Wednesday, July 02, 2014

FAA to miss another deadline on drone regulations

News-media and other commercial drone operators waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to release regulations on the unmanned aerial vehicles will have to keep waiting. An internal government audit found that the FAA, which has already missed several deadlines, will miss the September 2015 deadline set by Congress "because of technical and regulatory obstacles that are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon," Craig Whitlock reports for The Washington Post.

"The FAA is significantly behind schedule in drawing up rules and standards to ensure that drones are airworthy, that pilots are trained properly and that their aircraft won’t interfere with other air traffic, the Transportation Department’s inspector general concluded in a highly critical audit," Whitlock writes. "The report said the FAA has so many hurdles to confront that it is unclear when — or if — remotely controlled aircraft can be safely integrated into U.S. airspace."

The audit said “safety risks will persist,” such as several reported cases of near misses between drones and planes, until the FAA can establish a set of rules, Whitlock writes. A Post investigation uncovered 49 military drone crashes since 2001 and two dozen civilian drone crashes since 2009, Whitlock writes. (Post map)

Meanwhile, drones have been used by farmers and journalism programs, rural journalists, the energy industry and law enforcement, and drone use was recently banned in national parks.

The FAA, which said three years ago it would issue regulations, said it plans to regulate small drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, Whitlock writes. "The FAA has imposed a de facto ban on commercial drones until it can sort out the rules of the sky" and has only issued two commercial permits, both in Alaska, but there is fear that many operators continue to fly without regard for safety, and have shown an unwillingness to follow any rules. (Read more)

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