FAA's plan to accelerate drone integration

Stock photo ID: 417891985 by GizaDog Shutterstock 

Days after the White House issued a memo calling for the Federal Aviation Administration to stand up an UAS Integration Pilot Program within the next three months, the agency has it waiting on the runway.

Under the plan, released Nov. 2, the agency will act as a kind of matchmaker for state, local and tribal governments, pairing them with private companies, such as UAS operators or manufacturers. Those teams will then apply to the FAA to set up local test zones and feed their airspace integration data to the agency.

The agency has taken considerable flak from drone makers and potential commercial drone operators for its sluggish response to enabling a rapidly growing, and potentially revolutionary, technology. The White House memo was aimed at speeding up the process of integrating the burgeoning technology into the overall National Air Space. The FAA has been so inundated with applications to operate drones in controlled airspace, it recently filed an emergency request to automate the process to winnow down thousands of backlogged requests.

The program is designed to "forge deep working relationships" between commercial users and state, local and tribal governments, according to a Federal Register notice scheduled for publication on Nov. 8. Operators will have latitude to experiment with operational and communications concepts to advance the integration of drones into the existing aviation environment.

The oversight will be managed locally, but the FAA will have a role. Data gathered under pilot projects will be used to help develop regulations to govern use cases, including package delivery, news gathering over populated areas and beyond the line-of-sight operations  in remote areas for tasks such as inspecting pipelines or conducting search and rescue operations.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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