This first appeared as a Comment in the 29 April issue of Flight International.
The US Federal Aviation Administration seems more interested in prosecuting a rapidly proliferating class of small unmanned air vehicle operators than it is in producing the regulations that would finally clarify how such systems should be used.
The first set of regulations covering the smallest classes of UAVs are due from the FAA by the end of the year, yet few expect the agency to meet its deadline.
FAA officials outlawed all commercial UAV flights seven years ago. Rather than develop regulations, their only accomplishment involving UAVs since then has been to develop a certificate of authorisation and waiver process to allow public agencies to access national airspace.
The taxpayers who fund this regulator are locked out of the airspace, even as other countries open theirs.
There are real concerns about the safety of operating thousands – even millions – of small UAVs in national airspace. The USA has a vast general aviation community, which operate in airspace at risk to collisions with small UAVs. But that’s why the aviation industry relies on regulations, not prohibitions. There is risk in all aviation activities. Rules make the system safer.
The FAA has abdicated its responsibility by failing to produce a set of coherent regulations in the last seven years. Two new legal challenges may force it to act, but any move will be too little and too late.