Capitol Hill panel discussion draws large crowd to discuss uses and challenges of unmanned aircraft

Jim Moran with Senator Mark Warner Former Congressman Jim Moran (left) arrives with Senator Mark Warner for Virginia Tech’s panel discussion on drones

A crowd of more than 100 people filled the room to capacity at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill for “Drones in America: Innovation and Regulation,” a panel discussion sponsored by the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA).

Featured speaker Senator Mark Warner gave opening remarks highlighting the commonwealth of Virginia’s leadership in the research and development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including the FAA-designated UAS test range based at Virginia Tech.

Former Congressman Jim Moran moderated the panel of industry, government, and academic experts. Moran recently joined Virginia Tech as a SPIA professor of practice.

“Having Jim on our faculty enhances our ability to host events like these, where Virginia Tech can bring together thought leaders from across sectors to inform policymaking and educate the public,” said SPIA Director Anne Khademian.

The domestic use of drones has skyrocketed in recent years; there were 800,000 sold during the 2015 Christmas season. Panelists discussed their many innovative uses, from Starbucks delivery to hurricane telemetry; from recreation to search-and-rescue. The panel also acknowledged areas of significant challenge: tensions between media and police rights to photograph and the right to privacy; safety near airports and other critical infrastructure; and the patchwork of state and federal laws seeking to regulate this new technology.

Panel members for “Drones in America” included:

  • Marke “Hoot” Gibson, senior adviser for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Rose Mooney, executive director, Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP)
  • David Ransom, partner, McDermott Will & Emery
  • Patrick Roberts, associate professor of Public Administration and Policy, SPIA
  • Bruce Walker, vice president of Homeland Security, Civil, Regulatory, and International Affairs, Northrop Grumman Corporation.

“It was exciting to have such a large crowd turn out for ‘Drones in America’, the first in a series of such events spearheaded by former Congressman Moran,” Khademian said. “This kind of positive response reinforces the important role Virginia Tech can play in facilitating high-level discussion of critical public policy challenges.”

Posted May 24, 2016