FAA Going Slow on Drones as Privacy Concerns Studied

Photograph by Boeing via Bloomberg

A Boeing Co. ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flies over the ocean.

The Federal Aviation Administration told Congress it’s further delaying the naming of six test sites for unmanned aircraft, as called for in a law passed Feb. 14, as it weighs the privacy implications of the new technology.

FAA acting chief Michael Huerta’s letter to members of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus marked the first time the agency has said it would consider privacy issues related to commercial and other non-military drones, though those concerns have been broadly raised elsewhere.

“Our target was to have the six test sites named by the end of 2012,” Huerta wrote to the lawmakers about so-called unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“However, increasing the use of UAS in our airspace also raises privacy issues, and these issues will need to be addressed as unmanned aircraft are safely integrated.”

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group representing the industry, believes privacy concerns can be managed and test sites should be named, Gretchen West, the group’s executive vice president, said in an interview.

“We just want to make sure that they can meet the deadlines that were set by Congress,” West said.

Congress set Sept. 30, 2015, as the date when drones must be integrated into the U.S. aviation system.

A Sept. 14 report by the Government Accountability Office questioned when technology will allow unmanned planes to safely operate next to manned aircraft.

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