Audit Reports

June 26, 2014

FAA Faces Significant Barriers To Safely Integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems Into the National Airspace System

Requested by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and their Aviation Subcommittees
Project ID: AV-2014-061


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forecasts there will be roughly 7,500 active Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the United States in 5 years. Concerned with the progress of integrating UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS), Congress established specific UAS provisions and deadlines for FAA in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

Although FAA is taking steps to advance UAS operations, significant technological barriers remain in achieving safe integration largely because current UAS have a limited ability to detect and avoid other air traffic. In addition, FAA has not established a regulatory framework for UAS integration, such as aircraft certification requirements, standard air traffic procedures, or an adequate controller training program. FAA is also not effectively collecting and analyzing UAS safety data or managing its oversight of UAS operations. Furthermore, the Agency is significantly behind schedule in meeting most of the UAS-related provisions of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, including the August 2014 milestone for issuing a final rule on small UAS operations. These delays are due to unresolved technological, regulatory, and privacy issues and will ultimately prevent the Agency from meeting Congress’s September 2015 deadline for achieving safe UAS integration.

FAA concurred with all 11 of our recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of its efforts to safely integrate UAS into the NAS. Based on FAA’s response, we are requesting additional information or revised responses for five recommendations.