The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reinforced the importance of regulating unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), even as its near-term funding remains uncertain.
US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx announced on 19 October that a new taskforce will come up with recommendations on how to register UAVs, with a report due on 20 November. The group will advise on which UAVs should be exempt from registration.
Speaking at an Aero Club luncheon today in Washington DC, FAA administrator Michael Huerta calls the growing prevalence of UAVs "the Wright brothers moment of our time".
He notes that 700,000 UAVs could be in consumers' homes by the end of this year as shoppers stock up on them this holiday season, he adds.
"Until recently, the FAA has focused on education," says Huerta, who goes on to note that the agency recently proposed a $1.9 million penalty against SkyPan International for operating UAVs on 65 unauthorised flights.
The FAA had earlier missed a deadline for issuing final rules on the regulation of small UAVs, but Huerta reiterates that the agency hopes to have a final rule ready by the spring of 2016.
The agency's efforts to regulate UAVs comes as it continues to face uncertainty over future funding. A recent extension provides funding for the FAA until 30 March 2016, as US Congress continues to deliberate over changes to the FAA's structure, in particular stripping the agency of its air traffic control function.
Huerta says today that the FAA is "open" to this move, but was quick to reiterate that lawmakers' focus should be on improving the predictability and flexibility of the environment that the FAA operates in.