Drone Advocate: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Resigns Following Capitol Attack


Chao drones

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U.S. Transportation Secretary and drone advocate Elaine Chao has resigned her post in the wake of Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.

Chao, who has hailed the “safe integration of drones” as a “national imperative,” announced her resignation via Twitter on Thursday.

“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” Chao said. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

The wife of current Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, Chao is the latest Trump Administration defection following the riot.

After serving as acting labor secretary under President George W. Bush, Chao became the DOT head in 2017 as a Trump appointment.

Over the past three years, she helped established several FAA programs aimed at creating a national drone traffic management system and supported the launch of the Remote ID initiative.

In 2019, Chao flew a drone during a conference at Hazard Community and Technical College in Kentucky. “New uses are constantly being found for drones, including surveying crops, inspecting damaged homes and infrastructure, and delivering packages and medical supplies,” she said later during a speech.

But one field where drones have already proved, and continue to prove their worth, is in search and rescue.”  

Chao helped launched the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program three years ago noting “the possibilities for drone use are as endless as the human imagination.”

During CES 2020, Chao said drones are “useful for a variety of applications such as surveying, agriculture, search and rescue, delivery of packages and even passengers.”

“We are working toward the safe integration of drones into national airspace,” she added.

Chao’s focus on expanding the drone sector for both public-safety and commercial use drew accolades from industry leaders as well. Following the FAA’s recently released final policy on type certification, Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI said:

“I want to congratulate FAA Administrator Steven Dickson and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on continuing to show tremendous leadership to encourage growth in the unmanned sector.”

In her resignation statement, Chao said she will work with her a successor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to ensure a smooth transition.

Although it’s not yet clear how Buttigieg will steer the DOT’s drone policy, President-elect Joe Biden may have subtly shed some light on the Administration fondness for drones— in November, he presided over a drone light show during his recent campaign victory celebration.

Miriam McNabb contributed to this report.

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