FAA officials finalize privacy policy for unmanned aircraft systems test sites

WASHINGTON, 8 Nov. 2013. Officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), having just released a roadmap for the safe integration of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS), plan to select six UAS test sites to begin work on safely integrating UAS into the airspace.

UAS
UAS

WASHINGTON, 8 Nov. 2013. Officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), having just released a roadmap for the safe integration of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS), plan to select six UAS test sites to begin work on safely integrating UAS into the airspace.

These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical 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. Myriad regions of the U.S. are vying to be selected as a UAS integration test site by the FAA.

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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. Today, the agency sent a final privacy policy to the Federal Register 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 the next several years, the FAA will continue to use special mitigations and procedures to safely 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.

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

UAS & national airspace images courtesy Shutterstock.

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