During Commercial UAV Expo 2018 in Las Vegas, the audience was exposed to new technologies and new ideas, along with the vibrancy of an industry excited about the future and the possibilities for innovation. However, that excitement always needs to be considered in terms of FAA regulation, and it's why everyone always wants to know how the FAA considers and approaches everything from waivers to the IPP. That's just part of the reason the keynote interview with Earl Lawrence, Executive Director, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, FAA, was so revealing.

Conducted by Gretchen West, the co-Executive Director for the Commercial Drone Alliance, co-founder of the Women of Commercial Drones organization and currently serving as senior advisor at Hogan Lovells, the interview explored those two topics in detail. However, their discussion also revealed the thought process and approach around how the FAA is hoping to integrate drones into the airspace.

“We at the FAA are open for business but our main goal is, and will always be, safety first,” said Mr. Lawrence, “Before operations beyond visual line-of-sight can become routine, the FAA must address risks posed by drones to other manned aircraft, as well as risks posed by drones during a loss-of-operator-control event.”

He went to great lengths to explain to all of the people in the packed auditorium that there are two main questions that need to be answered before the FAA allows someone to fly BVLOS.

“Where is your aircraft? How are you going to avoid running into people, objects and other aircraft?” he asked. “Unless we receive very satisfactory answers to these questions, you are not flying BVLOS.”

On a positive note, Mr. Lawrence was happy to report that so far the FAA has granted more than 40 authorizations for entities to operate BVLOS and that more are received every day in his office.

“The main issue is that 50% of the applications we receive only contain 50% of the mandatory information," he explained to the audience. We can’t move forward with the approval until we receive satisfactory details for every aspect of the operation. So, help yourselves by supplying every item in our list of requirements, otherwise your request will be denied. On the other side of the equation, there’s a very good chance of success if you supply everything the first time. We are open for business but its safety first.”

For more information about how to obtain a waiver, please visit the FAA dedicated website page at https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/