The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is overestimating the “severity and likelihood of risks” in drone operations, taking actions that create obstacles to the development of rapidly changing drone technology, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
The report, made public today, says the FAA has been overly cautious in its safety risk assessments and suggests that the agency needs to evaluate risks associated with drones using a different approach than the one it takes in evaluating risks involving manned aircraft.
“The fear of making a mistake drives a risk culture at FAA, particularly with regard to drone activities, which do not pose a direct threat to human life in the same way as technologies used in manned aircraft,” the report says. “The focus of the FAA is often solely on what might go wrong, and the dialogue now needs to shift toward balancing risks with potential advantages of drone operations, developing a holistic picture on overall risk and benefit.”
The report says that the public is likely to accept a different threshold of risk for small drones than for larger, manned aircraft.
“Overly stringent certification and operational approval requirements for drone operations that are relatively low risk have the potential for placing unnecessary burden on the business case and implementation timeline for those operations, stifling innovation,” said George Ligler, chairman of the NAS committee that wrote the report. Ligler also is proprietor of GTL Associates.