On November 25, 2014, five U.S. Senators wrote to the FAA Administrator, asking a series of questions about FAA action relative to UAS. In order to save time for the FAA, so they don’t have to divert resources to answering your questions, Plane-ly Spoken will answer them. The reason we can do this is because all of the answers are already a matter of public record.
For starters, we note that your letter seems to have been written by a group of people who haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on and are more interested in issuing press releases than they are about helping the FAA achieve the goal of safely integrating UAS into our nation’s airspace. Now, on to the Questions.
Question 1 – “ an update on the FAA”s timeline for releasing draft regulations for the commercial use of UAS”
Answer – The FAA has already sent their draft NPRM for small UAS to OIRA for review and can’t publish it until that review is completed. Plane-ly Spoken suggests you direct your inquiry to OIRA. If you don’t know what OIRA stands for or what the process is, have a staffer check it out.
Question 2 – “a response to the concerns that the application process for COAs and Section 333 exemptions are lengthy and arduous”
Answer – The process is neither lengthy, nor arduous. The timeline the FAA is currently working against is 120 days from filing to decision. Part of the problem is that a lot of the petitions look like they were drafted by twelve years olds, requiring follow-up inquires by the FAA UAS Integration Office.
The UAS Practice Group at MLA (the publisher of Plane-ly Spoken) has prepared or filed almost a dozen exemption petitions and has certainly never found the process to be anything other than straightforward.
Question 3 – “your plan for handling further applications to ensure expediency going forward”
Answer – The problem with the question is that it assumes the process is lengthy and arduous, which it’s not. We agree that the fact that it’s not an overnight approval process can be frustrating. But, look Senators, virtually every day we read about a near midair collision between an aircraft and a UAS. We understand that the lobbyists and the clients they represent who got you to sign onto this letter want action now. But I think we can all agree that the action we don’t want is an accident investigation.
We suggest everyone slow down, take a deep breath and let the FAA do its thing.
Question 4 – “what steps you will take to make it easier for the test sites to work with private industry on commercial applications for UAS and encourage the test sites full potential”
Answer – C’mon guys! You know the answer to this one. You never gave the FAA or the test sites any funding for the test site operation. So do what you do best . . . . spend a little money and fund the test sites. Without money, the test sites will never live up to their potential.
You need not thank us for this quick response.
(Originally posted November 26, 2014)