Today we have a pop quiz for our readers. Where does the following quote come from?
The “FAA may not be well positioned to manage effectively the introduction of UAS in the United States . . .”
Is it from:
A: An irate UAS operator waiting for his Certificate of Authorization from the FAA?
B: A frustrated manufacturer trying to get a type certificate for his UAS?
C: A disappointed media company wanting to use a UAS to film breaking news?
D: A noted blogger who has followed UAS issues for years?
E: None of the above.
The first four choices are all plausible, and at this point, no one would raise an eyebrow if any of these were the correct answer. It is, however, “none of the above,” and the real source of the quote does not bode well for the FAA.
The quote comes from the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee in its 2015 Department of Transportation funding bill. The Appropriations Committee is one of the most powerful organizations on Capitol Hill, and it is one of the few places where an agency can be punished if it is not doing its job.
The Committee Report goes on to complain that the FAA’s lack of an overall framework is slowing the UAS integration process, that the FAA still does not have a grasp on what is needed to complete UAS integration, and that the FAA is unlikely to meet the 2015 integration date set by Congress. The Committee also specifically referenced the FAA’s loss of the Pirker case as evidence that the FAA is not sufficiently in control of the UAS integration process.
The Appropriations Committee, however, appears willing to give the FAA one more chance to get it right. The Committee has given the FAA an extra $3 million over their budget request to expedite UAS integration. In addition, the Committee provided nearly $11 million to fund the six UAS test sites, which is $2 million more than the FAA requested.
In today’s Washington world, where agency budget requests are routinely cut by Congress, the message is clear.
Of course, it is still early in the budgeting process, and what the House giveth, the Senate may taketh away. The pointed comments notwithstanding, the FAA must be breathing a collective sigh of relief that Congress is still standing behind them on the UAS initiatives.
(Originally posted May 30, 2014)