If you are a congressman convening a hearing, you make sure it’s going to fit through the front door, alert the House Sergeant at Arms, and run it by the Capitol Police.
That’s what Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, did as he prepared to put the commercial use of small drones center stage in the House on Wednesday.
As chairman of the Small Business Committee, Chabot invited the CEO of a Dayton-based drone company to be his star witness at a hearing examining how small businesses can use unmanned aircraft in innovative — and safe — ways.
And this wouldn’t be Congress without a prop — so Wednesday’s hearing will also feature a 1.56-pound drone, about 40 inches across, that can fly as fast as 56 miles per hour.
It’s unlikely lawmakers on the panel will get a demonstration. But they will learn about the pitfalls and possibilities in the fast-emerging drone industry.
“The potential uses of unmanned aircraft systems or UAS is limitless,” Chabot said in prepared remarks provided to The Enquirer in advance of the committee’s session.
“They can be used by local broadcasters to gather footage and report the news,” the Ohio Republican said. “They can be used by farmers to better manage their crops. They can be used by engineering firms to inspect bridges. And they can be used by first responders to help save lives.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has recently moved to allow some drones to be used for commercial purposes, authorizing “low-risk” operations for everything from farming to real estate ventures. The agency is working to finalize rules for commercial uses of drones that weight less than 55 pounds.
But Mike Gilkey, head of 3D Aerial Solutions in Dayton, said the FAA still has too many restrictions and has been too slow to come up with a uniform set of rules guiding commercial drone use. 3D Aerial Solutions sells drone-related products and services—such as aerial imaging and flight crews.
“Unmanned systems hold the potential to truly revolutionize our economy and way of life in the United States,” Gilkey said in his prepared testimony. But uncertainty created by the FAA and local governments threatens to “stifle the ability of small business to capitalize on this market’s potential,” he said. The hearing — with drone at the witness table — will begin at 11 a.m