The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is planning a phased integration of drones over a period of five years. Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), are increasingly used for commercial applications, yet are largely unregulated. The lack of guidance on what is and is not allowed creates a clear safety issues with potentially disastrous ramifications with such machines sharing airspace with commercial airliners. The near misses recently reported demonstrate this.
But, the Transportation Department Inspector General’s audit report, dated June 26, 2014, predicts that the FAA will miss its September 30, 2015 deadline for safely integrating drones into the airspace system. Specifically, in its summary, the report stated:
Although FAA is taking steps to advance UAS operations, significant technological barriers remain in achieving safe integration largely because current UAS have a limited ability to detect and avoid other air traffic. In addition, FAA has not established a regulatory framework for UAS integration, such as aircraft certification requirements, standard air traffic procedures, or an adequate controller training program. FAA is also not effectively collecting and analyzing UAS safety data or managing its oversight of UAS operations. Furthermore, the Agency is significantly behind schedule in meeting most of the UAS-related provisions of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, including the August 2014 milestone for issuing a final rule on small UAS operations. These delays are due to unresolved technological, regulatory, and privacy issues and will ultimately prevent the Agency from meeting Congress’s September 2015 deadline for achieving safe UAS integration.
For a copy of the full report, click here. With the number of active drones increasing, effective integration of them into the airspace – sooner rather than later – is critical to safe flight.