WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA has released its first annual roadmap outlining efforts needed to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace.
The roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as demand moves the country from today’s limited accommodation of UAS operations to the extensive integration of UAS into the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) , according to FAA officials.
“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.”
The FAA’s main goal for integration is to establish requirements that UAS operators will have to meet in order to increase access to airspace over the next five to 10 years. The roadmap discusses items such as new or revised regulations, policies, procedures, guidance material, training and understanding of systems and operations to support routine UAS operations.
“The FAA is committed to safe, efficient and timely integration of UAS into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are dedicated to moving this exciting new technology along as quickly and safely as possible.”
The roadmap also addresses the evolution of UAS operations once all requirements and standards are in place and are routinely updated to support UAS operations as the National Airspace System evolves over time. The document stresses that the UAS community must understand the system is not static, and that many improvements are planned for the airspace system over the next 15 years.
The FAA plans to select six UAS test sites to begin work on safely integrating UAS into the airspace. These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct research into how best to safely integrate UAS systems into the national airspace over the next several years and what certification and navigation requirements will need to be established.
The use of UAS, both at the designated test sites and in the national airspace generally, raises the issue of privacy and protection of civil liberties. In February, the FAA asked for public comments specifically on the draft privacy requirements for the six test sites.
For the next several years, the FAA will continue to use special mitigations and procedures to accommodate limited UAS access to the nation’s airspace on a case-by-case basis. The roadmap notes that this case-by-case accommodation will decline significantly as integration begins and expands, but will continue to be a practical way to allow flights by some UAS operators in certain circumstances, FAA officials said.
In addition to the FAA’s Roadmap, as required in the 2012 FAA Reauthorization, the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) has developed a plan to accelerate the integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system. That plan details a multi-agency approach to UAS integration and coordination with the NextGen shift to satellite-based technologies and new procedures.