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The Federal Aviation Administration is unequipped to assess the noise impact of drones, flying taxis, and other emerging aircraft, an official from the department said Thursday.
Lawmakers grilled officials about what the agency is doing to address aviation noise complaints and prepare for new technology like advanced air mobility aircraft, also known as flying taxis.
“We need to improve our tools,” Kevin Welsh, executive director of the Office of Environment and Energy at the FAA, said at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing. “These vehicles look different, they sound different, they operate differently.”
Companies working on flying taxis include Joby Aviation Inc., Archer Aviation Inc., and Beta Technologies Inc. Many of them plan to launch in the next three years.
Lawmakers and the FAA have sought to limit noise from traditional planes. Emerging aircraft technologies, which could be flown closer to population centers, present new sound containment challenges.
The FAA is working with industry to measure that noise and update their procedures, Welsh said.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chair of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Aviation Subcommittee, urged lawmakers and the FAA to prepare for advanced air mobility aircraft.
He touted his bipartisan bill (H.R. 6270) to create a pilot program that would help communities plan for the new technology.
“Part of that planning process may include a description of efforts to reduce the adverse effects of aviation noise related to these aircraft,” Larsen said. “Congress must be forward-looking in dealing with the problems of today while also preparing for the problems of 2050.”
Heather Krause, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office, said the FAA needs to gather data on noise impacts as the new technology gets into service and think through where these aircraft might operate.
“Emerging technologies such as electric aircraft may present opportunities to reduce noise with quieter operations but they can also present new noise challenges if they operate at a higher frequency and closer to populations,” Krause said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org