The FAA’s compliance and enforcement approach for drones could beneﬁt from improved communication and data, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). For this study, the GAO met with FAA safety inspectors and law enforcement officials in 11 of the aviation agency’s districts to determine how they investigate potentially unsafe small (under 55 pounds) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
Although the FAA has articulated the pivotal role local law enforcement can play and has developed resources for these entities, the GAO report says the agency “has not consistently communicated this information.” Consequently, most law enforcement stakeholders GAO met with stated that “oﬃcers may not know how to respond to UAS incidents or what information to share with the FAA.”
Without a clear approach to communicate to law enforcement agencies, the FAA “does not have reasonable assurance these agencies are armed with knowledge they need to help FAA identify and address unsafe UAS operations,” the GAO said.
The FAA was also faulted for allegedly not identifying how it will improve the gathering and analyzing of UAS safety data, nor does the agency have plans to determine what data could help determine whether the FAA’s oversight eﬀorts are working as intended.
The report recommends that the FAA develop a better approach to communicate to local law enforcement agencies its expectations for their role in UAS investigations and identify data needed to evaluate FAA’s small UAS compliance and enforcement activities. The FAA concurred with the recommendations.