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Drones & Commercial Space Travel are Focus of Larsen-Led Aviation Hearing Featuring Amazon Prime Air, Virgin Galactic

Congressman: ‘more must be done to match the pace of growth’ in drone industry

Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), the top-Ranking Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, today helped lead a hearing which explored Congress’ role in supporting innovation and the integration of new technology in the national airspace.

Today’s hearing was the fourth in a series of hearings focused on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency’s authority expires in September 2017.

“A few weeks ago, the FAA released its latest Aerospace Forecast, projecting that the hobbyist drone fleet will triple in size from 1.1 million to 3.5 million units in the next 5 years. Meanwhile, the commercial drone fleet is likely to multiply tenfold,” said Larsen. “I am pleased that last year’s short-term FAA extension included a number of provisions on drone safety. Still, more must be done to match the pace of industry growth, and this panel has an enormous opportunity to move the ball down the field with the upcoming FAA reauthorization.”

Larsen continued: “additionally, ‘space tourism’ is on the horizon and is expected to become a billion-dollar market in the coming years. For American national security among other reasons, it is critical that US leadership in space transportation and exploration remain second to none. If the pace of commercial space transportation and tourism increases as forecasted, the FAA will need adequate resources to oversee safe integration of these new technologies into the national airspace.

WATCH: “more must be done to match the pace of growth [in the drone industry], and this panel has an enormous opportunity to move the ball down the field with the upcoming FAA reauthorization”

Larsen heard from Sean Cassidy, the Director of Safety and Regulatory Affairs at Amazon Prime Air, who spoke to the importance of establishing clear regulations for commercial drones – an issue for which Larsen has been a strong advocate. In 2015, Larsen praised the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to create a registration process for unmanned aircraft systems and in 2016 Larsen said the FAA’s final rule regarding the use of small drones was “an important first step in establishing rules of the road.”

Recently, FAA reauthorization hearings led by Larsen focused on the progress being made to modernize the national airspace as part of the FAA’s NextGen program, ways to alleviate congestion and improve user experience at Sea-Tac and reform aircraft certification to help U.S. manufacturers become more competitive and create jobs by saving time, making products safer and transporting them to market more quickly.

Last month, Larsen and Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) unveiled legislation aimed at boosting consumer protections by directing more transparency from airlines in terms of what services will be provided to air travelers during mass flight delays and cancellations resulting from computer network failures, as well as require airlines to inform passengers about any baggage and ancillary fees at the front end of the transaction.

Larsen has consistently advocated for a long-term, comprehensive FAA reauthorization.