Wed, Apr 25, 2012
Responded To A FOIA Request From The Electronic Frontier Foundation
The FAA has released its first round of records in response to The Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for information on the agency's UAV authorization program. The agency says the two lists it released include the names of all public and private entities that have applied for authorizations to fly UAVs in the U.S.
According to information posted on the EFF website, the list includes Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), issued to public entities like police departments, and the Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs), issued to private UAV manufacturers. It shows for the first time who is authorized to fly drones in the United States.
While CBP regularly uses Predator drones to patrol the borders, and DARPA and other branches of the military are authorized to fly UAVs in the US, this list released this week is the first time the FAA has named other authorized organizations, including universities, police departments, and small towns and counties across the United States that will receive permission to operate UAVs. The COA list includes universities and colleges like Cornell, the University of Colorado, Georgia Tech, and Eastern Gateway Community College, as well as police departments in North Little Rock, AR, Arlington, TX, Seattle, WA, Gadsden, AL, and Ogden, UT. The COA list also includes small cities and counties like Otter Tail, MN and Herington, KS.
The FAA also released a second list which all the manufacturers that have applied for authorizations to test-fly their aircraft. This list is less surprising and includes manufacturers like Honeywell, the maker of Miami-Dade's T-Hawk drone, and defense contractors Raytheon and General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator drone. This list also includes registration or "N" numbers," serial numbers and model names.
The EFF says the lists leaves many questions unanswered. The COA list does not include any information on which model of drone or how many drones each entity flies. In a meeting with the EFF, the FAA confirmed that there were about 300 active COAs and that the agency has issued about 700-750 authorizations since the program began in 2006. Since only 60 entities appear on the COA list, the inference is that many, if not all of them, have multiple COAs. The group says the list also does not explain why certain COA applications were "disapproved" and when other authorizations expired.
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