FAA names Merkle new head of UAS Integration Office

By Patrick C. Miller | December 03, 2018

Jay Merkle has been named the new head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office effective Dec. 9.

The UAS Integration Office coordinates the development of regulations, policies, programs and procedures to enable the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace system (NAS). Merkle succeeds Earl Lawrence, who was promoted to the position of executive director of FAA aircraft certification. Merkle was formerly the deputy vice president of the agency’s Air Traffic Organization Program Management Office. Lawrence and Merkle will report to Ali Bahrami, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety.

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

Merkle has more than 25 years of engineering and program management experience in 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.

Merkle has been a key manager in the FAA’s NextGen Air Transportation System Office where he was responsible for NAS communications, navigation, weather, surveillance and automation modernization programs. He has held positions as the lead engineer for tower, terminal and en route automation systems, the chief system engineer for en route and terminal domains and as the chief architect for NextGen at the Joint Planning and Development Office.

Merkle started his career as an engineer working in cockpit and crew station design on several aircraft, including the C-17 large transport aircraft. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida and a master's degree in industrial engineering and operations research from Virginia Tech.