The Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Transportation will audit the FAA’s drone integration efforts once more. This time the waiver course of comes beneath scrutiny.
In a memorandum despatched to the Director of Audit and Evaluation, the audit was introduced: “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,” mentioned the OIG. “Our audit 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.”
“The System is Fragile”
Drone lawyer and flight teacher Jonathan Rupprecht says the timing of the audit is not stunning, on condition that the FAA Reauthorization bundle – prolonged final 12 months – is scheduled to be addressed in Congress this fall. Rupprecht, who writes about drone legislation points and is knowledgeable in navigating the FAA’s complicated certification and authorization processes for purchasers, says that the waiver system could also be weak. “I don’t think that people realize the system is getting more and more backlogged,” he says. “Looking behind the scenes, you have to understand how much human effort is required to process these… The system is fragile.”
FAA Not “Keeping Pace”
This is not the first audit that the OIG has carried out concerning drone programs at the FAA. In a December 2016 report titled “FAA Lacks a Risk-Based Oversight Process for Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” the OIG reported that the FAA “faced challenges in keeping pace with the increase in UAS exemption requests received before implementing the small UAS rule, resulting in the need for streamlined processes,” says the audit memorandum. “Similarly, 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.”
While the audit gained’t assure any change in course of at the FAA, it may affect lawmakers as they negotiate the subsequent FAA Reauthorization bundle in September.