As the FAA gets serious about stemming the threat of UAVs mixing in airspace with general aviation and airline traffic, the agency has appointed two new executives to head its UAS Integration Office.
Retired U.S. Air Force major general Marke “Hoot” Gibson has been tapped to become the senior advisor on UAS integration, reporting to FAA deputy administrator Michael Whitaker. He will be joined by former FAA Small Aircraft Directorate head Earl Lawrence, who will become the director of the UAS Integration Office within the FAA’s Aviation Safety organization, leading the FAA’s efforts to integrate UAS into the nation’s airspace.
The new executives replace Jim Williams, who managed the agency’s UAS Integration Office before retiring in June.
The FAA has reported a sharp rise in encounters by pilots with small UAVs this year as the popularity of HD-camera-toting remote-control multicopters explodes.
We told you about a suspected midair between a UAV and Piper twin over Illinois on August 27. After that story ran, the FAA contacted Flying to let us know this was actually the second reported incident this year after the pilot of a small airplane collided with what he believes was a quadracopter in California in April. The lower nose cowl was damaged in that incident. A California medevac pilot also reported coming within 15 feet of a UAV before making a sharp turn to avoid a collision over northern California recently.
There is a growing concern within the aviation and licensed UAV industries that if formal UAS integration doesn’t happen quickly, a serious midair collision could grab national headlines and prompt Congress to step in with demands of sharp restrictions on UAVs.
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