The FAA is Overworked, Underpaid, and Seriously Slacking. Yes, the FAA is America.
On March 7, the FAA released a document which tasked its Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), a long-term advisory board comprised of drone and tech industry leaders, with providing recommendations on how to fund the integration of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS).
Harmless, right? ― but the FAA then said that if additional funding isn’t found the progress of the drone industry will be greatly impacted. We all know this will detrimentally effect everyone who flies drones.
How the FAA gets money
The FAA primarily receives funding from the Aviation Trust Fund (for now). These taxes come from minuscule taxes that are put on international arrivals and departures from major ports, airline tickets, and fuel that is pumped into airplanes. In 2016, these taxes made up a whopping 87.8% of the FAA’s funding.
Note here that the FAA does a lot more than drones – so at the end of the day the drone program get’s only a minuscule percentage of this funding.
“The requirement to meet UAS needs is outpacing the Agency’s resources. Without additional funds, the FAA will not be able to keep pace with the dramatic growth in public, industry, and business demands for UAS operations,” the FAA said in the document.
Can’t keep up with demand
Due to this lack of funding and personally we’re seeing very slow trickle of progress on waivers, new regulation, and general industry progress. When Part 107 went into effect in August 2016, the aerial industry celebrated the FAA’s progress. Obviously, the FAA was struggling to keep up with the increased workload without an increase in personnel or resources.
Within a month after Part 107 certifications and waivers , waiver requests “had already overwhelmed our traditional systems and manual processes”
Did we really expect this problem to solve itself? The FAA has again and again talked about the large number of pilots who have passed the Part 107 Knowledge Test, but as we now know the time it takes to get a waiver approved after getting a 107 certificate is very high. This is proven by the most recent waiver issuance on the FAA’s public database: January 23.
Obviously more personnel is required — but this isn’t going to happen, considering the fact that Trump has issued an executive order that indefinitely freezes all federal hiring.
The FAA’s public admittance of its current struggle reveals what many have suspected for a long time. It’s apparent that the Administration simply can’t keep up with the aerial industry.
Making YOU pay?
The FAA has talked about multiple different ways that they can cover their costs that are associated with regulating an entire drone industry, but as we’ve seen customers and pilots have been apprehensive about paying a $5 drone registration fee, so is higher fees to the end user really the answer?.
Funding the FAA’s complex drone division to the extent needed while keeping the industry alive and well is going to be very difficult to get right. Charging a 10% tax ontop of your new DJI Phantom 4 Pro isn’t really going to break the bank for you — but if every new drone buyer pays that 10% tax, will that be enough to solve their financial issues? If the tax is raised to 20%, would the industry suffer because of it?
These are the issues that the DAC will have to tackle in the coming months. The FAA Task Group will consider the DAC’s recommendations and make it’s decisions no later than March 2018. We’ll be here waiting.