GAO Urges FAA To Develop Proper Drone Integration Plan


The Government Accountability Office says the FAA is dragging its feet on integrating drones into the National Airspace System and confounding industry efforts to get their businesses off the ground. In a report published last week, the GAO says the agency needs to step up its efforts to create a comprehensive strategy for drones to keep company with existing air traffic. It also wants the FAA to better communicate its requirements to industry and reduce the internal agency confusion in applying and enforcing rules.

“GAO is making four recommendations, including that FAA: (1) develop a drone integration strategy that includes all elements of a comprehensive strategy and (2) evaluate its current documentation to identify options to more clearly communicate how applicants can satisfy drone operational request requirements and FAA’s process for reviewing and approving operational requests,” the GAO said in its report.

The GAO talked to dozens of industry stakeholders and representatives on various committees advising the FAA and heard stories of conflicting and confounding issuance and interpretation of rules for companies trying to test their drones and services. At the same time the GAO acknowledged the vast complexity of the task at hand and gave the agency credit for the progress it has made. What’s missing is an overall plan. “Establishing a strategy with all key elements is critical to FAA’s ability to effectively manage its drone integration efforts,” the report says.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. At Airventure I heard MOSAIC was delayed because the FAA was furiously dedicated to getting drone NPRM’s and legislation written. Well … here we are … no drone legislation and no MOSAIC. Maybe creating unnecessary debacles like LODA is harder than we all think? OH! And the five years the FAR Part 23 ARC worked to produce a workable update which only resulted in NORSEE likely ate up manpower resources? Well, when the DOT boss gets back from maternity leave maybe he’ll light a fire under the right people after they get some more funding? THAT’s it .. they’re short of funding (sic).

  2. The FAA’s scorched earth war on the Radio controlled airplane hobby is pushing away a lot of future aviators. The R/C hobby has always been a place where people dip their foot into aviation. Many take the interest into flying and sometimes a career in aviation. The overbearing legislation on the R/C hobby is driving away a huge percentage of people who were just interested in a more simple hobby.

    • “SCORCHED EARTH WAR”??? Maybe if there weren’t so many Youtube videos of the jerks letting these things climb into the clouds, trying to fly formation with the Blue Angels, mounting 9mm pistols & flame throwers, hovering outside of people’s windows there wouldn’t have been a need for FAA intervention. But, let’s face it, when these things started to show up in toy stores and all over Amazon, the FAA hands off your hobby days were numbered.

      Actually, the FAA response has been surprisingly measured. True hobbyist haven’t lost too many place to fly. The remote ID is just another equipment requirement like mode C, ELTs and ADS-B.

      • You’ll notice that Owen W. said “Radio controlled airplane hobby” not radio controlled drone hobby. Radio control airplane pilots have coexisted safely with full-scale aviation for decades and all of the non-drone pilots that I know, and fly with, do feel put upon but these regulations and blame the drone pilots for the current situation. The worst thing that the Academy of Model Aeronautics did was to try to embrace the drone hobby. I believe they saw them as a new source of membership revenue but the drone scofflaws, that do the things that you mention, aren’t interested in joining an organization like the AMA.

        • “Park Flyers” ruined the RC plane hobby. In the old days we had to go to an RC flying field to fly a larger plane. Now you can launch a toy plane anywhere.

  3. The problem is that drones already know the airspace system but are wanting to change it for their financial gain. Note that safety will be the first concession we will need to make.

  4. Rule 1: All aircraft with humans aboard have the right-of-way over aircraft that are not carrying humans.
    Rule 2: All aircraft without a human pilot aboard must sense-and-avoid all other aircraft at all times.
    Rule 3: Violation of Rule 1 or 2 will be considered prima-facie evidence of attempted homicide.
    Rule 4: Ground operators are not pilots.

    Seems simple enough to me.

    • Ground operators of drones might not be IN the aircraft, but strictly speaking, they are “piloting” it. Or rather, they should be piloting (i.e. navigating) it as opposed to just operating it blindly without due regard to airspace, persons, or property.

  5. He may be “piloting” it, by your definition, but he has no “skin in the game”, which is a foundational construct of my “Rules”.

  6. ALL pilots operating in airspace are required to “see and avoid” other aircraft. The problem will be when so many deliveries occur, only sensors will be utilized to avoid obstacles. There may be collisions, so manned aircraft will have to fly higher. There is no way in hell that a single-engine aircraft traveling at 100-180 knots can see a drone, or RC aircraft hoveringor flying at their altitude. The larger aircraft must be above 1500 feet AGL or higher as drones proliferate. This would normally be above any AMA field restriction. Also, remember, AMA fields (FRIA’s) will not require any remote ID equipment.
    AMA operators have been trained to follow AMA safety rules, and on many occasions fly at 400 feet and below.