Eno Releases First Report on UAS Integration
Drone technology is developing rapidly. While it might be a few years before you can fly in an Advanced Air Mobility vehicle (AAM) or widespread drone delivery is available, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are already widespread. From agriculture to bridge inspection to Hollywood’s cameras, drones are increasingly being used to support a growing number of commercial uses. Lagging, however, is a permanent regulatory framework that can safely accommodate UAS in the National Airspace System.
Last year Eno’s Aviation Working Group advised Eno to launch a project to examine public policy issues related to UAS. The Aviation Working Group, made up of diverse experts and stakeholders, is an advisory group on all matters related to aviation policy and practice. It provides Eno with insights, knowledge, feedback, and guidance on how to develop pragmatic policies aviation safety, modernization, and innovation. The group is co-chaired by former Secretary of Transportation Jim Burnley and former United States Senator Byron Dorgan.
Eno’s first UAS report, Bridging the Gap: Sustaining UAS Progress While Pursuing a Permanent Regulatory Framework, reviews the current regulatory framework and examines data from the waiver and exemption process that drone pilots use to legally operate. The report also includes several recommendations and takeaways that should inform future policymaking and future research.
The data gathered in writing this report highlight that the rapid development of UAS technologies contrasts with the relatively slow evolution of laws and regulations to ensure their safe use. As a result, oversight currently functions largely on a by-exception basis while policymakers and the aviation industry slowly work toward the vision of integrating UAS into a permanent regulatory framework. The research demonstrates that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can take concrete steps to build that framework, while honing the existing one to save resources, speed development, and ensure safety in the meantime.
But the research and discussions with stakeholders highlighted a key element of success for UAS in the future: trust. Until the UAS industry gains the full trust of the American public, the potential benefits of UAS cannot be fully realized. If the history of general and commercial aviation offers any insight into the public mindset it is that safety and a culture of safety define the foundation of public trust in an industry. Related, the public must also be assured that the FAA has the job of regulation and enforcement well in hand.
This is Eno’s first in a series of UAS initiatives, with webinars and other events forthcoming. The Aviation Working Group will reconvene this fall to discuss next steps and determine how to continue to proactively address the policy challenges facing UAS integration.