While the question “Who owns the skies?” hangs in the air like a persistent quadcopter, the FAA is assuring U.S. pilots that they won’t be sharing the skies with UAVs on a regular basis any time soon.
Speaking to the Air Line Pilots Association’s Air Safety Forum last week, John Hickey, deputy associate administrator for Aviation Safety with the FAA, told a panel discussion that his agency would be taking a “prudent, step-by-step basis” in setting drone safety and certification policies. Hickey expressed some pessimism about the timing, adding that the final outcome was “not going to be as soon as people want.”
The issue of how, what and when the FAA will release definitive policy statements on the use of commercial drones has been somewhat murky. As earlier reported in DRONELIFE, the FAA has laid out the following benchmarks:
- Certification process established for one or more civil applicants by 2014. [Completed]
- Initial issue papers for one or more standard airworthiness certification projects available by 2014.
- FAA unique certification requirements published by 2015 and test projects completed by 2017.
- Certification for pilots and crew for sUAS classes published by 2014 (in accordance with and defined by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012).
- Certification requirements for pilots and crew not listed in the FMRA published by 2014-2017.”
As for certification, the FAA has granted such status to six commercial UAS test sites, with the latest being PrecisionHawk, developers of the Lancaster UAV platform for use in agriculture, out of Griffiss Airfield in Rome, N.Y.
As far as the other benchmarks, it is widely expected the FAA will miss most, if not all of them. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General has called into question whether the FAA is even capable of achieving UAS integration at all.
For what it’s worth, the FAA did publish Guidelines for Model Aircraft in June, but the document has caused more fires than it put out.
The Safety Forum also focused on drone regulation in Canada. Reporting from the forum, Bill Carey of AIN Online noted that “Canada already allows commercial UAS flights; operators must first obtain and comply with the conditions of a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) … The regulatory agency issued 945 SFOCs for commercial and other unmanned aircraft operations.”
You can watch the panel in its entirety right here.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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