FAA Taps Jay Merkle to Lead UAS Integration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has appointed a new executive director of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration, Jay Merkle, who currently serves as deputy vice president of the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Program Management Office.

Merkle succeeds Earl Lawrence, who has been promoted to executive director for aircraft certification, replacing Dorenda Baker, who retires today. Lawrence was named to the newly created UAS integration position in 2015 alongside Marke “Hoot” Gibson, who was appointed senior advisor on UAS integration. Gibson now heads the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance.

In his new position, Merkle will report to Ali Bahrami, the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety. According to the agency, Merkle has more than 25 years of engineering and program management experience with both the FAA and the defense industry. In his previous position within the Air Traffic Organization, Merkle supported the UAS Integration Office and was an architect of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program. Prior to that, he was a key manager in the FAA’s NextGen Air Transportation System Office.

“As long-standing FAA advocates for safety, Earl Lawrence and Jay Merkle are the right selections at a critical time for emerging aviation technologies,” states Dan Elwell, acting administrator of the FAA. “Their extensive experience will help ensure a safe transition as these new technologies mature and enter our country’s national airspace.”

The UAS Integration Office coordinates the development of regulations, policies, programs and procedures to enable the safe integration of drones into national airspace. The new appointments are effective Dec. 9.

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