U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has called on four federal agencies to work together to mitigate the safety and security risks associated civilian unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
Nelson – who is on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – made the request in Jan. 14 letter sent to the heads of those agencies, as well as the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“Each incident of a UAS sighted near an airport runway or used to smuggle contraband over a prison wall reminds us that this technology poses another kind of threat,” Nelson writes. “I ask that your agencies increase collaboration to mitigate the risk.”
NASA’s Ames Research Center is developing ways to manage drone traffic, and, according to Nelson, both the Pentagon and DHS continue to learn from their respective experiences operating drones overseas and along the border. Nelson says he wants all four agencies to join forces and leverage their collective expertise to address the challenges and threats associated with the increased use of the technology.
The letter also includes the following questions:
“What strategies or technologies are you pursuing to prevent UAS from entering airspace above or immediately adjacent to critical infrastructure and sensitive locations? Are you considering additional airspace restrictions to address the flight characteristics and capabilities of UAS that differ from manned aircraft? What is the status of federal collaboration to meet these challenges in a manner that promotes safety without stifling growth in the UAS or traditional aviation industries?”
The senator says his request comes on the heels of the FAA report citing close calls between aircraft and drones in the U.S. Specifically, Miami ranked fourth with 24 reported incidents, and Orlando ranked 11th with 13 reported incidents, according to Nelson.
He adds that he made the request as he and others on the Commerce Committee begin to work on legislation to reauthorize the FAA. The senator says the use of drones will likely be a key component of any FAA reauthorization legislation the committee takes up.
“Congress should be your partner in these endeavors, and as we work to reauthorize aviation programs, I ask that you keep me informed of developments to promote safety and security for UAS,” the senator writes.