FAA bolsters drone outreach with new hires

FAA bolsters drone outreach with new hires
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday brought on two high-level officials to help lead the agency’s regulation of drone flights in the United States. 

The agency hired Hoot Gibson as senior adviser on drone integration, a new position that reports to the FAA deputy administrator. The position, first announced in May, will focus on outreach to other areas of the government and airspace stakeholders. 

The agency also hired Earl Lawrence to become the new director of the UAS Integration Office, which has been vacant since the retirement of Jim Williams in June. The office was created in 2013 to help create regulations to safely integrate drones into the nation’s airspace. 

Gibson previously headed the NextGen Institute, while Lawrence has been at the FAA since 2010.

The agency is finalizing flying rules for commercial drones in the United States as the technology becomes more pervasive. Last month, the agency said pilots spotted more than 650 drones in the first seven months of 2015, compared to 238 sightings in all of last year.

The FAA released the numbers as part of a public knowledge campaign, urging operators to keep their unmanned aircrafts away from airports, manned aircraft and wildfires. 

The FAA has recommended that recreational flyers keep their drones within their line of sight and below 400 feet. It has also barred the use of most drones above 55 pounds. 

It is finalizing similar rules for the use of commercial drones. It has already granted more than 1,400 exemptions, which allow some commercial drones to operate on a case-by-case basis before the regulations are in place.