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Challenges The FAA Faces With Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

December 16, 2013 - Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) vendors and end-users in the United States wait rather impatiently as the Federal Aviation Administration works on regulations that will allow the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems for commercial applications. 

In California a number of real estate companies are now using UAS drones to give buyers an up close view of properties without having to go out to the properties. At the present time this is illegal. 

It is not illegal for a private individual to fly an unmanned aircraft for non commercial use. However, if an individual flies an unmanned aircraft for commercial use it is against the law. 


In a report released today by the Department of Transportation titled “Top Management Challenges For Fiscal Year 2014” DOT reported that the FAA predicts there will be roughly 7,500 small commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in 5 years. These UAS will be used in such areas as agriculture, construction sites, infrastructure inspection, wildlife research, prospecting, storm tracking and forecasting, emergency response an environmental monitoring. 

Integrating UAS in domestic US airspace will impact several FAA lines of business and offices, including safety and air traffic modernization. In 2012, FAA appointed a senior executive to lead its UAS Program Office. In 2013, this became the UAS Integration Office, with Aviation Safety and Air Traffic personnel combined into one office. 

However, it took over a year to fully establish the office due to difficulties with creating a hybrid organization for an emerging technology. FAA is still working on the necessary internal agreements to establish roles and responsibilities between the UAS Integration Office and other FAA lines of business. 

At the same time, FAA is behind in meeting requirements of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which calls for FAA to safely integrate UAS into the NAS by September 2015.



For example, FAA has neither completed the requirements to establish six test ranges, which were due in 2012, nor provided Congress with a comprehensive UAS integration plan, which was due by February 2013. FAA states that problems in meeting the act’s requirements are due to the complexity of the problem, privacy issues, and unresolved coordination issues with other Federal agencies.  

In addition, FAA must resolve a number of UAS specific safety issues. While UAS capabilities have improved, their ability to detect, sense, and avoid other air traffic is limited. Although UAS are now operating in the NAS, FAA has not developed standard air traffic procedures for safely co-managing them with manned aircraft. 

The FAA must continue to work with other Federal agencies and the aerospace industry to establish certification standards, obtain reliable safety data, address privacy concerns, and align changes with its capital investments. It is expected that the aerospace industry investing over $89 billion in UAS technology over the next 10 years.
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