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DOT IG To Audit FAA Drone Waver Program

Will Assess The Process For Granting Waivers And Conducting Oversight

The Office of Inspector General is initiating an audit of the FAA's approval and oversight processes for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) waivers. 

FAA published a new rule governing the use of small UAS (i.e., systems weighing less than 55 pounds) in June 2016. However, the rule does not permit several potential uses for UAS that are highly valued by industry, such as operating beyond line of sight or at night. To accommodate these and other types of operations, the rule allows operators to apply for waivers from its provisions. 

The DOT IG's objectives will be to assess FAA’s processes for: (1) granting waivers under the rule for small UAS operations, and (2) conducting risk-based oversight of UAS operators with waivers.

In a memo posted on the IG's website, Matthew E. Hampton, Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits, said it is important that FAA’s waiver approval process does not result in prolonged delays, especially for operations already considered to be a low safety risk by the Agency. The IG also reported that FAA provided limited oversight of operators with exemptions and had not yet established a risk-based safety oversight process for UAS. 

Hampton said that it is still unclear what type of oversight FAA will provide for this new technology, "as we found that FAA lacks a robust data reporting and tracking system for UAS activity, and aviation safety inspectors received limited training and guidance on UAS oversight."

Given the significant safety implications of integrating UAS into the National Airspace System and the increasing number of both requested and approved UAS waivers, we are initiating an audit of FAA’s current approval and oversight processes for UAS waivers. 

Hampton said that the audit will begin later this month.

FMI: IG Memo

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