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U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao explains in an opinion piece, titled “Prioritizing safety in the drone revolution”, why safe and responsible drone flying is crucial to the future of the drone industry.

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Prioritizing safety in the drone revolution

Drones are the fastest-evolving transportation segment in history, moving at the pace of imagination. It is an exciting time for aviation, and the U.S. Transportation Department is playing an important role in this revolution. We are focused on improving our agility and flexibility in our support of the drone community, while keeping the safety of our national airspace and the public as our top priority.

The department’s commitment to the safe integration of drones into America’s airspace will clear the way for advances in public health, safety, mobility, productivity and economic growth. It will also help ensure that the U.S. retains its leadership in global transportation innovation.

Today, nearly 1.5 million drones and 155,000 drone pilots are registered with the FAA. Whether you fly for recreational purposes, business or public safety, your drone is an aircraft, and you are its pilot. Maintaining the highest levels of safety is a shared responsibility.

Everyone involved with drones can make a real difference by connecting with people in their communities. Drone pilots, small business owners, educators, farmers, emergency responders, state and local officials: Your stories and successes can help others fly safely and inspire the next generation of aviators.

Drones have unique capabilities, giving them tremendous potential. Natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires have brought many positive uses into sharp focus. In California, firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department are using drones to aid with situational awareness so that they can more safely and effectively combat fires and save lives.

Drones are being increasingly embraced by first responders for search and rescue and disaster recovery. It’s important to note, however, that unauthorized drone use, or drone deployment that is not coordinated with public safety officials and first responders working near these disaster sites, can ground aviation operations and impede their efforts. Drone operators need to be aware of these issues.

Drones are rapidly changing transportation. The first medical and commercial drone package delivery flights recently made headlines and underscore the promise that package delivery holds for the future.

The advent of drones is creating new job categories that never before existed. Incredible strides are being made in this new unmanned aviation frontier. So, fly safe, have fun and keep innovating.

Elaine L. Chao is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

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