US: Ever since a federal judge rejected the agency’s first and only prosecution of a commercial drone operator earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been under pressure from UAS manufacturers and advocacy groups to open up regulatory framework. Despite the ruling, the FAA has stood by its decision and maintained that commercial usage of drone is ‘illegal’.
However, in the recent Department of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill 2015 passed by the House Appropriations Committee, Congress has given FAA ‘an additional $3,000,000 in the Aviation Safety Activity to expedite the integration of UAS into commercial airspace.’
Among several other observations, the Bill mentioned the following salient points regarding UAS and FAA:
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS): The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directed the FAA to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System by 2015. However, it is uncertain when the FAA can integrate UAS into the Nation’s airspace and what will be required to achieve the goal. The lack of an overall framework for the new systems may be inhibiting progress on UAS integration. The Committee is concerned that the FAA may not be well positioned to manage effectively the introduction of UAS in the United States, particularly in light of a recent ruling by a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative judge regarding the use of a small UAS for commercial purposes. Given these challenges, the Committee has provided an additional $3,000,000 in the Aviation Safety Activity to expedite the integration of UAS into commercial airspace.
UAS budgeting: The Committee understands that UAS have very different operating characteristics, communications and flight planning system requirements than traditional air traffic operations. However, the resource requirements for integrating UAS into airspace and the corresponding impacts on the FAA’s capital and operating budgets remains unclear. The Committee directs the FAA to develop an integrated budget for UAS in the fiscal year 2016 budget request that clearly identifies research and development needs and the requirements for air traffic control systems and operations.
Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research: The FAA has established six UAS test sites, which are expected to provide valuable information for developing the regulatory framework for UAS integration. However, the FAA will need to develop a comprehensive plan to identify research priorities, including how data from test site operations will be gathered, analyzed, and used. The Committee recognizes these challenges and provides $10,974,000 for UAS research, which is $2,000,000 above the budget request. These additional funds are provided to help meet the FAA’s UAS research goals of system safety and data gathering, aircraft certification, command and control link challenges, control station layout and certification, sense and avoid, and environmental impacts.
Unmanned aerial systems data sharing: Issues with defining the safety data the FAA needs from the Department of Defence (DoD) remain a barrier in its efforts to develop safety standards. The Committee directs the FAA to develop a plan to resolve these data-sharing issues with the DoD and to identify what data is needed, why it is needed, and how it will be used.
Source: Our Correspondent