A new report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should revise its approach for safety risk assessments for the technology associated with implementation of drones into the national airspace. Specifically, the report says that the FAA’s overly conservative approach to safety risk assessments can be a significant barrier to the introduction and development of the emerging and rapidly changing technology in the drone arena. Further, the report says that drone operations in the U.S. have the potential for providing great safety benefits, but many of these operations have been prevented from entering the airspace because of the FAA’s application of the safety risk assessment techniques, which have been developed over many years for manned aviation. Manned aviation requires evidence of a near-zero tolerance for risk. The report suggests that because drones do not pose a direct threat to human life in the same way as manned aircraft operations, the assessment techniques should be applied differently.
The report also says that the lack of empirical data in this emerging industry means that the FAA’s approach to drone risk management is based on qualitative and subjective risk analysis.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine calls on the FAA to establish and publish specific guidelines within the next year for implementing predictable, repeatable, and quantitative risk-based processes for certifying drones and granting operations approval. It also calls on the FAA to publicly commit to reviewing risk assessments within six months so proponents can receive timely feedback. Lastly, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine calls on the FAA to make changes across the organization to improve management processes related to risk-based decision-making.
Of course, this report comes after the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committee just recently testified regarding the security risks related to drones in the national airspace.