The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is planning an audit of what it says is the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ‘approval and oversight process for civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).’
An Aug. 20 memorandum from Matthew E. Hampton, assistant inspector general for aviation audits, says that although drone technology is “rapidly advancing,” the FAA “has prohibited commercial UAS operations with very limited exceptions due to the lack of regulations governing their use.”
The notice says the FAA has given the OK to more than 1,200 commercial UAS operators in the U.S., but there exist “new safety oversight challenges” for the administration, which has reported “60 UAS-related incident reports per month.”
“Some of the incidents did not pose a safety risk,” the OIG says, “but others have involved reports of pilots altering course to avoid unmanned aircraft.”
Because of the “significant and complex challenges of safely integrating UAS into the National Airspace System and the increasing number of UAS operations,” the OIG is conducting the audit to specifically assess the following: the FAA’s “process for exempting civil UAS from certification requirements” and the “safety oversight process for civil UAS operations.”
The OIG plans to start the FAA audit this month at “FAA headquarters, field offices and UAS civil operator sites across the country.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released an audit – conducted January 2014 to July 2015 – on the FAA’s progress on UAS integration.