OIG to investigate FAA progress in implementing BVLOS regulatory framework

The US Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General will this month start an audit to assess the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) efforts to establish a regulatory framework for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations.

“While there are challenges and safety risks associated with integrating drones into the National Airspace System, advancing BVLOS drone operations is an important part of maintaining American technological leadership,” according to a statement from the DoT OIG office. “These operations can also provide safety benefits across transportation modes. For example, drones can perform dangerous bridge inspections or replace vehicles on roads, reducing the risk of accidents and loss of life

“FAA has efforts underway to help advance routine BVLOS operations. These efforts include flight testing as part of partnership programs with Government and industry stakeholders and addressing recommendations from a BVLOS rulemaking committee. However, FAA has yet to establish new regulations to advance BVLOS operations beyond the parameters of existing drone regulations. Most commercial drone operators currently conduct operations under FAA’s small UAS regulation, which limits flights to certain areas and conditions unless the operators obtain waivers or regulatory exemptions. Additionally, the small UAS regulation does not address the complexities of using drones specifically for BVLOS operations, including pilot and technology requirements.

“We are initiating this audit to continue our oversight of FAA’s drone integration efforts for complex BVLOS operations due to their importance for maintaining U.S. leadership in aeronautics as well as their potential for introducing risks to the National Airspace System.

“Accordingly, our audit objective is to assess FAA’s efforts to establish a regulatory framework for BVLOS drone operations.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were more than 369,000 registered commercial drones in the United States as of December 2023, and the Agency forecasts this number will increase to nearly 1 million commercial drone aircraft by 2027.

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