Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta was long on optimism but short on specifics in a pointed Q & A session at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The FAA is under congressional order to integrate most UAVs into the national airspace system by 2015 (2014 for UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds) and Huerta told a room full of people with a lot riding on those deadline the agency will get it done. "I am very optimistic that we will get there," Huerta said. "Rest assured that the FAA will fulfill its statutory obligations to integrate unmanned aircraft systems." Just how it's going to crunch that deadline is not something Huerta wanted to elaborate on, however.
National Defense Magazine reported that the FAA has some significant issues to address, including standardized pilot training, effective and safe sense-and-avoid systems and emergency autonomous flight safety, before UASs can be allowed to share the airspace with piloted aircraft, but if Huerta knows how they will be resolved he wasn't saying. "I don't really want to speculate on hypotheticals that we won't get there because I am quite optimistic that we will," he said in answer to persistent questions about the pace of the agency's progress toward those standards. The FAA hasn't yet decided on the location of six UAS test facilities to shake down these issues. Huerta told the convention the sites will be determined "very soon."