Our law offices overlook Sixth Street and Congress Avenue. For those of you who have been to Austin, you know that this puts us smack in the middle of the annual South by Southwest Festivals. What SXSW causes in traffic headaches for us locals, it more than makes up for in the vibrancy and innovation that it brings to our city.
The UAV industry was well-represented at this year’s festival and I attended several of the UAV panels. A few highlights:
- FAA Administrator Michael Huerta led a panel, along with Sally French, which included representatives from NASA, Amazon Prime Air, Intel, PrecisionHawk, Aerobo and Fresh Air Educators.
- Administrator Huerta gave us a surprise –the final small UAS rule will be released this spring (earlier than anticipated) but declined to provide any details of the rule. He also said that the FAA micro UAS task force met last week and this week and will release its report on April 1st
- Diana Marina Cooper, general counsel for Precision Hawk, released data from their pathfinder program. Their phase one results from BVLOS testing are showing increases in flight distance of up to 640%.
- There was a lively panel discussion between Jon Resnick (DJI), Gregory McNeal (AirMap), Marke Gibson (FAA) and Gretchen West (Hogan Lovells) debating the tension between innovation and regulation in the drone industry. A couple fun factoids I picked up at the panel:
- There have been 0 drone strikes on airplanes. In 2014, there were over 13K bird strikes
- Data shows that one damaging UAV/airplane incident will occur no more than every 1.87 million years.
- The DJI Phantom lounge was awesome! They brought their newest release, a Phantom 4 to fly (albeit, in a cage) and had a holographic drone. And, as if it could get any better, the lounge was set up next to a life-sized TIE fighter. My five year old twins were in heaven.