By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Citing concerns over privacy, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has told members of Congress that the selection of six test sites for unmanned aerial systems will not happen in time to meet the agency's target of the end of this year. In a letter (PDF) to U.S. Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., co-chair of the Unmanned Systems Congressional Caucus, Huerta said FAA staffers have been "working diligently to establish the framework for test-site selection
However, increasing the use of UAS in our airspace also raises privacy issues, and these issues will need to be addressed as unmanned aircraft are safely integrated." Earlier this month, 20 aviation advocacy groups (including AOPA, EAA, NATCA, NBAA, GAMA, and more) jointly sent a letter (PDF) to Huerta, asking him to keep the FAA focused on safety, not privacy issues, in regards to the integration of UAS.
"The FAA has no statutory standing or technical expertise" in regard to privacy issues, the letter reads. The groups also asked Huerta to "ensure UAS are safely and responsibly integrated into the national airspace in a timely manner." At a meeting of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems in August, Huerta said he was "very optimistic" that the FAA would meet the congressional mandate to integrate most UAVs into the national airspace system by 2015 (2014 for UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds). "Rest assured that the FAA will fulfill its statutory obligations to integrate unmanned aircraft systems," he said. However, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office released in September noted that although the FAA "has taken steps to meet the requirements set forth in the 2012 Act, it is uncertain when the national airspace system will be prepared to accommodate UAS."