Can the FAA adequately manage air traffic control for the swelling U.S. UAS market? The Department of Transportation (DOT) is initiating an audit to find out whether it can. “Our prior and ongoing work has shown that [the] FAA is challenged to keep pace with the volume of requests for UAS to operate in controlled airspace near airports,” the DOT’s Inspector General said this week, announcing the audit on the FAA’s role in authorizing small UAS operations.
The IG said the purpose of the audit is to assess the impact of LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) on the FAA’s review and approval of UAS airspace requests and to evaluate the agency’s procedures for coordinating and communicating UAS airspace approvals and notifications between airports, ATC, LAANC service suppliers, and UAS operators.
The FAA has processed 1.1 million UAS registrations since December 2015, the IG noted. He added UAS sightings, reported primarily by manned aircraft to the FAA, increased nearly ten-fold between 2014 and 2017, from 238 to 2,185, and that year-to-date UAS sightings through October 26 were 2,085.
The audit is slated to begin this month at FAA headquarters and various ATC facilities and airports across the country.