The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t seem too concerned about a number of military drones that have crashed around U.S. bases. In fact, the agency is considering speeding up its efforts to allow the use of commercial drones in American airspace.
Business Insider asked the FAA if it had concerns about a Washington Post investigation published Monday that found at least 49 large drones have gone down during test or training flights in the United States since 2001, a number the newspaper said likely “understates the scope of the problem.” However, in spite of this, the FAA said it is working to ensure commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can take to the skies as soon as possible.
“We’re writing a rule right now specifically tailored to let small unmanned aircraft — less than 55 pounds — into the system. We will publish the proposal later this year and we are working to get it done as expeditiously as possible,” an FAA spokesperson said in an email. “Meanwhile, we are having conversations with a few distinct industries to see if we can expand authorised commercial operations before the small UAS rulemaking is complete.”
Though there has been a spate of drone crashes, the Post reported the military is currently expanding the number of drone launch sites in the U.S. The Defence Department did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider, but a Pentagon spokesperson told the Post the government “unequivocally … will continue to drive down the accident rate.”
In June, the FAA approved commercial drone use for the first time, allowing the unmanned planes to be used by the energy giant BP in Alaska, according to CNN. The drones were approved “to survey roads, pipelines and other equipment at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the largest oilfield in the United States.” The FAA spokesperson assured Business Insider the agency is taking “a deliberate, measured approach” as it determines how to integrate drones with other air traffic.
“In response to your second question, we are taking a deliberate, measured approach to integrating UAS technology into the country’s airspace. Our challenge is to integrate unmanned aircraft into the same airspace used by commercial aviation, general aviation and other new users, including commercial space vehicles. Considering the complex mix of users, the introduction of unmanned aircraft into America’s airspace must take place incrementally and with the interest of safety first,” the spokesperson said
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