Expensive News – FAA Releases Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Roadmap

Dji´s Phantom. Photo © KIKE CALVO


This post is the latest in the Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series which profiles interesting drone information Kike learns about during his travels. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today released its first annual Roadmap outlining efforts needed to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace.

The Roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as demand moves the country from today’s limited accommodation of UAS operations to the extensive integration of UAS into the NextGen aviation system in the future.

“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Roadmap is an important step forward that will help stakeholders understand the operational goals and safety issues we need to consider when planning for the future of our airspace.”

The Roadmap outlines the FAA’s approach to ensuring that widespread UAS use is safe, from the perspective of accommodation, integration, and evolution. The FAA’s main goal for integration is to establish requirements that UAS operators will have to meet in order to increase access to airspace over the next five to 10 years. “The FAA is committed to safe, efficient and timely integration of UAS into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are dedicated to moving this exciting new technology along as quickly and safely as possible.”

The Roadmap also addresses the evolution of UAS operations once all requirements and standards are in place and are routinely updated to support UAS operations as the National Airspace System evolves over time. The document stresses that the UAS community must understand the system is not static, and that many improvements are planned for the airspace system over the next 15 years.

The FAA plans to select six UAS test sites to begin work on safely integrating UAS into the airspace. These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into how best to safely integrate UAS systems into the national airspace over the next several years and what certification and navigation requirements will need to be established.

The use of UAS, both at the designated test sites and in the national airspace generally, raises the issue of privacy and protection of civil liberties. In February, the FAA asked for public comments specifically on the draft privacy requirements for the six test sites. Today, the agency sent a final privacy policy to the FederalRegister that requires test site operators to comply with federal, state, and other laws on individual privacy protection, to have a publicly available privacy plan and a written plan for data use and retention, and to conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment. Information about the test site selection process and final test site privacy policy is available online.

¨Commercial UAS is an emerging career field,¨said Dr Jerry LeMieux., President and Founder ofUnmanned Vehicle University. ¨You can be employed as a UAV pilot, engineer, program manager, analyst and many others. Whats driving the commercial market is that the vehicles are getting smaller and more affordable. The same is occurring with the sensors. The small UAS (the FAA defines small as below 55 pounds) is where 95% of operations will occur. You will only need to take a written exam and a flight test to obtain a permit to operate. Thousands of new businesses will start up that will employ hundreds of thousands. Venture capitol is already on the increase for small UAS business startups. I compare it to the days the Internet started. You will see the same interest and excitement that we had back then. I predict within 10 years commercial UAS will be a trillion dollar industry.¨

The Roadmap notes that the case-by-case accommodation will decline significantly as integration begins and expands, but will continue to be a practical way to allow flights by some UAS operators in certain circumstances.

¨The advent of the FAA allowing drones to fly in the USA will be a big boon to the hobbyist market, ¨ said  Gene Payson, president of Troy Built Models, a Florida store that sells high end RC aerial vehicles and drones. ”Thousands of new pilots will get their start using RC aircraft which resemble drones. The best way to learn to fly a drone is to learn to to fly RC as a hobbyist. Hobbyists learn all aspects of building, piloting and (unfortunately) repairing aircraft. It’s a great learning tool for UAV pilot wannabes.¨