The Office of the U.S. DOT Inspector General has initiated another audit into the FAA’s approval and oversight processes for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This audit focuses on the waivers that permit UAS uses to go beyond some of the basic limitations, such as operating beyond line of sight or at night. “Our audit objectives will be to assess the FAA’s processes for granting waivers, and its risk-based oversight of UAS operators with waivers,” the DOT IG said.
Since December 2015, the FAA has processed nearly 800,000 UAS registrations. To date, the agency has received more than 1,000 applications from UAS operators requesting exemptions to the basic requirements and has granted more than 300 of them. But, as the number of UAS operations increases, the IG noted, the number of drone sightings by pilots has also “increased significantly, thus presenting safety risks to manned aircraft.”
In December, a DOT IG audit concluded that the FAA “lacks a risk-based oversight process for UAS.” As it launches this new audit, the IG said, “It is still unclear what type of oversight the 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.”