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FAA Releases Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Roadmap

Also Finalizes Privacy Policy for UAS Test Sites

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has released its first annual roadmap outlining efforts needed to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems into airspace. The plan addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as demand moves the country from limited accommodation of UAS operations to future integration into the aviation system.

“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The roadmap outlines the administration’s approach to ensuring that widespread UAS use is safe. 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 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. The document stresses that many improvements are planned for the airspace system over the next 15 years.

The FAA will select six congressionally-mandated UAS test sites. These sites will conduct research into how best to integrate UAS systems into airspace 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 issues of privacy and protection of civil liberties. In February, the FAA asked for public comments on the draft privacy requirements for the test sites. The agency sent a final privacy policy that requires test site operators to comply with federal, state and other laws on individual privacy protection, to have a publicly available privacy plan and a written plan for data use and retention and to conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment.

For 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 accommodation will decline as integration expands.

In addition to the roadmap, as required in the 2012 FAA Reauthorization, the Joint Planning and Development Office has developed a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system. That plan details a multi-agency approach to safe and timely UAS integration and coordination with the shift to satellite-based technologies and new procedures.