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The FAA just released its hotly anticipated roadmap outlining how it will approach the codification of guidelines to ensure the safe integration of UAS into US national airspace. Recognizing the value and growing popularity of this emerging technology, the FAA detailed a five-year plan, divided into three phases: 1. “Accommodation” of existing UAS use cases; 2. “Integration” of detailed regulations (including licensing and certification processes); and 3. “Evolution” of regulations to meet innovative new use cases.

All told, this is a promising first step.

Bucking the trend to demonize UAV technology by summoning untold horrors of unchecked safety and privacy concerns, the FAA states that UAS should be treated on equal footing with “comparable new and novel technologies.”

That said, the FAA remains duly concerned about operating safely and acknowledges potential privacy issues: “This responsibility includes coordinating efforts with national security and privacy policies so that the integration of UAS into the NAS is done in a manner that supports and maintains the United States Government’s ability to secure the airspace and addresses privacy concerns. “

Fair enough.

Indicating that they will treat UAS comparably to piloted aircraft, there’s a notable curve ball in terms of timely establishment of procedures and supporting processes: “At the core of these policies is the concept that each aircraft is flown by a pilot in accordance with required procedures and practices.” Hence, appropriate licensing and airworthiness certification processes will need to be developed under federal oversight. Sounds like it could be a long wait. But at least the government shutdown is behind us … for now.

All in all, though, a good read with much cause for optimism: “The FAA is dedicated to developing the technical and regulatory standards, policy guidance, and operational procedures on which successful UAS integration depends.”

Let the policy-making begin!