Bridging the Gap: Sustaining UAS Progress While Pursuing a Regulatory Framework
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) offer a stunning range of capabilities to connect people with goods and services that may normally be inaccessible to them. They can replace the human element for dangerous inspections, monitor environmental changes in remote locations, and potentially reduce the carbon footprint of portions of the transportation network.
Yet until the UAS industry gains the full trust of the American public, these and other advances 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. Another insight is that the public must also be assured that the regulator, in this case the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has the job of regulation and enforcement well in hand.
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. This report proposes several concrete steps to build that framework, while honing the existing one to save resources, speed development, and ensure safety in the meantime.