By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Citing concerns over privacy, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has told members of Congress that the selection of six testing sites for unmanned aerial vehicles, which was expected this year, has been indefinitely put on hold. According to the Dayton Daily News, Huerta wrote to members of the Unmanned Systems Congressional Caucus, but no public statement has been released about the decision. 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 "ensure UAS are safely and responsibly integrated into the national airspace in a timely manner." The groups also said, "It is our belief that for FAA to succeed, the agency must remain focused on safety rather than privacy issues, where the FAA has no statutory standing or technical expertise."
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. A government report 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."