Aviation Week reports that the FAA is preparing to implement a 5-year plan for the phased integration of UAS.
Responding to an auditor’s report critical of its progress toward integrating unmanned aircraft into national airspace, the FAA says it expects to complete a plan by the end of August for a phased implementation approach over five years.
That is good news. However, the article contains this nugget of denial from the FAA regarding the timing of its plan as required by Section 332 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. In response to the Inspector General’s conclusion that the FAA will miss its September 30, 2015 deadline to safely and fully integrate UAS into the national airspace, the FAA responds: “The Act requires safe – not full – integration of UAS into the NAS by September 2015.”
We suppose this depends on what the meaning of “integration” is. Section 332(a)(1) of the Act required the FAA to have a plan in place for the integration of UAS within 270 days of the Act’s date of enactment. The required contents of that plan included provisions for:
(C) a phased-in approach to the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system;
(D) a timeline for the phased-in approach described under subparagraph (C)….
The plan scheduled for release at the end of August would apparently comply with those requirements in substance, but it’s coming about a year too late.
In the meantime, Section 332(a)(3) of the Act clearly states:
The plan required under paragraph (1) shall provide for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.
The FAA now claims that this language requires some level of safe integration, but not complete integration, by that deadline. This might be a defensible position, given Congress’ omission of the word “all” from the sentence. But given the FAA’s history of foot-dragging, it strikes us as more of a post hoc rationale than a good-faith interpretation of Congressional intent.