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News & Notes

The Department of Transportation is Auditing the FAA

The Part 107 waiver approval process is under scrutiny

April 18, 2017

The audit focuses on two primary concerns: delays in processing waivers, and safety concerns borne from a lack of FAA oversight.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is auditing the FAA’s approval and oversight processes for UAS waivers. In a memorandum dated April 11, the DOT states the audit applies to processes for Part 107 operational waivers such as daylight operation and flight over people, not airspace authorizations.

The memo addresses the growing popularity of drones and the potential for the technology to boost economic opportunity. “According to FAA, since the rule was implemented in August 2016, the Agency has received over 1,000 applications for waivers and granted over 300 of them to UAS operators,” the document states.

But the audit focuses on two primary concerns: delays in processing waivers, and safety concerns borne from a lack of FAA oversight.

Waiver delays have been a sore spot for Part 107 operators for some time. The FAA’s publicly accessible Part 107 waiver database has not been updated since January 23 of this year — a total of 85 days and counting.

And it appears that the DOT is concerned about the safety of these waiverable operations. Citing “significant safety implications,” the DOT hopes to delve deeper into how the FAA is handling its oversight procedures.

“It is still unclear what type of oversight FAA will provide for this new technology, as we found that the FAA lacks a robust data reporting and tracking system for UAS activity, and aviation safety inspectors received limited training and guidance on UAS oversight,” the memo reads.

The audit is set to begin this month, and will be conducted at FAA headquarters, field offices, and UAS commercial operator sites across the U.S.
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