for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement as prepared for delivery.