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GAO Drones USA 12-889 t = 2012 July testimony on DHS

GAO Drones USA 12-889 t = 2012 July testimony on DHS

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GAO 18 pages of testimony on Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Use in US National Airspace System and the Role of the Department of Homeland Security, GAO-12-889T

NAS = US National Air Space
GAO 18 pages of testimony on Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Use in US National Airspace System and the Role of the Department of Homeland Security, GAO-12-889T

NAS = US National Air Space

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Published by: Alister William Macintyre on Feb 05, 2013
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UNMANNED AIRCRAFTSYSTEMSUse in the National Airspace System and theRole of the Department of Homeland Security
Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D.Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues
TestimonyBefore Subcommittee on Oversight,Investigations, and Management,Committee on Homeland Security, Houseof Representatives
For Release on DeliveryExpected at 9:30 a.m. EDTThursday, July 19, 2012
United States Government Accountability Office
United States Government Accountability Office
Highlights of  GAO-12-889T,a testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight,Investigations, and Management, Committeeon Homeland Security, House of Representatives.
July 19, 2012
Use in the National Airspace and the Role of theDepartment of Homeland Security 
 Why GAO Did This Study 
UAS aircraft do not carry a humanoperator on board, but instead operateon pre-programmed routes or byfollowing commands from pilot-operated ground stations. An aircraft isconsidered to be a small UAS if it is 55pounds or less, while a large UAS isanything greater. Current domesticuses of UAS are limited and includelaw enforcement, monitoring or fightingforest fires, border security, weather research, and scientific data collectionby the federal government. FAAauthorizes military and non-militaryUAS operations on a limited basis after conducting a case-by-case safetyreview. Several other federal agenciesalso have a role or interest in UAS,including DHS. In 2008, GAO reportedthat safe and routine access to thenational airspace system posesseveral obstacles.This testimony discusses 1) obstaclesidentified in GAO’s previous report onthe safe and routine integration of UASinto the national airspace, 2) DHS’srole in the domestic use of thesesystems, and 3) preliminaryobservations on emerging issues fromGAO’s ongoing work.This testimony is based on a 2008GAO report and ongoing work, and isfocused on issues related to non-military UAS. In ongoing work, GAOanalyzed FAA’s efforts to integrateUAS into the national airspace, the roleof other federal agencies in achievingsafe and routine integration, and other emerging issues; reviewed FAA andother federal agency efforts anddocuments; and conducted selectedinterviews with officials from FAA andother federal, industry, and academicstakeholders.
 What GAO Found
 GAO earlier reported that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could not meet theaviation safety requirements developed for manned aircraft and posed severalobstacles to operating safely and routinely in the national airspace system. Theseinclude 1) the inability for UAS to detect, sense, and avoid other aircraft and airborneobjects in a manner similar to “see and avoid” by a pilot in a manned aircraft; 2)vulnerabilities in the command and control of UAS operations; 3) the lack of technological and operational standards needed to guide the safe and consistentperformance of UAS; and 4) the lack of final regulations to accelerate the safeintegration of UAS into the national airspace. GAO stated in 2008 that Congressshould consider creating an overarching body within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address obstacles for routine access. FAA’s Joint Planningand Development Office (JPDO) has taken on a similar role. FAA has implementedGAO’s two recommendations related to its planning and data analysis efforts tofacilitate integration.The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is one of several partner agencies of JPDO working to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace. Since 2005, FAAhas granted DHS authority to operate UAS to support its national security mission inareas such as the U.S. northern and southern land borders. DHS’s TransportationSecurity Administration (TSA) has the authority to regulate security of all modes of transportation, including non-military UAS, and according to TSA officials, its aviationsecurity efforts include monitoring reports on potential security threats regarding theuse of UAS. Security considerations could be exacerbated with routine UAS access.TSA has not taken any actions to implement GAO’s 2008 recommendation that itexamine the security implications of future, non-military UAS.GAO’s ongoing work has identified several UAS issues that, although not new, areemerging as areas of further consideration in light of greater access to the nationalairspace. These include concerns about privacy relating to the collection and use of surveillance data. Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility toregulate privacy matters relating to UAS. Another emerging issue is the use of modelaircraft (aircraft flown for hobby or recreation) in the national airspace. FAA isgenerally prohibited from developing any rule or regulation for model aircraft. TheFederal Bureau of Investigation report of a plot to use a model aircraft filled withplastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in September 2011hashighlighted the potential for model aircraft to be used for unintended purposes. Anadditional emerging issue is interruption of the command and control of UASoperations through the jamming and spoofing of the Global Positioning Systembetween the UAS and ground control station. GAO plans to report more fully this fallon these issues, including the status of efforts to address obstacles to the safe androutine integration of UAS into the national airspace.
Figure 1: Example of a Small UAS (SkySeer) and a Large UAS (Predator) 
View GAO-12-889T.For more information, contact Gerald Dillingham at (202) 512-2834or  dillinghamg@gao.gov. 
 Page 1 GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Keating, and Members of theSubcommittee:I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on obstacles tounmanned aircraft systems (UAS) safe and routine operations in thenational airspace, the role that the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) has in UAS operations, and emerging UAS issues. Manystakeholders have exhibited increased interest in UAS for border securityand disaster assistance, among other uses. Additionally, as combatoperations in Afghanistan decrease, all of the United States militaryservices expect to conduct more UAS training flights across thecontiguous United States.
UAS aircraft do not carry a human operator on board, but instead operateon pre-programmed routes or by following commands from pilot-operatedground stations. These aircraft are also referred to as “unmanned aerialvehicles,” “remotely piloted aircraft,” “unmanned aircraft,” or “drones.” Theterm “unmanned aircraft system” is used to recognize that a UAS includesnot only the airframe, but also associated elements such as a groundstation and the communications links. UAS are typically described interms of weight, endurance, purpose of use, and altitude of operation.Most UAS are considered small, weighing less than 55 pounds; some of which fly less than 400 feet above the ground. According to an industryassociation, small UAS are expected to comprise the majority of UAS thatwill operate in the national airspace.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorizes military and non-military (academic institutions; federal, state, and local governmentsincluding law enforcement entities; and private sector entities) UASoperations on a limited basis after conducting a case-by-case safetyreview. Only federal, state, and local government agencies can apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA); private sector entities mustapply for special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
Performance Audit of theDepartment of Defense Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance
(Washington, DC: Apr. 2012).
COAs and special airworthiness certifications in the experimental category representexceptions to the usual certification process. FAA examines the facts and circumstancesof a proposed UAS to ensure that the prospective operator has acceptably mitigatedsafety risks.

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