The Federal Aviation Administration Nov. 7 released the first roadmap for integrating civilian owned and operated unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, into the national airspace system, and said it would be seeking details on how operators plan to use any data collected by those drones.
The roadmap outlines current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as commercial deployments of drones increases and FAA moves to foster the integration of UAS into the next-generation aviation system, known as NextGen.
“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This roadmap is an important step forward that will help stakeholders understand the operational goals and safety issues we need to consider when planning for the future of our airspace.”
“Our FAA forecast estimates that we can expect 7,500 small unmanned aircraft in our national airspace in the next five years, provided the regulations are in place to handle them,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Right now, almost all of the unmanned aircraft operations we approve for public use and research purposes are on a case by case basis.”
To date, FAA has authorized the limited use of unmanned aircraft for missions deemed important to the public interest. These include firefighting, disaster relief, search and rescue, law enforcement, border patrol, military training, and testing and evaluation. About 80 law enforcement agencies operate unmanned aircraft now under special certificates of authorization, according to Huerta. Universities also use unmanned aircraft for research into weather, agriculture and industrial uses.
Huerta said FAA plans by the end of the year to choose six test sites for civil unmanned aircraft. The test sites will provide information to help FAA develop policies and procedures to ensure safe, responsible and transparent integration.