Conflicts Abound At FAA As Chao Picks Drone Executive for Drone Oversight

Michael Chasen is CEO of commercial drone developer PrecisionHawk

WASHINGTON — Despite clear conflicts of interest, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has quietly appointed the CEO of a commercial drone developer to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Drone Advisory Committee. The committee advises the government on new drone rules, including promoting commercial drone usage. Chasen will now advise Transportation and other government agencies despite his conflicts of interest as a CEO who could profit off drone policies.

“Enough is enough. Chao is allowing corporations to run roughshod over American safety,” said Lizzy Price, spokesperson for Restore Public Trust. “First, Chao let Boeing bulldoze FAA on 737 Max regulations. Now, she is paving the way for a commercial drone CEO to make his own rules. Michael Chasen has a clear conflict of interest as both a CEO of a drone company and the top advisor on the FAA drone committee. How does Chao think he can wear both hats and neutrally advise on drone rules? Chao’s top concern should be overseeing public safety, but she is repeatedly failing at her oversight responsibilities.”

Chasen has made it clear he sees room for extensive drone deployment despite a rise in incidents of drones threatening safety in public places. Earlier this year, FAA proposed rules to allow commercial drones to fly at night and over people without needing special waivers.

Restore Public Trust has called for Congress’ review of Chao’s oversight failures. Earlier this month, reporting from NPR raised serious concerns about how the culture of FAA under Chao led to failures at Boeing. Boeing was reportedly aware of problems with key safety indicators in their 737 Max fleet back in 2017 when Chao first took over as Transportation Secretary, yet failed to disclose the safety issues to FAA.


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