DOT Audits FAA Role In Drone Authorizations

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General has announced that it will be conducting an audit of the FAA’s role in authorizing Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS/drone) flights within the National Airspace System. The audit will focus on the impact of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system, which provides near real-time processing of airspace authorizations for drones below approved altitudes, and the FAA’s procedures for coordinating and communicating UAS airspace approvals and notifications.

“The continuing growth of Unmanned Aircraft Systems within the National Airspace System presents challenges for the Federal Aviation Administration in maintaining the world’s safest aviation system while fostering innovation,” the Inspector General’s Office said in its audit announcement. “Given the significant safety implications associated with integrating UAS operations throughout the NAS, we are initiating an audit assessing FAA’s role in authorizing small UAS operations.”

The LAANC program completed its phased nationwide rollout in September. It is now active at nearly 300 air traffic facilities and provides service for approximately 500 airports. According to the Office of Inspector General, the FAA had processed more than 22,000 airspace requests through LAANC as of August 2018, along with 1.1 million UAS registrations for commercial operators and hobbyists since December 2015. The audit is expected to begin this November.

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