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The FAA UAS NAS Integration Roadmap

Where did they get the GIS data for this thing? I was all set to do a comparative analysis with the previous Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Airspace Integration Roadmap, but the missed September 2015 Congressional mandate for NAS integration, mandated in Section 332 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), kind of makes that a moot point.

After a perusal of all 52 pages of “good news” in this Roadmap, I can only surmise the following: The Acting Administrator is either is not interested in the FAA Administrator job, or there is a concerted internal effort to jettison the candidate for someone else. To further support this hypothesis, I will use the @FAANEWS own tweets quoting the acting administrator’s interdrone speech. There were several bizarre examples, but the one readers should employ to confirm independently is the “the FAA is open for business” line. Most will dismiss that notion as laughable, excluding of course the folks window-shopping the drone aisle at Best Buy.

For those in the know, the “Integration Accomplishments” section of the Roadmap reads like a “how to” assist in facilitating a Global Chinese consumer drone monopoly. Maybe it was entirely coincidental; however, the byproduct is a C-UAS conundrum and possibly even a long-distance Wing Loong in our future. The last of the U.S. “drone company” holdouts are purportedly going to move toward using Chinese quadcopters, and eventually it will just come down to software features and price point before the winner gets knocked off.  

Test Sites –

The majority of the test centers have not enjoyed the same success enjoyed by North Dakota and brought to you by the good people at General Atomics. Insiders have been discussing the issues with the business model since 2012. However, no one has gone on record to talk about these shortcomings. Some of these same troublemakers are concerned that the UAS IPP may suffer from many of the same business plan issues. Either way, the FAA has put a few test center points on the board, but the clock has been stuck in perpetual overtime since September 2015.

What we do have is 107, and we have to give them credit for that: good show. The waiver process could still use some work and hopefully with some ideas outside of the Band-Aid box. I guess we are supposed to content ourselves with the digitized near-real-time facilities maps as the payoff for hundreds of millions of dollars spent and years worked. The manpower freed up by throwing all of the waivers over the fence to the #LAANC (soon to be UTM) thing has paid off in answered phone calls and emails to UAS IPP winners—just like winning the Super Lotto without the money. While on the subject of money, the new reauthorization mentions that the droners will have to pony up for all of this high dollar progress, but that is a story for another time.

Did anyone bother to verify or research those CoA’s from 2013? Old Nanook had a bad week, as the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle went right in the drink straight off the launcher, and the NASA offering didn’t fare much better. It probably isn’t a stretch to assume that the NASA paperwork probably took more time to complete than either of the aircraft was airborne. And that is not just old-fashioned Interplanetary Poo List talk right there. I have a piece of advice I give folks that have demo failure in front of the FAA. However, it does not generally apply to companies that have DoD contracts. If you suffer a demo failure, just pack the product or service in if you can, shut the company down, and start something new, because you will never live that failure down. It is not like other folks aren’t aware of this, and it could be why Boeing dropped the push for the Type Certification (there looks like a restart brewing). AV probably just got worn out, since they also had to try and find customers for a six-figure VLOS (EVLOS and now BVLOS) system. It is hard to sell the million dollar MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) fantasy outside of Silicon Valley with or without a Patagonia vest.

How the existing Roadmap dovetails with the 2018 FAA Reauthorization remains to be seen. However, this Roadmap has inspired a new string of questions whose answers will undoubtedly help “educate” the public and end-user as well as help promote a mutually beneficial culture of safety for all of the NAS stakeholders.


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