ASCAMM UAV flying outdoor.
The Federal Aviation Administration has new plans for unmanned aircraft systems, better known as drones.
On Thursday, the administration released its first roadmap of efforts to integrate these systems into the national airspace. At the moment, the use of unmanned systems for public and research initiatives is permitted by the FAA on a case-by-case basis. Law enforcement agencies and universities have used unmanned aircraft systems in the past for various purposes including search and rescue missions and weather research. In September, the first unmanned aircraft authorised for commercial use completed a mission over the Arctic Ocean.
However, both commercial and private entities are eager to engage in the market for domestic drones, and the FAA’s new document, which will be updated annually, outlines the policies, technologies, regulations, and procedures that will be required as the use of these systems becomes more widespread.
“We must ensure the safety and efficiency of the entire airspace including all aircraft, people and property, both manned and unmanned, in the air and on the ground" said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta at a press conference . “We have operational goals as well as safety issues that we need to address before the implementation of unmanned aircraft systems can take place.”
In the first instance, the administration will select six test sites, as required by Congress, by the end of the year. These test sites are intended to test some of the rules for integrating drones into domestic air traffic.
The FAA projects that there could be as many as 7,500 small, unmanned aircraft in the national airspace within the next five years. The administration plans to be in the preliminary stages of integration by September 2015.