Illustration: NASA JPL / Caltech
Jan. 27, 2021
Staff from HAI’s Government Affairs Department on the Utah Rotor Pathway Program, impeachment, the Mars helicopter, and more.
Cade Clark, HAI Vice President of Government Affairs, John Shea, HAI Director of Government Affairs, and Emma Taylor, Policy Analyst
NASA to Fly Small Helicopter on Mars
NASA’s Perseverance rover, scheduled to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, will be carrying the Mars Helicopter, nicknamed Ingenuity. This small helicopter, which weighs approximately 4 lbs., will attempt to accomplish the first controlled flight on another planet.
Ingenuity’s is an experimental flight test, with the sole objective of demonstrating that rotorcraft flight in Mars’s extremely thin atmosphere is possible. The rotorcraft will not be controlled by any engineers until after the flight occurs. If the flight is successful, the experiment will open the door for NASA to incorporate more-advanced robotic aircraft in future missions.
Utah Rotor Pathway Program Announces New Officers and Growth
The Utah Rotor Pathway Program wrote a press release announcing the election of new officers during its virtual meeting on Jan. 22. Program members elected Ryan DeJong, assistant chief flight instructor, Southern Utah University (SUU), as chair; Nick Johnson, pilot, Intermountain Life Flight, as vice chair; and outgoing co-chair Cade Clark, vice president of government affairs, Helicopter Association International, as secretary.
The Pathway Program was also excited to announce the participation of additional high schools, for a total of 17 Utah high schools involved in the program. Program members are working to continue to expand the program in schools across the state.
The Utah Rotor Pathway Program is a first-in-the-nation program that brings together industry, universities, and high schools to provide both helicopter pilot and maintenance training at the high-school level. Industry partners offer secondary-school students added benefits such as mentoring, internships, and potential job interviews upon their completion of the college-level aviation program. See the .
Senate Commerce Committee Approves Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary
The US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee this morning as secretary of the US Department of Transportation (DOT). Following the committee hearing last week, Democrats and Republicans spoke highly of the nominee. Buttigieg’s nomination now advances to the full Senate for a final vote. Confirmation of the nominated secretary of transportation could come as early as this week.
House Article of Impeachment Against Trump Moves to Senate
The US House of Representatives’ article of impeachment against Former President Donald Trump was delivered to the Senate around 7 pm on Monday, Jan. 25. The arrival of this article triggers the formal start of impeachment proceedings. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will serve as the Senate’s president pro tempore. House Democratic impeachment managers, whose roles are to prosecute the case, and Trump’s defense team will have until the week of Feb. 8 to draft opposing briefs. The delay in the trial allows Democrats time to confirm President Biden’s cabinet and gives Republicans more time for Trump to plan his defense.
The article of impeachment charges Trump with incitement of insurrection for his actions prior to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump is the only US president to be impeached twice.
FAA Approves First Fully Automated Drone Flight
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights last week. The approval gave American Robotics the ability to operate drones without direct supervision by manned piloting or human controllers. The drones must fly along planned routes in rural areas and are limited to altitudes below 400 feet, with a maximum takeoff weight of 20 lbs. Prior to this decision, the FAA had allowed companies to operate drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), but an operator had to be nearby on the ground.
The decision approval documents, posted to the FAA website, stated that expanding the use of commercial drones could bring efficiency to major industries such as agriculture, mining, transportation, and nondurable manufacturing.