The U.S. Senate confirmed Stephen Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines executive, to head the Federal Aviation Administration for a five-year term this week with a 52-to-40 vote. Dickson retired as senior vice president of flight operations at Delta Airlines in the fall of 2018 after 27 years of flying commercial routes and overseeing regulatory compliance, safety and pilot training.

Dickson came under fire during the long confirmation process after the nominee left out information about a whistleblower lawsuit in his Senate disclosure questionnaire. According to reports, a pilot reported safety concerns while he was serving as senior vice president — the pilot said that instead of those concerns being taken seriously, she was sent for a psychiatric evaluation and grounded for more than a year. Numerous Democratic senators claimed the incident should have disqualified Dickson from confirmation.

The FAA has been led by Acting Administrator Dan Elwell since being vacated by former Administrator Michael Huerta in January of 2018. The Small UAV Coalition released a statement thanking Elwell for his service and welcoming Dickson to the FAA.

“Steve Dickson brings exceptional experience to the FAA as it continues to embark on a new era of aviation. Under his leadership, the FAA is equipped to set the global standard for safe, secure UAS integration,” said former FAA Chief Counsel Gregory Walden, Aviation Counsel to the Small UAV Coalition.

Elwell has played a major role in how the FAA shifted its approach around drone technology in recent years, and his declaration that the FAA was "open for business" resonated all across the space. His dedication to striking "the right balance between what’s good for the community, for the industry, and for public safety" is one that was respected by many different stakeholders.

FAA leadership will be key as the agency moves toward proposed rulemaking for remote identification, scheduled for publication in September, and securing unmanned traffic management (UTM) system implementation.