The FAA has known for more than a decade now that they were going to be mandated to integrate drones into the NAS. The 2012 FAA Reauthorization was signed into law. The September 2014 Part 107 rollout mandate came and went as well as the 2015 full NAS integration mandate. The FAA simply said ATO wouldn’t be ready and without any data to back up the assertion, it just went away.

Yes, I had concerns about the FAA missing the 2015 deadline in 2011. Why? Because there were no penalties or ramifications stipulated in the reauthorization language for not meeting those deadlines. The other issue I had was a lack of FUN-ding, aka money allocated to get the work done. It has been my experience that it is difficult to get government buy-in without some FUN-ding.

So we had no Part 107 in 2014 and no NAS integration in 2015, but the good news was the FAA was ready to make some progress on collecting data, so they rolled out Pathfinder. I don’t know what happened to the LATAS solution, but the FAA doubled down on BVLOS in 2018 with the UAS IPP and then tripled down with BEYOND!

Unfortunately, Pathfinder turned out to be a total poop-show, with PrecisionHawk being out of compliance with their 107.31 BVLOS FAA favour waiver for 12 to 15 months. The FAA’s Jeremy Grogan (AKA The Amazing Grogan) and purported drone policy expert Diana Cooper determined during a short phone call, albeit thousands of miles away from the AO, without logbooks or a responsible party listed on the waiver that all of the purported fly-always, shoot downs and flyways were safe.

https://www.faa.gov/uas/resources/events_calendar/archive/2018_uas_symposium/media/Submitting-Operational-Waiver-Requests.pdf

Who needs an in-depth risk analysis and or a site visit when you’ve got some hearsay and mystic powers? It makes perfect sense why HQ shut down two or three local FSDO investigations when you have a couple of experts like these working through the minutia. With a combo like that, it is no wonder why the FAA enlisted the PrecisionHawk experts for help with the DAC and other rulemaking efforts. It
amazes folks that with that kind of praxis at their disposal PrecisionHawk hit the
rocks.

https://www.suasnews.com/2019/06/asleep-at-the-bait-and-switch/

After all, the dust died down, and no FAA enforcement actions were initiated; many assumed that the de facto PrecisionHawk case study proved that flying drones BVLOS safely in the NAS without VOs or federal oversight is possible. The 107.39 waivers not being revoked might suggest that the current regulations and policy could be unnecessarily onerous? The FAA didn’t even look at the Pathfinder data for over a year; did they already know flying drones BVLOS in the NAS was safe?

Was the UAS IPP an effort to bolster the notion with data that confirmed what they already knew? Is that why the program was so limited? I remember a certain pundit who had misgivings about the program back in 2018, and now after reading the audit, it appears that I may have been right.

I’m not a huge fan of the 10 winners UAS IPP because I believe it is too limited for a Country like this. I believe a real UAS IPP should be inclusive of the Country as a whole, all of together.  One thing is for sure, there is a new sheriff in town, and if you’re not a UAS IPP winner you may want to think about rewriting or even buying a new playbook. 

https://www.suasnews.com/2018/05/uas-ipp-a-sea-change-for-the-us/

This latest audit from the U.S. Department of Transportations Office of the Inspector General and BEYOND participants didn’t have too much praise for the FAA’s progress on the whole body of work.

https://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/38940

I’m not going to break down the audit as I suggest you read it for yourself, possibly twice, as was recommended to me by someone at the FAA. The punch line on the audit is some pragmatic recommendations to help the FAA meet its 2015 NAS integration mandate.

I know Amazon has got some billion-dollar crawl, walk, run dreams –

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-04-10/amazon-drone-crashes-
delays-put-bezos-s-delivery-dream-at-risk

Sure, at first blush it sounds like a mess, and it is no wonder the FAA is tight-lipped. Believe it or not, the audit is the DoT OIG being gracious, but whatever shade of lipstick they put on that pig, your humble author is vindicated yet again.

I certainly hope this audit doesn’t put a damper on the BVLOS ARC recommendations. Folks are so excited and are clamouring for the FAA to implement the recommendations as is. However, I only see the potential for more issues. Don’t forget to get permission to ask questions on the Facebook broadcast. I’m thinking about asking this one again.

  1. Did anyone at the FAA know that DJI had CCP/PRC funding?
    https://www.suasnews.com/2019/08/did-dji-bamboozle-you-too/
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/02/01/china-funding-
    drones-dji-us-regulators/

The DoD vendor companies that held the reins on the regulatory process (pre-PRC rulemaking involvement), including the ASTM, RTCA, sUAS, and UAS ARC, are back.

These are some of the same folks who made the recommendations on Part 107. Sure they make the drone “no one uses anymore,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are talking about for small businesses, right? Just curious, how did you spend your NASA ACCESS 5 free money? Oh, you didn’t get any?

http://susbexpo.com/Navy%20SEAL%20Jocko%20Willink%20Breaks%20Down%20Combat%20Scenes%20From%20Movies%20%20GQ.mp4

One of the many rubs here is the FAA still needs data twenty to thirty years on. Heck, the DoT OIG contends the FAA still needs to establish goals, milestones, and performance measures. I hesitated even bringing this up again for the umpteenth time in twenty years because I didn’t want to sound like I was nitpicking. Hard to implement anything when you’ve got nothing but exemptions, favour waivers, and a
Regulation and Policy group demotion.

Some contend that the FAA’s single-source DoD vendor industry commercial conjecture input subsequently created a vacuum that allowed the CCP/PRC to waltz in, invest a billion-plus dollars, and take the 20-year technology lead from the USA.

The FAA ban decimated the domestic, commercial UAS industry, and some of the following haphazard policies rocked the RC hobby.

Did the CCP/PRC get a good ROI on their US policy efforts?

The only other market indicator you need is to ask how many Fortune 500 companies have already gotten out of drones and why?

Originally published in the 2022 Small Unmanned Systems Business Journal

https://www.suasnews.com/2022/06/the-2022-small-unmanned-systems-business-journal-2/

By Patrick Egan

Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).