FAA looks to the private sector for drone user testing platform

drone signals (Thongsuk Atiwannakul/Shutterstock.com) 

The Federal Aviation Administration named a dozen organizations, ranging from commercial drone manufacturers, pilots associations, universities and drone racing leagues, to help it develop and administer electronic safety tests for new owners of the aircraft.

Among the organizations the FAA said will help develop the test are Chinese drone maker DJI; the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; the Academy of Model Aeronautics; the Drone Racing League, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Drone Launch Academy Southeastern University; and the Science Applications International Corp.

Those organizations, it said, will recommend safety test administration requirements and help with how supporting platforms will develop.

With the commercial drone market continuing its breakneck expansion in the U.S., the FAA has been looking to be more nimble about how it provides public-facing electronic support systems for the millions of new users of the aircraft. The agency has quickly streamlined many processes originally developed for commercial aviation to fit the fast-growing drone market, as well as implemented quicker, app-based services.

The agency's latest request for information for the safety test is in line with those efforts.

The FAA wants the resulting electronic test to be given as close to the commercial drone customer as possible, unlike other FAA flight testing for general and commercial aviation. Traditionally, it said tests for pilots and other aviation personnel are given at designated FAA brick and mortar sites.

With the drone test, the agency enlists drone manufacturers, community organizations and retailers to help develop and administer the test to new users at their locations using platforms developed by third-party providers.

"FAA is developing the training and testing content in consultation with industry. However, the FAA recognizes that manufacturers, community based organizations, academic institutions, retailers, and others may be best suited to administer the test so as to reach the largest audience and generate the highest completion rate," the agency said.

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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