The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a “bandwidth problem” when it comes to implementing new aviation regulations and needs more money and more people, according to the department’s former unmanned aircraft systems integration office chief.
“The regulatory bandwidth is very, very narrow,” says Jim Williams, who left the FAA in 2015 to joint a private consultancy firm. “The FAA is allowed 15 significant rulemakings per year. That’s all that the system can tolerate.”
Speaking at AUVSI’s Xponential conference on 2 May, he explained that the department considers about 100 rules each year and those are “racked and stacked” in terms of priority and eventually winnowed down to about 15. Others are bumped into later years.
“We’re in a situation where there’s just not enough resources," says Williams. "Turning the federal ship in the right direction takes time and eventually it will get there.”
The agency has been venturing into uncharted territory as it tries to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system, as directed by Congress in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Thus far, it has released a draft small UAS rule that would regulate all drones weighing under 25kg (55lbs).
Air traffic manager Randy Willis of the FAA’s emerging technologies team has been supporting the integration effort. He says the unmanned aircraft community could help by becoming more educated on basic flight rules and regulations and the makeup of the airspace system.
“I’d like to see a more educated aviation system than we have right now,” he says. “We spend just a huge amount of time trying to educate the new aviators that are accessing our airspace today.
“If I had a wish, it’s that they’d be more educated in the existing rules and regulations that we have today.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Williams as the current UAS integration office chief.