oversight

Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Use in the National Airspace System and the Role of the Department of Homeland Security

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-07-19.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before Subcommittee on Oversight,
                            Investigations, and Management,
                            Committee on Homeland Security, House
                            of Representatives
                            UNMANNED AIRCRAFT
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 9:30 a.m. EDT
Thursday, July 19, 2012

                            SYSTEMS
                            Use in the National
                            Airspace System and the
                            Role of the Department of
                            Homeland Security
                            Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D.
                            Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues




GAO-12-889T
                                              July 19, 2012

                                              UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS
                                              Use in the National Airspace and the Role of the
                                              Department of Homeland Security
Highlights of GAO-12-889T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Oversight,
Investigations, and Management, Committee
on Homeland Security, House of
Representatives.


Why GAO Did This Study                        What GAO Found
UAS aircraft do not carry a human             GAO earlier reported that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could not meet the
operator on board, but instead operate        aviation safety requirements developed for manned aircraft and posed several
on pre-programmed routes or by                obstacles to operating safely and routinely in the national airspace system. These
following commands from pilot-                include 1) the inability for UAS to detect, sense, and avoid other aircraft and airborne
operated ground stations. An aircraft is      objects in a manner similar to “see and avoid” by a pilot in a manned aircraft; 2)
considered to be a small UAS if it is 55      vulnerabilities in the command and control of UAS operations; 3) the lack of
pounds or less, while a large UAS is          technological and operational standards needed to guide the safe and consistent
anything greater. Current domestic            performance of UAS; and 4) the lack of final regulations to accelerate the safe
uses of UAS are limited and include           integration of UAS into the national airspace. GAO stated in 2008 that Congress
law enforcement, monitoring or fighting       should consider creating an overarching body within the Federal Aviation
forest fires, border security, weather        Administration (FAA) to address obstacles for routine access. FAA’s Joint Planning
research, and scientific data collection      and Development Office (JPDO) has taken on a similar role. FAA has implemented
by the federal government. FAA                GAO’s two recommendations related to its planning and data analysis efforts to
authorizes military and non-military          facilitate integration.
UAS operations on a limited basis after
                                              The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is one of several partner agencies of
conducting a case-by-case safety
review. Several other federal agencies        JPDO working to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace. Since 2005, FAA
also have a role or interest in UAS,          has granted DHS authority to operate UAS to support its national security mission in
including DHS. In 2008, GAO reported          areas such as the U.S. northern and southern land borders. DHS’s Transportation
that safe and routine access to the           Security Administration (TSA) has the authority to regulate security of all modes of
                                              transportation, including non-military UAS, and according to TSA officials, its aviation
national airspace system poses
                                              security efforts include monitoring reports on potential security threats regarding the
several obstacles.
                                              use of UAS. Security considerations could be exacerbated with routine UAS access.
This testimony discusses 1) obstacles         TSA has not taken any actions to implement GAO’s 2008 recommendation that it
identified in GAO’s previous report on        examine the security implications of future, non-military UAS.
the safe and routine integration of UAS
into the national airspace, 2) DHS’s          GAO’s ongoing work has identified several UAS issues that, although not new, are
role in the domestic use of these             emerging as areas of further consideration in light of greater access to the national
systems, and 3) preliminary                   airspace. These include concerns about privacy relating to the collection and use of
observations on emerging issues from          surveillance data. Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility to
GAO’s ongoing work.                           regulate privacy matters relating to UAS. Another emerging issue is the use of model
                                              aircraft (aircraft flown for hobby or recreation) in the national airspace. FAA is
This testimony is based on a 2008             generally prohibited from developing any rule or regulation for model aircraft. The
GAO report and ongoing work, and is           Federal Bureau of Investigation report of a plot to use a model aircraft filled with
focused on issues related to non-             plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in September 2011has
military UAS. In ongoing work, GAO            highlighted the potential for model aircraft to be used for unintended purposes. An
analyzed FAA’s efforts to integrate           additional emerging issue is interruption of the command and control of UAS
UAS into the national airspace, the role      operations through the jamming and spoofing of the Global Positioning System
of other federal agencies in achieving        between the UAS and ground control station. GAO plans to report more fully this fall
safe and routine integration, and other       on these issues, including the status of efforts to address obstacles to the safe and
emerging issues; reviewed FAA and             routine integration of UAS into the national airspace.
other federal agency efforts and
documents; and conducted selected
                                              Figure 1: Example of a Small UAS (SkySeer) and a Large UAS (Predator)
interviews with officials from FAA and
other federal, industry, and academic
stakeholders.


View GAO-12-889T. For more information,
contact Gerald Dillingham at (202) 512-2834
or dillinghamg@gao.gov.



                                                                                          United States Government Accountability Office
Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Keating, and Members of the
Subcommittee:

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on obstacles to
unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) safe and routine operations in the
national airspace, the role that the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) has in UAS operations, and emerging UAS issues. Many
stakeholders have exhibited increased interest in UAS for border security
and disaster assistance, among other uses. Additionally, as combat
operations in Afghanistan decrease, all of the United States military
services expect to conduct more UAS training flights across the
contiguous United States. 1

UAS aircraft do not carry a human operator on board, but instead operate
on pre-programmed routes or by following commands from pilot-operated
ground stations. These aircraft are also referred to as “unmanned aerial
vehicles,” “remotely piloted aircraft,” “unmanned aircraft,” or “drones.” The
term “unmanned aircraft system” is used to recognize that a UAS includes
not only the airframe, but also associated elements such as a ground
station and the communications links. UAS are typically described in
terms 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 industry
association, small UAS are expected to comprise the majority of UAS that
will operate in the national airspace.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorizes military and non-
military (academic institutions; federal, state, and local governments
including law enforcement entities; and private sector entities) UAS
operations on a limited basis after conducting a case-by-case safety
review. Only federal, state, and local government agencies can apply for
a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA); private sector entities must
apply for special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category. 2


1
  House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Performance Audit of the
Department of Defense Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (Washington, DC:
Apr. 2012).
2
 COAs and special airworthiness certifications in the experimental category represent
exceptions to the usual certification process. FAA examines the facts and circumstances
of a proposed UAS to ensure that the prospective operator has acceptably mitigated
safety risks.




Page 1                                          GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Between January 1, 2012 and July 17, 2012, FAA had issued 201 COAs
to 106 federal, state, and local government entities across the United
States, including law enforcement entities as well as academic
institutions. Additionally, FAA had issued 8 special airworthiness
certifications for experimental use to four UAS manufacturers. Presently,
under COA or special airworthiness certification, UAS operations are
permitted for specific times, locations, and operations. Thus it is not
uncommon for an entity to receive multiple COAs for various missions.
Over the years, concerns have been expressed by the Congress and
other stakeholders that sufficient progress has not been made to integrate
UAS into the national airspace system. In 2008, GAO reported that safe
and routine access to the national airspace system poses several
obstacles. We also stated that Congress should consider creating an
overarching body within FAA to coordinate federal, academic, and
private-sector efforts in meeting the safety challenges of allowing routine
access to the national airspace system. Additionally, we made two
recommendations to FAA related to its planning and data analysis efforts
to facilitate the process of allowing UAS routine access to the national
airspace. We also recommended that DHS assess the security
implications of routine access. FAA is working toward implementing the
requirements set forth by its February 2012 reauthorization to accelerate
UAS integration. 3

Several other federal agencies also have a role or interest in UAS,
including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of
Defense (DOD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA). 4 DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has
authority to regulate the security of all transportation modes, including
non-military UAS, to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.
According to TSA, its aviation security efforts include addressing risks,
threats, and vulnerabilities related to non-military UAS. In addition,
According to DHS officials, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) owns
ten UAS that it operates for its own missions as well as for missions in
conjunction with other agencies. DOD has successfully used UAS for


3
 FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-95, §§ 332 – 334, 126 Stat.
11 (2012).
4
 Senior executives from these four federal agencies represent the UAS ExCom, whose
mission is to enable increased and ultimately routine access of federal UAS engaged in
non-military aircraft operations into the national airspace to support these agencies’
operational, training, development, and research requirements.




Page 2                                          GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat missions. 5 While
many of DOD’s UAS operations currently take place outside of the United
States, the military services require access to the national airspace to
conduct UAS training. DOD has also assisted DHS in border security
missions, including two missions since 2006 where the National Guard
provided support in four southwestern border states. NASA uses UAS
primarily for research purposes, such as the Predator B for wildfire
mapping and investigations as well as an expected arctic mission next
year on surface sea ice.

My statement today discusses 1) obstacles we identified in our previous
report to the safe and routine integration of UAS into the national
airspace, 2) DHS’s role in the domestic use of these systems, and 3)
preliminary observations on emerging issues from our ongoing work
examining UAS. This statement is based on our 2008 UAS report 6 and
ongoing work for this subcommittee, the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure and its subcommittee on Aviation, and
the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation. Our
ongoing work is focused on issues related to non-military UAS and is
based on our analysis of FAA’s efforts to integrate UAS into the national
airspace, the role of other federal agencies in achieving safe and routine
integration, and other emerging issues. Our preliminary observations are
based on our review of various FAA and other federal agency efforts and
documents; and selected interviews with officials from FAA and other
federal, industry, and academic stakeholders. Our 2008 report contains
detailed explanations of the methods used to conduct that work. We have
discussed the information in this testimony with officials from FAA and
DHS, and incorporated their comments as appropriate. The work on
which this statement is based was performed in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards
require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate
evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions
based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained



5
 GAO, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Comprehensive Planning and a Results-Oriented
Training Strategy Are Needed to Support Growing Inventories, GAO-10-331 (Washington,
DC: Mar. 26, 2010).
6
 GAO, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Safety and
Expand Their Potential Uses within the National Airspace System, GAO-08-511
(Washington, D.C.: May 15, 2008).




Page 3                                        GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
             provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on
             our audit objectives.

             Current domestic uses of UAS are limited and include law enforcement,
Background   monitoring or fighting forest fires, border security, weather research, and
             scientific data collection. UAS have a wide-range of potential uses,
             including commercial uses such as pipeline, utility, and farm fence
             inspections; vehicular traffic monitoring; real estate and construction site
             photography; relaying telecommunication signals; and crop dusting.
             FAA’s long-range goal is to permit, to the greatest extent possible, routine
             UAS operations in the national airspace system while ensuring safety.
             Using UAS for commercial purposes is not currently allowed in the
             national airspace. As the list of potential uses for UAS grows, so do the
             concerns about how they will affect existing military and non-military
             aviation as well as concerns about how they might be used.

             Domestically, state and local law enforcement entities represent the
             greatest potential use of small UAS in the near term because small UAS
             can offer a simple and cost effective solution for airborne law enforcement
             activities for agencies that cannot afford a helicopter or other larger
             aircraft. 7 For example, federal officials and one airborne law enforcement
             official said that a small UAS costing between $30,000 and $50,000 is
             more likely to be purchased by state and local law enforcement entities
             because the cost is nearly equivalent to that of a patrol car. According to
             recent FAA data, 12 state and local law enforcement entities have a
             Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) while an official at the
             Department of Justice said that approximately 100 law enforcement
             entities have expressed interest in using a UAS for some of their
             missions. According to law enforcement officials with whom we spoke,
             small UAS are ideal for certain types of law enforcement activities.
             Officials anticipate that small UAS could provide support for tactical
             teams, post-event crime scene analysis and critical infrastructure
             photography. Officials said that they do not anticipate using small UAS for




             7
              FAA generally considers UAS in the two broad categories of “small” and “large,” and has
             used these categories to split its efforts to develop rules that would allow government and
             commercial UAS access to the national airspace. FAA has been developing rules for small
             UAS for several years. Although there is no widely accepted common classification
             system for UAS, an aircraft is considered to be a small UAS if it is 55 pounds or less, while
             a large UAS is anything greater.




             Page 4                                             GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                         routine patrols or missions that would require flights over extended
                         distances or time periods.

                         FAA has been working with the Department of Justice’s National Institute
                         of Justice to develop a COA process through a memorandum of
                         understanding to better meet the operational requirements of law
                         enforcement entities. While the memorandum of understanding
                         establishing this COA process has not been finalized, there are two law
                         enforcement entities that are using small UAS on a consistent basis for
                         their missions and operations. The proposed process would allow law
                         enforcement entities to receive a COA for training and performance
                         evaluation. When the entity has shown proficiency in operating its UAS, it
                         would then receive an operational COA allowing it to operate small UAS
                         for a range of missions. In May 2012, FAA stated that it met its first
                         requirement to expedite the COA process for public safety entities. FAA’s
                         reauthorization also required the agency to enter into agreements with
                         appropriate government agencies to simplify the COA process and allow
                         a government public safety agency to operate unmanned aircraft
                         weighing 4.4 pounds or less if flown within the line of sight of the operator,
                         less than 400 feet above the ground, and during daylight conditions,
                         among others stipulations.


                         In 2008, we reported that UAS could not meet the aviation safety
Obstacles to Safe and    requirements developed for manned aircraft and posed several obstacles
Routine Integration of   to operating safely and routinely in the national airspace system.
UAS                      •   Sense and avoid technologies. To date, no suitable technology has
                             been identified that would provide UAS with the capability to meet the
                             detect, sense, and avoid requirements of the national airspace
                             system. Our ongoing work indicates that research has been carried
                             out to mitigate this, but the inability for UAS to sense and avoid other
                             aircraft or objects remains an obstacle. With no pilot to scan the sky,
                             UAS do not have an on-board capability to directly “see” other aircraft.
                             Consequently, the UAS must possess the capability to sense and
                             avoid an object using on-board equipment, or with the assistance of a
                             human on the ground or in a chase aircraft, 8 or by other means, such


                         8
                          Chase pilots are in constant radio contact with research pilots and serve as an “extra set
                         of eyes” to help maintain total flight safety during specific tests and maneuvers. Chase
                         pilots monitor certain events for the research pilot and are an important safety feature on
                         all research missions.




                         Page 5                                            GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    as radar. Many UAS, particularly smaller models, will likely operate at
    altitudes below 18,000 feet, sharing airspace with other vehicles or
    objects. Sensing and avoiding other vehicles or objects represents a
    particular challenge for UAS, because other vehicles or objects at this
    altitude often do not transmit an electronic signal to identify
    themselves and, even if they did, many small UAS, do not have
    equipment to detect such signals if they are used and may be too
    small to carry such equipment.

•   Command and control communications. Similar to what we previously
    reported, ensuring uninterrupted command and control for UAS
    remains a key obstacle for safe and routine integration into the
    national airspace. Without such control, the UAS could collide with
    another aircraft or crash, causing injury or property damage. The lack
    of dedicated radiofrequency spectrum for UAS operations heightens
    the possibility that an operator could lose command and control of the
    UAS. Unlike manned aircraft that use dedicated radio frequencies,
    non-military UAS currently use undedicated frequencies and remain
    vulnerable to unintentional or intentional interference. To address the
    potential interruption of command and control, UAS generally have
    pre-programmed maneuvers to follow if the command and control link
    becomes interrupted (called a “lost-link scenario”). However, these
    procedures are not standardized across all types of UAS and,
    therefore, remain unpredictable to air traffic controllers who have
    responsibility for ensuring safe separation of aircraft in their airspace.

•   Standards. A rigorous certification process with established
    performance thresholds is needed to ensure that UAS and pilots meet
    safety, reliability, and performance standards. Minimum aviation
    system standards are needed in three areas: performance; command
    and control communications; and sense and avoid. In 2004, RTCA, a
    standards-making body sponsored by FAA, established a federal
    advisory committee called the Special Committee 203 (or SC 203), to
    establish minimum performance standards for FAA to use in
    developing UAS regulations. 9 Individuals from academia and the
    private sector serve on the committee, along with FAA, NASA, and



9
 RTCA, formerly the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, is a private, not-for-
profit corporation that develops consensus-based performance standards regarding
communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management system issues.
RTCA serves as a federal advisory committee, and its recommendations are the basis for
a number of FAA’s policy, program, and regulatory decisions.




Page 6                                         GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
       DOD officials. ASTM International Committee F38 on UAS, an
       international voluntary consensus standards-making body, is working
       with FAA to develop standards to support the integration of small UAS
       into the national airspace. 10

•      Regulations. FAA regulations govern the routine operation of most
       aircraft in the national airspace system. 11 However, these regulations
       do not contain provisions to address issues relating to unmanned
       aircraft. As we highlighted in our previous report, existing regulations
       may need to be modified to address the unique characteristics of
       UAS. Today, UAS continue to operate as exceptions to the regulatory
       framework rather than being governed by it. This has limited the
       number of UAS operations in the national airspace, and that limitation
       has, in turn, contributed to the lack of operational data on UAS in
       domestic operations previously discussed. One industry forecast
       noted that growth in the non-military UAS market is unlikely until
       regulations allow for the routine operation of UAS. Without specific
       and permanent regulations for safe operation of UAS, federal
       stakeholders, including DOD, continue to face challenges. The lack of
       final regulations could hinder the acceleration of safe and routine
       integration of UAS into the national airspace.

Given the remaining obstacles to UAS integration, we stated in 2008 that
Congress should consider creating an overarching body within FAA to
coordinate federal, academic, and private-sector efforts in meeting the
safety challenges of allowing routine access to the national airspace
system. While it has not created this overarching body, FAA’s Joint
Planning and Development Office has taken on a similar role. In addition,
Congress set forth requirements for FAA in its February 2012
reauthorization to facilitate UAS integration. Additionally, we made two
recommendations to FAA related to its planning and data analysis efforts
to facilitate the process of allowing UAS routine access to the national
airspace, which FAA has implemented.




10
   ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials
(ASTM), is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international
voluntary consensus standards. ASTM members deliver the test methods, specifications,
guides and practices that support industries and governments worldwide.
11
     Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR).




Page 7                                                 GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                       DHS is one of several partner agencies of FAA’s Joint Planning and
Role of the            Development Office (JPDO) working to safely integrate UAS into the
Department of          national airspace. TSA has the authority to regulate the security of all
                       transportation modes, including non-military UAS, and according to TSA
Homeland Security in   officials, its aviation security efforts include monitoring reports on potential
Domestic UAS Use       security threats regarding the use of UAS. While UAS operations in the
                       national airspace are limited and take place under closely controlled
                       conditions, this could change if UAS have routine access to the national
                       airspace system. Further, DHS owns and uses UAS.

                       Security is a significant issue that could be exacerbated with an increase
                       in the number of UAS, and could impede UAS use even after all other
                       obstacles have been addressed. In 2004, TSA issued an advisory in
                       which it stated that there was no credible evidence to suggest that
                       terrorist organizations plan to use remote controlled aircraft or UAS in the
                       United States. However, the TSA advisory also provided that the federal
                       government remains concerned that UAS could be modified and used to
                       attack key assets and infrastructure in the United States. TSA advised
                       individuals to report any suspicious activities to local law enforcement and
                       the TSA General Aviation Hotline. 12 Security requirements have yet to be
                       developed for UAS ground control stations—the UAS equivalent of the
                       cockpit. 13 Legislation introduced in the 112th Congress would prohibit the
                       use of UAS as weapons while operating in the national airspace. 14

                       In our 2008 report, we recommended that the Secretary of Homeland
                       Security direct the Administrator of TSA to examine the security
                       implications of future, non-military UAS operations in the national
                       airspace and take any actions deemed appropriate. TSA agreed that
                       consideration and examination of new aviation technologies and
                       operations is critical to ensuring the continued security of the national
                       airspace. According to TSA officials, TSA continues to work with the FAA
                       and other federal agencies concerning airspace security by implementing
                       security procedures in an attempt to protect the National Airspace


                       12
                        Department of Homeland Security, TSA Advisory: Security Information Regarding
                       Remote Controlled Aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Washington, DC: Nov. 22,
                       2004).
                       13
                          Additionally, in response to the events of September 11, 2001, entry doors to passenger
                       airplane cockpits were hardened to prevent unauthorized entry.
                       14
                            No Armed Drones Act of 2012, H. R. 5950, 112th Cong. (2012).




                       Page 8                                            GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
System. Examples of this collaboration include the coordinated efforts to
allow access to temporary flight restricted airspace such as those put in
place for Presidential travel and DHS Security Events. However, to date,
neither DHS nor TSA has taken any actions to implement our 2008
recommendation. According to TSA officials, TSA believes its current
practices are sufficient and no additional actions have been needed since
we issued our recommendation.

DHS is also an owner and user of UAS. Since 2005, CBP has flown UAS
for border security missions. FAA granted DHS authority to operate UAS
to support its national security mission along the United States northern
and southern land borders, among other areas. Recently, DHS officials
told us that DHS has also flown UAS over the Caribbean to search for
narcotics-carrying submarines and speedboats. According to DHS
officials, CBP owns ten UAS that it operates in conjunction with other
agencies for various missions. As of May 2012, CBP has flown missions
to support six federal and state agencies along with several DHS
agencies. These missions have included providing the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration with videos of damaged dams and
bridges where flooding occurred or was threatened, and providing
surveillance for DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement over a
suspected smuggler’s tunnel. DHS, DOD, and NASA, are working with
FAA to identify and evaluate options to increase UAS access in the
national airspace. DHS officials reported that if funding was available,
they plan to expand their fleet to 24 total UAS that would be operational
by fiscal year 2016, including 11 on the southwest border.

The DHS Inspector General reviewed CBP’s actions to establish its UAS
program, the purpose of which is to provide reconnaissance, surveillance,
targeting, and acquisition capabilities across all CBP areas of
responsibility. The Inspector General assessed whether CBP has
established an adequate operation plan to define, prioritize, and execute
its unmanned aircraft mission. The Inspector General’s May 2012 report
found that CBP had not achieved its scheduled or desired level of flight
hours for its UAS. It estimated that CBP used its UAS less than 40
percent of the time it would have expected. 15



15
   The report made four recommendations intended to improve CBP’s planning of its UAS
program to address its level of operation, program funding, and resource requirements,
along with stakeholder needs.




Page 9                                          GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                      Our ongoing work has identified several UAS issues that, although not
Preliminary           new, are emerging as areas of further consideration in light of the efforts
Observations on       towards safe and routine access to the national airspace. These include
                      concerns about 1) privacy as it relates to the collection and use of
Emerging UAS Issues   surveillance data, 2) the use of model aircraft, which are aircraft flown for
                      hobby or recreation, and 3) the jamming and spoofing of the Global
                      Positioning System (GPS).

                      •    Privacy concerns over collection and use of surveillance data.
                           Following the enactment of the UAS provisions of the 2012 FAA
                           reauthorization act, members of Congress, a civil liberties
                           organization, and others have expressed concern that the increased
                           use of UAS for surveillance and other purposes in the national
                           airspace has potential privacy implications. Concerns include the
                           potential for increased amounts of government surveillance using
                           technologies placed on UAS as well as the collection and use of such
                           data. Surveillance by federal agencies using UAS must take into
                           account associated constitutional Fourth Amendment protections
                           against unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, at the
                           individual agency level, there are multiple federal laws designed to
                           provide protections for personal information used by federal agencies.
                           While the 2012 FAA reauthorization act contains provisions designed
                           to accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace,
                           proposed legislation in the 112th session of Congress, seeks to limit
                           or serve as a check on uses of UAS by, for example, limiting the
                           ability of the federal government to use UAS to gather information
                           pertaining to criminal conduct without a warrant. 16

                           Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility to
                           regulate privacy matters relating to UAS. UAS stakeholders disagreed
                           as to whether the regulation of UAS privacy related issues should be
                           centralized within one federal agency, or if centralized, which agency
                           would be best positioned to handle such a responsibility. Some
                           stakeholders have suggested that FAA or another federal agency
                           should develop regulations for the types of allowable uses of UAS to
                           specifically protect the privacy of individuals as well as rules for the
                           conditions and types of data that small UAS can collect. Furthermore,



                      16
                        Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012, S. 3287, 112th Cong.
                      (2012) and Farmer’s Privacy Act of 2012, H.R. 5961, 112th Cong. (2012).




                      Page 10                                        GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
     stakeholders with whom we spoke said that developing guidelines for
     technology use on UAS ahead of widespread adoption by law
     enforcement entities may preclude abuses of the technology and a
     negative public perception of UAS. Representatives from one civil
     liberties organization told us that since FAA has responsibility to
     regulate the national airspace, it could be positioned to handle
     responsibility for incorporating rules that govern UAS use and data
     collection. Some stakeholders have suggested that the FAA has the
     opportunity and responsibility to incorporate such privacy issues into
     the small UAS rule that is currently underway and in future rulemaking
     procedures. However, FAA officials have said that regulating these
     sensors is outside the FAA’s mission, which is primarily focused on
     aviation safety, and has proposed language in its small UAS Notice of
     Proposed Rulemaking to clarify this.

•    Model aircraft. According to an FAA official with whom we spoke and
     other stakeholders, another concern related to UAS is the oversight of
     the operation of model aircraft—aircraft flown for hobby or
     recreation—capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere and a
     number of other characteristics. 17 Owners of model aircraft do not
     require a COA to operate their aircraft. 18 Furthermore, as part of its
     2012 reauthorization act, FAA is prohibited from developing any rule
     or regulation for model aircraft under a specified set of conditions. 19
     However, the 2012 reauthorization act also specifies that nothing in
     the act’s model aircraft provisions shall be construed to limit FAA’s
     authority to take enforcement action against the operator of a model


17
  The 2012 reauthorization act defines the term “model aircraft” to mean an unmanned
aircraft that is: (1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, (2) flown within visual line
of sight of the person operating the aircraft, and (3) flown for hobby or recreational
purposes.
18
 FAA’s Advisory Circular 91-57 sets out model aircraft operating standards that
encourage voluntary compliance with specified safety standards for model aircraft
operators.
19
   This prohibition on FAA model aircraft rules or regulations only applies where the aircraft
is: (1) flown strictly for hobby or recreational use, (2) operated in accordance with a
community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide
community-based organization, (3) limited to not more than 55 pounds (unless otherwise
certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety
program administered by a community-based organization), (4) operated in a manner that
does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft, and (5) when flown within 5
miles of an airport, prior notice of the operation is given to the airport operator and the air
traffic control tower.




Page 11                                              GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
       aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system. 20
       The Federal Bureau of Investigation report of the arrest and criminal
       prosecution of a man plotting to use a large remote-controlled model
       aircraft filled with plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S.
       Capitol in September 2011 has highlighted the potential for model
       aircraft to be used for non-approved or unintended purposes.

       The Academy of Model Aeronautics, which promotes the development
       of model aviation as a recognized sport and represents a membership
       of over 150,000, published several documents to guide model aircraft
       users on safety, model aircraft size and speed, and use. For example,
       the Academy’s National Model Aircraft Safety Code specifies that
       model aircraft will not be flown in a careless or reckless manner and
       will not carry pyrotechnic devices that explode or burn, or any device
       that propels a projectile or drops any object that creates a hazard to
       persons or property (with some exceptions). 21 The Academy of Model
       Aeronautics also provides guidance on “sense and avoid” to its
       members, such as a ceiling of 400 feet above ground of aircraft
       weighing 55 pounds or less. However, apart from FAA’s voluntary
       safety standards for model aircraft operators, FAA has no regulations
       relating to model aircraft. Currently, FAA does not require a license for
       any model aircraft operators, but according to FAA, the small UAS
       Notice of Proposed Rule Making, under development and expected to
       be published late 2012, may contain a provision that requires certain
       model aircraft to be registered.

•      GPS jamming and spoofing. 22 The jamming and spoofing of the
       communication signal between the UAS and ground control station
       could also interrupt the command and control of UAS operations. In a
       GPS jamming scenario, the UAS could potentially lose its ability to
       determine where it is located and in what direction it is traveling. Low


20
     Pub. L. No. 112-95, § 336, 126 Stat. 11 . 77 (2012).
21
  The Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code allows
members to fly devices that burn producing smoke and are securely attached to the model
aircraft and use rocket motors if they remain attached to the model during flight. Model
rockets may be flown but not launched from a model aircraft.
22
 GPS spoofing is when counterfeit GPS signals are generated for the purpose of
manipulating a target receiver’s reported position and time. Todd E. Humphreys, Detection
Strategy for Cryptographic GNSS Anti-Spoofing, IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and
Electronics Systems (August 2011).




Page 12                                              GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
     cost devices that jam GPS signals are prevalent. According to one
     industry expert, GPS jamming would become a larger problem if GPS
     is the only method for navigating a UAS. This problem can be
     mitigated by having a second or redundant navigation system
     onboard the UAS that is not reliant on GPS. In addition, a number of
     federal UAS stakeholders we interviewed stated that GPS jamming is
     not an issue for the larger, military-type UAS, as they have an
     encrypted communications link on the aircraft. A stakeholder noted
     that GPS jamming can be mitigated for small UAS by encrypting its
     communications, but the costs associated with encryption may make
     it infeasible. Recently, researchers at the University of Texas
     demonstrated that the GPS signal controlling a small UAS could be
     spoofed using a portable software radio. The research team found
     that it was straightforward to mount an intermediate-level spoofing
     attack but difficult and expensive to mount a more sophisticated
     attack. 23
The emerging issues we identified not only may exist as part of efforts to
safely and routinely integrate UAS into the national airspace, but may
also persist once integration has occurred. Thus, these issues may
warrant further examination both presently and in the future.


Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Keating, and Members of the
Subcommittee, this concludes my prepared statement. We plan to report
more fully this fall on these same issues, including the status of efforts to
address obstacles to the safe and routine integration of UAS into the
national airspace. I would be pleased to answer any questions at this
time.




23
  The presentation “Assessing the Civil GPS Spoofing Threat” by Todd Humphreys,
Jahshan Bhatti, Brent Ledvina, Mark Psiaki, Brady O’Hanlon, Paul Kintner, and Paul
Montgomery sought to assess the spoofing threat of a small civil UAS. The team built a
civilian GPS spoofer and tested some countermeasures. They concluded that GPS
spoofing is a threat to communications security and civil spoofing has not been the focus
of research in open literature.




Page 13                                          GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                   For further information on this testimony, please contact Gerald L.
GAO Contact and    Dillingham, Ph.D., at (202) 512-2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov. In
Staff              addition, contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and
                   Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this statement. Individuals
Acknowledgements   making key contributions to this testimony include Maria Edelstein,
                   Assistant Director; Amy Abramowitz; Erin Cohen; John de Ferrari; Colin
                   Fallon; Rebecca Gambler; Geoffrey Hamilton; David Hooper; Daniel Hoy;
                   Joe Kirschbaum; Brian Lepore; SaraAnn Moessbauer; Faye Morrison;
                   Sharon Pickup; Tina Won Sherman; and Matthew Ullengren.




(540246)
                   Page 14                                  GAO-12-889T Unmanned Aircraft Systems
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