The Federal Aviation Administration Faces Second Drone Audit
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is being audited for the second time by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT IG) for its “approval and oversight processes” for drones.
The audit, which will begin in April 2017, will assess both the FAA’s processes for granting waivers and its “risk-based oversight” for entities that do have waivers under the Part 107 rulemaking for commercial drone operations. Specifically, the audit focuses on the waivers that permit drones to go beyond some of the basic limitations, including operating beyond line of sight or at night.
A DOT OIG memorandum about the audit says it’s “important that FAA’s waiver approval process does not result in prolonged delays, especially for operations already considered to be a low safety risk by the agency.”
The DOT IG conducted an initial audit of the FAA’s drone processes in December 2016, concluding the FAA “lacks a risk-based oversight process for UAS.” According to the memorandum for this second audit, the DOT IG says “it is still unclear what type of oversight the FAA will provide for this new technology, as we found that FAA lacks a robust data reporting and tracking system for UAS activity, and aviation safety inspectors received limited training and guidance on UAS oversight.”
The FAA has processed nearly 800,000 drone registrations since December 2015 when mandatory registration took effect. To date, the agency has received more than 1,000 applications from UAS operators requesting exemptions to the basic requirements and has granted more than 300 of them. But, as the number of UAS operations increases, the IG noted, the number of drone sightings by pilots has also “increased significantly, thus presenting safety risks to manned aircraft.”