Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Herta was asked point blank by a senator if the agency intended to meet its congressionally mandated 2015 deadline to fully integrate unmanned aerial vehicles in national airspace.
Without answering “yes” or “no,” Huerta said that something will be happening by next year’s deadline, but it would most likely be some kind of demonstration.
“I believe we will be able to demonstrate safe integration and what is required for integration of unmanned aircraft. But out of necessity I believe it’s going to be staged,” he said Jan. 15 before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Huerta said later that the staged demonstration would provide information that would allow it to move forward.
“We are going to learn a lot as this technology grows at the exponential rates as it has been. As we learn more, we have to be willing to evolve and recognize that there will be different regulatory questions that we’re going to have and we will have to address them as we go forward,” he said.
In November, the FAA released a long overdue roadmap that provided a timeline for UAS integration. It stated that full integration was unlikely until the end of the decade. The agency also chose six test sites — 16 months past its deadline — where it will be able to gather essential data.
As senators and some witnesses criticized the FAA for its slow pace, and for lagging behind other nations in drone integration, Huerta spelled out the complexity of the issue.