Many law enforcement officers are uncertain how to respond to drone incidents within their jurisdictions or what kind of information to share with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says.
The GAO’s conclusion was included in a recently released report on FAA efforts to ensure that operators of small drones — those weighing less than 55 lb (25 kg) — comply with relevant government directives.
“Most law enforcement stakeholders GAO met with (nine of 11) stated that officers may not know how to respond to UAS [unmanned aircraft systems, as drones are sometimes known] incidents or what information to share with FAA,” the report said.
The report said that the FAA has emphasized the critical role that local authorities can play in enforcement of regulations governing drone operations. Nevertheless, the document added, “FAA has not consistently communicated this information to its law enforcement partners.”
The report said that about half of the FAA safety inspectors who were interviewed told the GAO that they conduct regular outreach sessions with law enforcement agencies, but the other safety inspectors said their efforts have been limited.
“Without a clear approach to communicate to the tens of thousands of state and local law enforcement agencies across the country, FAA does not have reasonable assurance these agencies are armed with knowledge they need to help FAA identify and address unsafe UAS operations,” the report said.
The FAA has said that it will continue its approach to oversight, with a focus on educating operators and targeting its surveillance activities, but the agency has not yet determined how to use existing data or whether additional data is required to evaluate their approach, the report said.
The report recommended that the FAA “develop an approach to communicate to local law enforcement agencies expectations for their role in UAS investigations and identify and obtain data needed to evaluate FAA’s small UAS compliance and enforcement activities as the UAS environment evolves.”
The FAA has agreed with the recommendations, the report said.