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FAA, DOT Release Three Key UAS Documents Outlining Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems into U.S. Airspace
DOT Comprehensive Plan
DOT's Comprehensive Plan details an interagency approach to safely accelerate UAS integration into U.S. airspace. Specifically, the report highlights UAS national goals and objectives, the integration of civil UAS in the FAA Roadmap, UAS research and development, and interagency research collaboration. The Comprehensive Plan was sent to Congress in November 2013 as required under the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act, though the original deadline set by Congress for the submission was November 2012.
The FAA Roadmap, titled “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap,” provides an overview of the technologies, procedures, and regulations that will be required with UAS expansion. The report also discusses challenges to UAS expansion, standards for testing, research and development, and training, among other topics.
The FAA forecasts that up to 7,500 small UAS—defined as unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds—could be integrated into the NAS within the next five years, assuming proper regulations are in place. Under the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act, the FAA must publish a final rule integrating small UAS into U.S. airspace no later than 18 months after the date that the Comprehensive Plan was sent to Congress. In the Roadmap, the FAA states that it expects the small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to be released in early 2014, and mentions that the proposed rule has already undergone a risk assessment by the FAA through its Safety Management System Process.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta discussed the Roadmap at a UAS forum on the day of the Roadmap's release. He explained that the FAA will select six test sites to study best practices, policies, and procedures for UAS integration and also to provide data that will help the FAA formulate future UAS policy. Thus far, the FAA has received 25 test site proposals representing 26 states, and will make its final awards later this year. Administrator Huerta did not comment on the timing of the small UAS NPRM.