Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)—also commonly referred to as drones and the systems used to operate them—are ubiquitous in the American consciousness today, even though for most of us our experiences with UAS may be limited to news reports. Times are changing, however, and UAS will soon be a regular part of everyday life in the United States. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that 7,500 UAS will be operating in the United States in five years, with more than $89 billion invested in UAS over the next decade globally.
Congress, Delayed Agency Rules, And Regulating The National Airspace -
FAA has struggled with a congressional mandate to integrate UAS into the National Airspace by 2015. A recent report by FAA’s Office of Inspector General (FAA OIG) explained that FAA will not meet the August 2014 milestone for issuance of a final rule on the operations of small UAS (defined as under 55 pounds). FAA OIG explained that the “delays are due to unresolved technical, regulatory, and privacy issues[.]” In fact, FAA OIG indicates that “privacy concerns have been the primary contributor” to the significant delays in issuance of regulations for small UAS because this important consideration is not central to “FAA’s primary mission” to ensure the safety of the National Airspace. Nevertheless, Congress has also instructed the agency to conduct a study of the impact of UAS integration on individual privacy and submit a report on its findings. How FAA ultimately resolves these competing demands and the degree to which states will play a role in their resolution remains an open question. As a result, FAA OIG concludes “while it is certain that FAA will accommodate UAS operations at limited locations, it is uncertain when and if full integration of UAS into” the National Airspace will occur...
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