FAA Faces Another Inspector General Audit on Drone Progress

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Transportation is auditing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on its “approval and oversight processes” for waivers issued under the Part 107 rulemaking for commercial drone operations.

According to a recent memorandum from the OIG, the audit, which is beginning this month, will assess two things: the agency’s processes for granting waivers and its “risk-based oversight” for entities that do have waivers.

Under the FAA’s Part 107 rulemaking, remote pilots can apply for a waiver for drone operations that are not covered under the rulemaking: e.g., flying at night, over people or beyond the visual line of sight – operations that are “highly valued by industry,” says the OIG.

Thus, the memorandum states, “[I]t 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.”

The OIG says it is conducting the audit due to the “significant safety implications of integrating UAS into the National Airspace System and the increasing number of both requested and approved UAS waivers.”

In addition, the memorandum states that it’s “still unclear what type of oversight” the FAA is providing for the UAS industry, considering the agency “lacks a robust data reporting and tracking system for UAS activity, and aviation safety inspectors received limited training and guidance on UAS oversight.”

The OIG says the audit work will take place at the FAA’s headquarters and field offices, as well as at UAS commercial operator sites.

This isn’t the first drone audit the FAA is facing; most recently, the OIG released an audit entitled “FAA Lacks A Risk-Based Oversight Process For Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” which was conducted between October 2015 and October 2016 and released in December.

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