Report: FAA Should Let Drones Fly

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The FAA’s “overly conservative” approach to safety risk assessments creates a “significant barrier” to the development and implementation of drone technology, according to a report issued on Monday. Congress mandated the study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “FAA needs to accelerate its move away from the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for UAS operations,” said George Ligler, chair of the committee that conducted the study. “The FAA’s current methods for safety and risk management certainly ensure safety within the manned aircraft sector,” Ligler said, “but UASs present new and unique challenges and opportunities, which make it important for the agency to take a broader view on risk analysis.” Drone operations that could provide safety benefits have been prevented from entering the airspace because of the FAA’s application of risk-assessment techniques, the report found.

The FAA’s focus on passenger aircraft has contributed to the development of a “near-zero tolerance for risk,” the report found, and the same standards are applied to drones, which do not pose a direct threat to human life in the same way as manned aircraft. The focus of the FAA is often solely on what might go wrong, and the dialogue now needs to shift toward a more holistic assessment of risks, says the report. The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to lawmakers to help inform public policy decisions related to science, technology and medicine. A prepublication copy of the report is posted online. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office also critiqued the FAA's management of drone safety.

Comments (6)

Not without complete ability to indentify operator of each drone being used.. Distinguishing between toy like and commercial use drones.. And then having a requirement to equip each drone with a "ADS OUT" type of encoder..

Posted by: Tom O'Toole | June 11, 2018 7:33 PM    Report this comment

I'll share with you the lunacy that is the FAA policy. First If I were a "Hobbyist" Drone flyer, I know nothing of airspace, regulations, communications, traffic patterns, etc. Yet even if I did know or even care to call the tower at the Class D airport to tell them I am flying a drone in there airspace, that is all that is required. I call them, tell them, and fly, "up yours Pilots".

Now I am a license Private Pilot, a licensed Part 107 UAS pilot. I have safety observers, an aircraft radio, I actually even have an AFD and Sectional Chart so I know the tower and ground freqs., I have a legitimate reason and mission to fly for commercial purposes near the same Class D airport. I have to go online sign in to my UAS page at the FAA make a complicated request with so many details and defined areas of exactly where, when, how and why I need to fly there.........now the kicker. It has been 120 days and I have NOT been given permission yet. My client is livid, cannot understand this stupidity and I cant give a good explanation either.

But in the FAA's wisdom they are improving the way the system works, so starting later this July in the Class D airspace I need to fly in , they will allow me to access the airspace with my cell phone and apply and get approval immediately.......oh, one caveat they will only allow 150 foot altitude in that area, If I need higher refer to paragraph 2 above and start again, I need 300 feet for the mission. P.S. there is a 225 foot log moving tower and machine crane at the center of the site, so I guess the planes will have to go around that to hit my little drone.

Lunacy, complete lunacy.

Posted by: Roger Mullins | June 11, 2018 9:11 PM    Report this comment

Mr. O'Toole:
Your ADS-B -equippage requirement seems reasonable - even prudent. But as we pursue safety, let me ask this:
How will the FAA's vaunted system react to the presence of ten MILLION ADS-B -squawking drones in the nation's airspace at any given moment? Because - make no mistake about it - that's exactly what we will face.

Between autonomous aircraft and millions of drones, we need to re-think our entire ATC paradigm, because NexGen was not designed with ANY of this in mind. It's 21st-century carbon paper.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | June 12, 2018 4:54 AM    Report this comment

I see merit both ways. One thing is for sure. The National Academies Report and the GAO reflect the FAA's incessant focus on safety to the exclusion of common sense. While we're at it, also to the exclusion of the promulgation of aviation in this Country. The FAA Act of 1958 included that mission objective but the FAA conveniently "forgets" it. Class I airplanes are being strangled out of existence by an intransigent FAA fixated on safety ... period. They treat my C172 as if it were a B747 full of revenue pax. Why!?

It's high time the Congress step in and order the FAA to "get real!." The FAA is a perfect example of how bureaucratic entities with absolute power over their minions run amok. They are SO concerned with safety that they wind up strangling everything they regulate. THAT is a great way to ensure 100% safety ... by way of paralysis.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | June 12, 2018 4:56 AM    Report this comment

Currently 99% of Commercial Drone flights happen below 400 agl. Hardly need ADS-B for that. If the 99 percenter's would operate their drones at and below 400 feet within line of sight and with an observer, you can't get much more safe than that. They should be allowed to operate in that realm without excessive oversight. Being licensed and trained to know "airspace, regulations, traffic patterns, etc. They would never fly the approach path at LaGuardia over the numbers, because they know better.

It is the "Hobbyist" who has no knowledge or desire to follow those simple guidelines that are the Problem. Look at YouTube you will see video after video of flying drones in the clouds, going to 17,000 feet and flying miles away looking at their video monitor with no way to see and avoid at all. This is the danger. Every Drone- Plane encounter has been with a Hobbyist. Yet "Congress" issued an order that NO New Law can be placed on them. The AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) bought just enough Senators to win that fight, now they can do whatever they want.
The AMA increased their dues from 58 to 75 dollars per year, in anticipation of "Congress" mandating that unless you are Part 107 you must join the AMA and follow their guidelines for flight. Yet "Congress" did not mandate they only recommend you follow a "Community Based Guideline" like the AMA.......which after destroying the competition is the only one available.

Posted by: Roger Mullins | June 12, 2018 7:01 AM    Report this comment

I find it interesting that just about everything in the Academy report could be equally applied to the FAA's overbearing regulation of light aircraft. They apply the same one size fits all mentality to everything from a C-150 to a B-787. Bureaucratic inertia and aversion to risk favors maintaining the status quo rather than allowing any change.

And unfortunately, Yars is correct; dumping millions of drones into the ADS-B system would overwhelm it. The whole NEXTGEN air traffic concept was thought up before drones really came on the scene and it never anticipated such a volume of traffic. What is probably needed is a passive receiver for the drones that would receive signals from ADS-B equipped aircraft in order to avoid them, but would not transmit back into the system. ATC does not need to "see" all the drones if they are capable of staying out of the way of regular aircraft.

Posted by: John McNamee | June 12, 2018 12:11 PM    Report this comment

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