Capt. Phil Hall, an emerging technologies officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said it was always “clear” to NOAA that drones should be classified as aircraft.
Speaking at an ACT-IAC event, Hall confirmed that NOAA follows the Federal Aviation Administration in considering unmanned aircraft systems, often called drones, as proper aircraft from a regulatory standpoint.
For NOAA, an agency that regularly uses its 54 UAS to collect data at sea, check out hurricanes and more, this means the drone program is controlled by aviation specialists.
“I think that’s been the best decision we’ve made,” Hall said. “Because people who aren’t aviation experts just don’t have the same level of concern we do about airspace.”
This is a prudent policy, given how the FAA categorizes drones.
“There’s very little distinction when we’re talking about aircraft from bringing in a Gulfstream IV (airplane) into your organization and bringing in an off-the-shelf drone,” said David Preznuk, program manager at IT consulting firm Macro Solutions and the moderator of Wednesday’s panel. “From a regulatory standpoint, if it’s an aircraft, it’s an aircraft, and it needs to comply will all the rules associated with using an aircraft in the national airspace.”