FAA Provides Progress, Future Steps Toward Integrating Drones in US Airspace

By Amy Kluber | September 4, 2018
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ATT Cell on wings Flying Cow drone

AT&T's "Cell on Wings" drone. Photo courtesy of AT&T

The FAA has released a new roadmap that outlines a five-year blueprint for the introduction of civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the U.S. National Airspace System.

The report, which is posted on the agency's website, outlined the agency's advancements toward integration, its relationships with industry, key challenges and a strategy for near-term integration efforts over the next few years.


Near-term challenges include enabling technology and public policy. Among the technology challenges are detect-and-avoid systems, and command and control links. To overcome those hurdles, the FAA is establishing performance standards for UAS operating beyond line of sight and issuing flight waivers that allow applicants to fly outside those restrictions. The agency also is establishing outreach initiatives covering flying safely and responsibly. The FAA also is working with industry partners and the government to identify and address the cybersecurity risks of flying UAS in U.S. airspace.

The FAA's next steps include various efforts that will still take some time, the agency cautioned.

Participants in the FAA's Integration Pilot Program were unveiled in May 2018. The program aims to provide governments and industry opportunities to collaborate on conducting advanced UAS operations. Participants will test and evaluate various federal regulations for UAS operations to inform future guidelines on UAS operations nationwide.

When making future rules, the FAA underscored its policy of "taking a risk-based approach to UAS integration by setting a framework for safety that opens the skies to the majority of UAS operations without unduly impeding innovation," the report said. That means "incrementally" expanding existing regulations by allowing operations such as flying at night and over people, it continued.

"Solving these challenges requires flexibility and a willingness to consider new and novel approaches to shared challenges,"  the report said. "The pace of UAS integration will require the FAA to be nimble and amenable to non-traditional thinking, while its commitment to safety remains steadfast. This burgeoning industry brings tremendous potential economic benefits, and as the global trailblazer in aviation innovation, the FAA is committed to ensuring that the U.S. paves the way in addressing the challenges of UAS integration without compromising our worldwide leadership role in aviation safety."

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