FAA Close to Naming Six Drone Test Sites

By Holly Gilbert

Congress has set a deadline of September 13, 2015, by which unmanned aircraft systems (drones) must be integrated into the U.S. aviation system. The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act also mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set up six test sites for safer research and development of the unmanned aircraft before introducing such craft into U.S. airspace. Concerns over privacy have delayed the test-site program. But now the head of the agency’s Unmanned Systems integration Office, Jim Williams, says the FAA is getting “very close” to naming those six test-sites.

“We’re getting closer every day. My office is diligently working to release the screening information requests, and we are committed to releasing it before the end of this month,” he revealed to attendees of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Program Review on Wednesday in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

“The protection of public privacy is a concern for all our stakeholders,” Williams emphasized. “The public is concerned. They fear [drone] data collected by state and government agencies could be used to violate their rights.”

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA.), co-chair of the Congressional Unmanned systems Caucus, addressed attendees at the conference via a prerecorded video. He echoed Williams’ concerns about protecting the privacy of citizens while still allowing drone technology to reach its full potential.

“This year will be crucial with moving forward with implementation. Privacy will be a part of the debate in 2013,” Rep. McKeon said. But he promised that he and other committee members “will continue to work with the appropriate federal agencies to ensure an efficient and constitutional integration process.”


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