Report: FAA Won't Make UAS Deadline

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The FAA is still grappling with "unresolved technological, regulatory, and privacy issues" that make it unlikely it can integrate unmanned aerial systems into the National Airspace System by the September 2015 deadline, according to a report (PDF) this week from the federal Transportation Department inspector general's office. The deadline was set by Congress in 2012. The OIG report offered several suggestions to help the FAA deal with the complex integration issues, such as establishing a more detailed implementation plan, creating a better system for sharing technical data with UAS operators, and starting a training program for air traffic controllers to handle UAS. The FAA has concurred with all of the report's recommendations.

The report concludes that until the FAA can do a better job of establishing a comprehensive plan and sticking to it, "it will remain unclear when, and if, FAA can meet its goals to safely integrate UAS." The FAA established a UAS Integration Office last year, and the OIG said the office has "accomplished many goals, despite facing the numerous challenges that come with an entirely new undertaking." For example, the office has established six UAS test sites, published a road map and a comprehensive plan, and simplified the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization process. An FAA spokesman told the Washington Post the agency plans to propose regulations governing the use of small drones -- those that weigh less than 55 pounds and donít fly above 400 feet in altitude -- by the end of this year. Rules for larger drones that would fly at higher altitudes are still several years away, according to the Post.