The pressure is on for the FAA to allow drone operations in the National Airspace, and this week a major unmanned systems advocate complained that the agency is already behind schedule. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International wrote to the FAA that legislation (PDF) passed earlier this year set a deadline of Aug. 12 for the FAA to designate six test ranges where certification standards and air traffic requirements could be developed, but the deadline has passed and the FAA doesn't have a program in place. "This is a critical step in the process toward the safe and responsible integration of UAS into the national airspace by 2015," wrote AUVSI President Michael Toscano.
Toscano said demand to use the vehicles is strong in both the public and commercial sector for uses such as police surveillance and crop monitoring, and delaying the use of drones will cost the economy more than $100 million in lost wages each year. In May, the FAA said it was making progress in its site selection process and expects to name the sites in December. "These sites are important because they will provide valuable data to us safely integrate UAS into the nation's airspace by 2015 as required by the 2012 FAA reauthorization," the FAA said.