oversight

Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Measuring Progress and Addressing Potential Privacy Concerns Would Facilitate Integration into the National Airspace System [Reissued on September 18, 2012]

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-09-14.

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

                  United States Government Accountability Office

GAO               Report to Congressional Requesters




September 2012
                  UNMANNED
                  AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS
                  Measuring Progress
                  and Addressing
                  Potential Privacy
                  Concerns Would
                  Facilitate Integration
                  into the National
                  Airspace System
                 On September 18, 2012 we updated this report to
                 reflect an additional addressee.




GAO-12-981
                                                September 2012

                                                UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS
                                                Measuring Progress and Addressing Potential
                                                Privacy Concerns Would Facilitate Integration into
                                                the National Airspace System
Highlights of GAO-12-981, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                          What GAO Found
UAS do not carry a pilot on board, but          Progress has been made, but additional work is needed to overcome many of the
instead operate on pre-programmed               obstacles to the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that GAO
routes and by following commands                identified in 2008. GAO reported in 2008 that UAS could not meet the aviation safety
from pilot-operated ground stations.            requirements developed for manned aircraft and that this posed several obstacles to
UAS can be small, generally 55                  safe and routine operation in the national airspace system. These obstacles still exist
pounds or less, or large. Current               and include the inability for UAS to sense and avoid other aircraft and airborne
domestic uses include law                       objects in a manner similar to manned aircraft; vulnerabilities in the command and
enforcement, forest fire monitoring,            control of UAS operations; the lack of technological and operational standards
border security, weather research, and          needed to guide safe and consistent performance of UAS; and final regulations to
scientific data collection. However,            accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace system. The Joint
current uses are limited. FAA                   Planning and Development Office of the FAA has provided UAS stakeholders with a
authorizes UAS operations on a case-            framework to collaborate and coordinate their UAS integration efforts.
by-case basis after conducting a safety
review. FAA and the other federal
                                                Congress set forth specific requirements and deadlines in the FAA Modernization and
agencies that have a role or interest in
                                                Reform Act of 2012 for FAA to safely accelerate UAS integration. FAA, in
UAS are working to provide routine
                                                coordination with stakeholders, has begun making progress toward completing those
access for UAS into the national
                                                requirements, but has missed one deadline and could miss others. Many of the
airspace system.
                                                requirements entail significant work, including completing planning efforts and issuing
As requested, this report discusses             a final rule for small UAS. Most of the requirements are to be achieved by December
(1) the status of obstacles identified in       2015. While FAA has taken steps to meet them, it is uncertain when the national
GAO’s 2008 report to integrate UAS              airspace system will be prepared to accommodate UAS given that these efforts are
into the national airspace system,              occurring simultaneously and without monitoring to assess the quality of progress
(2) FAA’s progress in meeting its               over time toward the deadlines Congress established. Better monitoring can help
congressional requirements for UAS,             FAA understand what has been achieved and what remains to be done and can also
and (3) emerging issues. GAO                    help keep Congress informed about this significant change to the aviation landscape.
reviewed and analyzed documents and
interviewed relevant government,
academic, and private-sector entities,          Concerns about national security, privacy, and the interference in Global Positioning-
as well as UAS users and civil liberties        System (GPS) signals have not been resolved and may influence acceptance of
organizations.                                  routine access for UAS in the national airspace system. The Department of
                                                Homeland Security’s (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has the
What GAO Recommends                             authority to regulate security of all modes of transportation, including non-military
                                                UAS. Working with FAA and other federal agencies, TSA implements security
FAA should incorporate regular                  procedures, such as airspace restrictions like those limiting operations into and out of
monitoring of its efforts to assess             Ronald Reagan National Airport. In 2008, GAO recommended that TSA examine the
progress toward fulfilling its statutory        security implications of non-military UAS. According to a TSA official, it recently
requirements. FAA, DHS, and DOJ                 reviewed its UAS related advisories and determined that they are still applicable. TSA
should explore whether any actions are          has not provided information on its efforts to mitigate security implications of UAS,
needed to guide the collection and use          and GAO believes TSA should act on this recommendation. Stakeholder privacy
of UAS-acquired data. GAO provided a            concerns include the potential for increased amounts of government surveillance
draft of this report to officials at DOT,       using technologies placed on UAS, the collection and use of such data, and potential
DHS, DOJ, and three other agencies.             violations of constitutional Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable
DHS and DOJ concurred with the                  search and seizures. Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility
recommendation; DOT officials agreed            to regulate privacy matters relating to UAS for the entire federal government. Some
to consider the recommendations.                stakeholders have suggested that DHS or the Department of Justice (DOJ) might be
                                                better positioned to address privacy issues since they generally stem from the
                                                operational uses of UAS for governmental surveillance and law enforcement
View GAO-12-981. For more information,          purposes. Working proactively to address security and privacy concerns could help
contact Gerald L.Dillingham at (202) 512-2834   prevent further delays in UAS integration. Finally, non-military UAS GPS signals are
or dillinghamg@gao.gov.
                                                unencrypted, risking potential interruption of the command and control of UAS.


                                                                                           United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                     1
               Background                                                                  4
               Status of Obstacles to Safe and Routine Integration of UAS into the
                 National Airspace System                                                14
               FAA Progress toward UAS Integration Requirements                          23
               Emerging Issues Related to UAS Integration Include Potential
                 Security and Privacy Concerns and GPS Jamming and Spoofing              29
               Conclusions                                                               37
               Recommendations                                                           38
               Agency Comments                                                           38

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                         41



Appendix II    Federal Entities with Certificates of Waiver or Authorization Approved
               from January 1, 2012, to July 13, 2012                                 43



Appendix III   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                      44



Tables
               Table 1: Key Federal and Industry UAS Stakeholders and Their
                        Roles                                                            12
               Table 2: Selected FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012
                        Requirements for UAS Integration                                 24


Figures
               Figure 1: Conceptual Rendering of Unmanned Aircraft System                  2
               Figure 2: Examples of Current Uses for UAS and their Altitudes of
                        Operation                                                          6
               Figure 3: Non-Federal Recipients of Certificates of Waiver or
                        Authorization and Special Airworthiness Certificates in
                        the Experimental Category and the Location, as of July 13,
                        2012                                                              8
               Figure 4: Illustration of UAS Use for Hurricane Data Collection           10




               Page i                                    GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Abbreviations list:

2012 Act                   FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012
ADS-B                      automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast
ASTM International         formerly known as the American Society for Testing
                           and Materials
CBP                        Customs and Border Protection
COA                        Certificate of Waiver or Authorization
DHS                        Department of Homeland Security
DOD                        Department of Defense
DOJ                        Department of Justice
DOT                        Department of Transportation
EUROCAE                    European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment
FAA                        Federal Aviation Administration
GBSAA                      ground-based sense and avoid
GPS                        Global Positioning-System
GSA                        General Services Administration
JPDO                       Joint Planning Development Office
MASPS                      minimum aviation system performance standards
MOPS                       minimum operational performance standards
NASA                       National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NDAA                       National Defense Authorization Act
NextGen                    Next Generation Air Transportation System
NPRM                       Notice of Proposed Rule Making
PIA                        privacy impact assessment
SC 203                     Special Committee 203
RTCA                       formerly the Radio Technical Commission for
                           Aeronautics (now RTCA)
TSA                        Transportation Security Administration
UAS                        unmanned aircraft systems




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Page ii                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   September 14, 2012

                                   Congressional Requesters

                                   Domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is expected to
                                   increase as federal, state, and local public safety entities have obtained
                                   greater access to the national airspace system and the Federal Aviation
                                   Administration (FAA) develops procedures to allow commercial UAS use.
                                   UAS aircraft do not carry a pilot onboard but instead operate on pre-
                                   programmed routes and by following commands from pilot-operated
                                   ground control 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
                                   UAS include not only the airframe and power plant, but also associated
                                   elements such as a ground control station and the communications links
                                   as shown in figure 1.




                                   Page 1                                    GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Figure 1: Conceptual Rendering of Unmanned Aircraft System




                                       According to an industry forecast, the growth in the market for
                                       government and commercial UAS use could result in worldwide
                                       expenditures of as much as $89.1 billion ($28.5 billion for research and
                                       development and $60.6 billion for procurement) in aggregate over the
                                       next decade. 1 While the U.S. military has been a catalyst for growth in the
                                       UAS market, the industry forecaster expects the civil UAS market to
                                       emerge first based on government use and a commercial non-
                                       governmental market to emerge more slowly as the airspace access
                                       issues are being resolved. The growth in the market relies in part on
                                       regulations that will ensure the safe and routine integration of UAS into
                                       the national airspace system. Congress and other stakeholders have


                                       1
                                           Teal Group Corporation, World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (Fairfax, VA: 2012).




                                       Page 2                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
expressed concerns that sufficient progress has not been made to allow
for UAS to fly in the national airspace system in a manner similar to
manned aircraft. 2, 3 In 2008, we reported that safe and routine UAS
access to the national airspace system poses several obstacles. 4 The
FAA Modernization and Reform Act (the 2012 Act), enacted in February
2012, brought greater focus to integrating UAS into the national airspace
system, and FAA is working toward implementing the UAS-specific
requirements set forth in that act. 5 Concerns have been raised, by
members of Congress and a civil liberties organization, about the
potential implications of increased UAS use including potential privacy
implications.

In this context, you asked us to assess

1. the status of obstacles to the safe and routine integration of UAS into
   the national airspace system that we identified in our 2008 report,
2. FAA’s progress in complying with the 2012 Act UAS requirements,
   and
3. emerging issues pertaining to UAS.

This report focuses on issues related to non-military UAS and is based on
our analysis of the efforts of FAA and other federal agencies to integrate
UAS into the national airspace system as well as other emerging issues.
To describe and assess the status of obstacles to safe integration that we
previously identified in 2008, we reviewed documents provided by and
interviewed officials of government, academic, and private-sector entities


2
 The Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, consisting of 60 members, was formed
to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific
value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more
systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned
system use and safety.
3
 The Congressional Research Service issued a report discussing the evolution of UAS
and UAS related considerations for Congress. Congressional Research Service, Pilotless
Drones: Background and Considerations for Congress Regarding Unmanned Aircraft
Operations in the National Airspace System, R42718 (Washington, D.C.: September
2012).
4
  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).
5
 FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-95, §§ 332 – 334, 126 Stat.
11 (2012).




Page 3                                           GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
             involved with UAS issues. To assess FAA’s progress in meeting its
             statutory requirements for UAS integration, we reviewed relevant portions
             of the 2012 Act and obtained documents and conducted interviews with
             the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office at FAA. We also
             identified criteria for assessments from GAO’s Standards for Internal
             Control in the Federal Government. We spoke with officials from the
             FAA’s Joint Planning Development Office (JPDO) to understand UAS
             coordination efforts across the federal government and other
             stakeholders. To identify emerging issues related to UAS, we reviewed
             documents provided by and interviewed officials from federal, state, and
             local entities that use UAS as well as representatives from the Electronic
             Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union regarding
             UAS security and privacy concerns. We also examined pertinent legal
             requirements to which federal agencies must adhere when collecting and
             using personal information.

             We conducted this performance audit from November 2011 to September
             2012 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 provides a reasonable basis for our findings
             and conclusions based on our audit objectives. Appendix I contains more
             detailed information on our objectives, scope, and methodology.


             The national airspace system encompasses an average of more than
Background   100,000 aviation flights per day, including commercial air carriers, general
             aviation, 6 and military aircraft. There are approximately 18,000
             commercial aircraft and 230,000 active general aviation aircraft in the
             United States. Most commercial aircraft operate at altitudes between
             18,000 and 60,000 feet, 7 while general aviation aircraft can operate at
             various altitudes, depending on the type of aircraft. For example, the


             6
              According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, general aviation is all
             aviation other than military and commercial airlines that is not available to the general
             public for transport. General aviation includes nonscheduled aircraft operations such as air
             medical-ambulance, corporate aviation, and privately owned aircraft.
             7
              Altitudes 18,000 and 60,000 feet are reported as mean sea level, which is the average
             height of the surface of the sea for all stages of the tide; used as a reference for
             elevations.




             Page 4                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
majority of single engine aircraft generally operate at altitudes below
10,000 feet, while multi-engine jet aircraft operate at altitudes up to
50,000 feet. UAS also fly at all levels of airspace, generally based on their
size. UAS are typically described in terms of weight, endurance, purpose
of use, and altitude of operation. For the purposes of this report, we use
the broad categories of “large” and “small” UAS. “Small” UAS typically
weigh less than 55 pounds, fly below 400 feet above ground level, can
stay airborne for several hours, and can be used for reconnaissance,
inspection, and surveillance. 8 However, some small UAS can have longer
endurance and can operate beyond line-of-sight capability. “Large” UAS,
depending on their size and mission, generally fly at altitudes up to or
greater than 60,000 feet, some can remain airborne for multiple days, and
are generally used for the purposes of surveillance, data gathering, and
communications relay. Figure 2 provides examples of UAS and the
altitudes at which they operate. Below 18,000 feet, there is a wide variety
of types of aircraft, including those taking off and landing, and levels of
activity at different altitudes which impacts the integration of UAS into the
national airspace system. This variety of flight activity will require
coordination with various state and federal agencies, e.g., law
enforcement, agricultural, environmental, and emergency response. The
activity in this airspace is projected to experience significant growth in
small independent UAS utilization because of the potential economic
benefits for the users of UAS.




8
 According to an industry association, small UAS are expected to comprise the majority of
UAS that will operate in the national airspace system.




Page 5                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Figure 2: Examples of Current Uses for UAS and their Altitudes of Operation




                                         Note: As a technical reference for elevations, altitudes of 18,000 and 60,000 feet are mean sea level
                                         and 400 feet is above ground level.
                                         Note: Both NASA and DOD operate at additional flight levels other than those depicted.


                                         Currently, 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 and be granted a Certificate of Waiver
                                         or Authorization (COA); private sector entities (civil operators) may apply
                                         for special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category that




                                         Page 6                                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
allows them to operate UAS. 9 Between January 1, 2012, and July 13,
2012, FAA issued 342 COAs to 106 federal, state, and local government
entities across the United States, including law enforcement entities as
well as academic institutions. Over the same time period, FAA issued 8
special airworthiness certifications for experimental use to 4 UAS
manufacturers. Presently, under COA or special airworthiness
certification, UAS operations are permitted for specific time frames
(generally 12 to 24 months), locations, and operations and thus the COA
holder may fly multiple times under a specific COA. However, it is not
uncommon for an entity to receive multiple COAs for various missions
and locations. See figure 3 for the locations of COA’s and special
airworthiness certificates in the experimental category as of July 13,
2012. See appendix II for the list of federal entities with COAs.




9
 COAs and special airworthiness certifications in the experimental category represent
exceptions to the usual aircraft certification process. FAA examines the facts and
circumstances of a proposed UAS to ensure that the prospective pilot has acceptably
mitigated the safety risks.




Page 7                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Figure 3: Non-Federal Recipients of Certificates of Waiver or Authorization and Special Airworthiness Certificates in the
Experimental Category and the Location, as of July 13, 2012




                                          Several federal agencies use UAS to fulfill their mission, including the
                                          Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense
                                          (DOD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and
                                          the Department of Justice (DOJ). According to DHS officials, Customs
                                          and Border Protection (CBP) owns and uses nine UAS that it operates for
                                          its own border security missions as well as for missions in conjunction




                                          Page 8                                          GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
with other agencies, and would like to expand its fleet of UAS. 10 DOD has
successfully used UAS for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and
combat missions, 11 and the United States military services expect to
conduct more UAS training flights across the contiguous United States,
as combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere decrease. 12 While
many of DOD’s UAS operations currently take place outside of the United
States, the military services require access to the national airspace
system 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 a large UAS (Predator B)
for wildfire mapping and investigations as well as the collection of
hurricane data (see fig. 4). Entities within DOJ have used UAS to fulfill its
law enforcement missions.




10
  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. The
report estimated that CBP used its UAS less than 40 percent of the time it would have
expected. 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. Department of Homeland Security, Office of
Inspector General, CBP’s Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the Nation’s Border
Security, OIG-12-85 (Washington, DC: May 30, 2012).
11
 GAO, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Comprehensive Planning and a Results-Oriented
Training Strategy Are Needed to Support Growing Inventories, GAO-10-331 (Washington,
D.C.: Mar. 26, 2010).
12
   House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Performance Audit of the
Department of Defense Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (Washington, DC:
Apr. 2012).




Page 9                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Figure 4: Illustration of UAS Use for Hurricane Data Collection




                                          Although current domestic uses of UAS are limited to include activities
                                          such as law enforcement, search and rescue, forensic photography,
                                          monitoring or fighting forest fires, border security, weather research, and
                                          scientific data collection, UAS also have a wide range of other potential
                                          uses. These include commercial uses such as pipeline, utility, and farm
                                          fence inspections; vehicular traffic monitoring; real-estate and
                                          construction-site photography; relaying telecommunication signals; fishery
                                          protection and monitoring; and crop dusting. FAA’s goal is to eventually
                                          permit, to the greatest extent possible, routine UAS operations in the
                                          national airspace system while ensuring safety. As the list of potential
                                          uses for UAS grows, so do the concerns about how they might affect
                                          existing military and non-military aviation as well as concerns about how
                                          they might be used.




                                          Page 10                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
According to an industry forecast, the market for government and
commercial use of UAS is expected to grow, with small UAS having the
greatest growth potential. 13 As previously stated, this forecast states that
the worldwide expenditures on UAS and related research could be
potentially as much as $89.1 billion in aggregate over the next decade.
The associated worldwide research and development for production is
estimated to be $28.5 billion of the $89.1 billion. 14 The United States
could account for 62 percent of this research and development
investment. A 2008 forecast noted that while civil and commercial UAS
markets will eventually emerge, a likely scenario would be for a UAS-
leasing industry to emerge first to serve the needs of businesses that do
not want to invest in UAS ownership.

Domestically, state and local law enforcement entities represent the
greatest potential users of small UAS in the near term because they can
offer a simple and cost effective solution for airborne law enforcement
activities. 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 and much less
than a manned aircraft. According to an industry trade group, local law
enforcement can potentially choose from about 146 different types of
small UAS being manufactured by about 69 different companies in the
U.S.

In addition to FAA, many federal and private sector entities have roles in
the effort to integrate UAS into the national airspace system. For
example, DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has
authority to regulate the security of all transportation modes 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. Table 1 provides an overview of key federal
and industry UAS stakeholders’ roles in the integration effort.




13
     Teal Group Corporation, World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (Fairfax, VA: 2012).
14
     The other portion of the estimate, $60.6 billion, is for the procurement of UAS.




Page 11                                                GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Table 1: Key Federal and Industry UAS Stakeholders and Their Roles

                      Key stakeholders                                          UAS integration role
Federal entity            FAA                                                   FAA’s UAS Integration Office is responsible for ensuring that
                                                                                UAS operate safely in the national airspace system.
                          DOD                                                   DOD provides FAA with UAS operational and safety data, as well
                                                                                as research and development support.
                          NASA                                                  NASA provides research and development and testing on UAS
                                                                                integration efforts.
                          JPDO                                                  FAA’s JPDO provides a framework for UAS stakeholders to
                                                                                collaborate and coordinate on their UAS integration efforts.
                          DHS                                                   DHS’s CBP has provided flight demonstrations to FAA’s Next
                                                                                Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Office.
                          GSA                                                   The General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for
                                                                                tracking the federal government’s UAS inventory. Federal
                                                                                agencies that own or lease UAS report their UAS inventory, cost
                                                                                and utilization data to GSA.
                          DOJ                                                   DOJ’s National Institute of Justice is responsible, in part, for
                                                                                addressing the technology needs—including UAS—of local,
                                                                                state, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
                                                          a
                          UAS Executive Committee                               The UAS Executive Committee is composed of senior executives
                                                                                from federal agencies including FAA, DOD, NASA, and DHS and
                                                                                is responsible for identifying solutions to the range of technical,
                                                                                procedural, and policy concerns arising from UAS integration.
                                                                          b
                          UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee                     The UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee was chartered in 2011
                                                                                to provide a mechanism for industry and academic stakeholders
                                                                                as well as other federal, state, and local government entities to
                                                                                provide recommendations and standards to FAA on issues
                                                                                related to UAS integration.
                                        c
Standards making bodies   RTCA SC-203                                           RTCA is a private, not-for-profit organization consisting of
                                                                                industry experts. SC 203 is responsible for developing
                                                                                consensus-based recommendations and standards regarding
                                                                                UAS communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic
                                                                                management system issues.
                                                                      d
                          ASTM International Committee F38                      ASTM International Committee F38 is a private organization
                                                                                consisting of industry experts that is responsible for developing
                                                                                standards and consensus based recommendations for small UAS
                                                                                integration into the national airspace system and worldwide.
                                            Source: GAO analysis of FAA data.
                                            a
                                             The UAS Executive Committee was formed as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act
                                            (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-84, 123 Stat. 2190 (2009)). Section 935 of 2010 NDAA
                                            states that “The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Transportation shall, after consultation
                                            with the Secretary of Homeland Security, jointly develop a plan for providing expanded access to the
                                            national airspace system for unmanned aircraft systems of the Department of Defense” and requires
                                            the Executive Committee members to provide Congress with, among other things, a communication
                                            plan, specific milestones for expanded access to the national airspace system, and report on their
                                            efforts.
                                            b
                                             FAA also chartered a small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee in 2008, which made
                                            recommendations for the standards and regulations for the operation of small UAS in the national
                                            airspace system.




                                            Page 12                                                        GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
c
 RTCA, formerly the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, serves as a federal advisory
committee, and its recommendations are the basis for a number of FAA’s policy, program, and
regulatory decisions.
d
 ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, works to
deliver the test methods, specifications, guides, and practices that support industries and
governments worldwide.


FAA has also historically partnered with a range of industry, federal
research entities, universities, and international organizations for research
on UAS. These types of research and development agreements are
categorized as Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, 15
Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, 16 and International
Agreements. 17 These agreements typically require the agency,
organization, or company to perform types of research and provide FAA
with the data in exchange for funding. For example, FAA established an
agreement with the European Union to initiate, coordinate, and prioritize
the activities necessary for supporting the development of provisions
required for the evolution of UAS to full recognition as a legitimate
category-of-airspace user.

In 2008, we reported that federal actions were needed to ensure safety
and expand the potential uses of UAS within the national airspace
system. 18 We stated that Congress should consider creating an
overarching body within FAA to address obstacles for routine access.
While such a body has not been created, as discussed in this report, FAA
is combining its UAS safety and air traffic staff under one executive, and
JPDO has provided UAS stakeholders with a framework to collaborate
and coordinate their UAS integration efforts. FAA implemented our
recommendations that it (1) finalize and issue a UAS program plan to



15
 FAA’s Federally Funded Research and Development Centers are located at MITRE,
MIT’s Lincoln Lab, and the Air Force Research Lab.
16
  FAA has Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with academic
institutions such as New Mexico State University, Rutgers University, Auburn University,
University of North Dakota, Stanford University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Colorado
University, Wichita State University, and Embry Riddle University. FAA also has
Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with General Atomics, AAI
Corporation, GE Aviation Systems LLC, Boeing Inc, and Georgia Tech Research
Corporation.
17
   FAA’s international agreements include the Netherlands, the German Aerospace Center,
and the European Union.
18
     GAO-08-511




Page 13                                                 GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                         address the future of UAS and (2) analyze the data FAA collects on UAS
                         operations under its COAs and establish a process to analyze DOD’s
                         data on its UAS research, development, and operations. In addition, to
                         ensure that appropriate UAS security controls are in place when civil-use
                         UAS have routine access to the national airspace system, we
                         recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the TSA
                         Administrator to examine the security implications of future, non-military
                         UAS operations in the national airspace system and take any actions
                         deemed appropriate. As discussed later in this report, TSA has taken
                         some steps but we have not yet closed this recommendation.


                         In 2008, we reported that UAS could not meet the aviation safety
Status of Obstacles to   requirements developed for manned aircraft and that UAS posed several
Safe and Routine         obstacles to operating safely and routinely in the national airspace
                         system. FAA and others have continued their efforts to address these
Integration of UAS       obstacles, but many still remain, including
into the National
                         1. the inability for UAS to detect, sense, and avoid other aircraft and
Airspace System             airborne objects 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 limited human factors engineering incorporated into UAS
                            technologies;
                         4. unreliable UAS performance;
                         5. the lack of technological and operational standards needed to guide
                            the safe and consistent performance of UAS;
                         6. the lack of final regulations to guide the safe integration of UAS into
                            the national airspace system; and
                         7. the transition to NextGen. 19


Sense and Avoid          To date, no suitable technology has been deployed that would provide
Technologies             UAS with the capability to sense and avoid other aircraft and airborne
                         objects and to comply completely with FAA regulatory requirements of the



                         19
                          NextGen is a new satellite-based air traffic management system that will replace the
                         current radar-based system




                         Page 14                                           GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
national airspace system. 20 However, research and development efforts
by FAA, DOD, NASA, and MITRE 21, among others, suggests that
potential solutions to the sense and avoid obstacle may be available in
the near term. With no pilot to scan the sky, most UAS do not have an on-
board capability to directly “see” other aircraft. Consequently, UAS must
possess the capability to sense and avoid an object using on-board
equipment, or within the line-of-sight of a human on the ground or in a
chase aircraft, 22 or by other means, such as ground-based sense and
avoid (GBSAA). 23 Many UAS, particularly smaller models, will likely
operate at altitudes below 18,000 feet, sharing airspace with other aircraft
or flight objects. Sensing and avoiding other vehicles or objects through
the use of technology represents a particular challenge for small UAS
because aircraft, obstructions, or flight objects at low 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 and may
be too small to carry such equipment. Since 2008, FAA and other federal
agencies have managed several research activities to support meeting
the sense and avoid requirements. DOD officials told us that the
Department of the Army is working on a GBSAA system that will detect
other airborne objects and allow the pilot to direct the UAS to maneuver
to a safe location. The Army has successfully tested one GBSAA system,
but this system may not be useable on all types of UAS. Another potential
system to address this obstacle is an airborne sense and avoid system,
which could equip UAS with the same Global Positioning System (GPS)-
based transponder system that will be used in FAA’s NextGen air-traffic-
management system and with which some manned aircraft are starting to
be equipped. UAS could also be equipped with other systems comprised
of sensors for detecting airborne aircraft or other objects, computer
software to track and potentially resolve collision threats and displays to


20
   The FAA regulations include 14 C.F.R § 91.111, “Operating near other aircraft,” with
reference to “create a collision hazard,” and 14 C.F.R. § 91.113, “Right-of-way rules.”
21
   MITRE is a public interest company that works in partnership with the federal
government applying systems engineering and advanced technology to address issues of
national importance.
22
 A chase aircraft is a manned aircraft that is used to follow a UAS and serves as the see-
and-avoid function for total flight safety. The pilot of the chase aircraft monitors for
conflicting aircraft and is in constant radio contact with the pilot in command of the UAS
who is on the ground.
23
  GBSAA is an air surveillance radar that provides positional information via a display of
traffic information to the UAS flight crew.




Page 15                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                        provide maneuvering advice and/or information to the pilot. In 2012,
                        NASA researchers at Dryden Flight Research Center successfully tested
                        an automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transponder
                        system on its Ikhana UAS. 24 25 An airborne sense and avoid system
                        could include ADS-B, along with other sensors such as optical / infrared
                        cameras and radar. However, not all aircraft will be required to be
                        equipped with ADS-B. Until technical solutions for UAS to sense and
                        avoid are tested and validated, both small and large UAS will continue to
                        mitigate the “see and avoid” obstacle by operating within line-of-sight,
                        using a chase aircraft, or operating in segregated airspace.


Command and Control     Similar to what we reported in 2008, ensuring uninterrupted command
Communications          and control for both small and large UAS remains a key obstacle for safe
                        and routine integration into the national airspace system. Since UAS fly
                        based on pre-programmed flight paths and by commands from a pilot-
                        operated ground control station, the ability to maintain the integrity of
                        command and control signals are critically important to ensure that the
                        UAS operates as expected and as intended.

“Lost Link” Scenarios   FAA and MITRE have been researching solutions to lost link, but the
                        standardization of lost link procedures, for both small and large UAS, has
                        not been finalized. In a “lost link” scenario, the command and control link
                        between the UAS and the ground control station is broken because of
                        either environmental or technological issues, which could lead to loss of
                        control of the UAS. To address this type of situation, UAS generally have
                        pre-programmed maneuvers that may direct the UAS to first hover or
                        circle in the airspace for a certain period of time to reestablish its radio
                        link. If the link is not reestablished, then the UAS will return to “home” or
                        the location from which it was launched, or execute an unintentional flight
                        termination at its current location. It is important that air traffic controllers
                        know where and how all aircraft are operating so they can ensure the




                        24
                           ADS-B transponder system uses GPS signals along with aircraft avionics to transmit the
                        aircraft’s location to ground receivers. The ground receivers then transmit that information
                        to controller screens and cockpit displays on aircraft equipped with automatic dependent
                        surveillance-broadcast transponder system avionics.
                        25
                           Ikhana is a large UAS that NASA has used for a number of research activities, such as
                        monitoring and tracking wildfires and expects to use for an arctic mission to assess the
                        surface sea ice next year.




                        Page 16                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                            safe separation of aircraft in their airspace. 26 Currently, according to FAA,
                            each COA has a specific lost link procedure unique to that particular
                            operation and air traffic controllers should have a copy for reference at all
                            times. Until procedures for a lost link scenario have been standardized
                            across all types of UAS, air traffic controllers must rely on the lost link
                            procedures established in each COA to know what a particular UAS will
                            do in such a scenario.

Dedicated Radio-Frequency   Progress has been made in obtaining additional dedicated radio-
Spectrum                    frequency spectrum for UAS operations, but additional dedicated
                            spectrum, including satellite spectrum, is still needed to ensure secure
                            and continuous communications for both small and large UAS operations.
                            In 2008, we reported that the lack of protected radio-frequency spectrum
                            for UAS operations heightens the possibility that an pilot could lose
                            command and control of a UAS. Unlike manned aircraft—which use
                            dedicated, protected radio frequencies—UAS currently use unprotected
                            radio spectrum and, like any other wireless technology, remain vulnerable
                            to unintentional or intentional interference. This remains a key security
                            and safety vulnerability because, in contrast to a manned aircraft in which
                            the pilot has direct physical control of the aircraft, interruption of radio
                            transmissions can sever the UAS’s only means of control. At the 2011
                            World Radio Conference, additional aviation protected spectrum was
                            allocated for line of sight control of for both public and civil UAS
                            operations.

                            UAS stakeholders are working to develop and validate hardware and
                            standards for communications operating in allocated spectrum.
                            Specifically, according to NASA, it is developing, in conjunction with
                            Rockwell Collins, a radio for control and a non-payload communications
                            data link that would provide secure communications. In addition, FAA’s
                            UAS Research Management Plan identified 13 activities designed to
                            mitigate command, control, and communication obstacles. One effort
                            focused on characterizing the capacity and performance impact of UAS
                            operations on air-traffic-control communications systems. In addition, a
                            demonstration led by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2010




                            26
                               Air traffic controllers monitor and coordinate the movement of air traffic. They
                            communicate with pilots of aircraft, including UAS, but do not directly control the
                            operations of aircraft.




                            Page 17                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                simulated a national airspace communications system 27 to demonstrate
                the process and ability of a UAS pilot to establish alternate voice
                communications with air traffic control if the primary radio
                communications link were lost. NASA is also performing additional
                command and control research. As part of its 5-year UAS Integration in
                the National Airspace System Project, NASA is working to develop and
                verify a communications system prototype to support the allocation of
                spectrum for safe UAS operations.


Human Factors   UAS stakeholders have been developing solutions to human factor issues
                for both small and large UAS. According to FAA, human factors are
                defined as a broad field that examines the interaction between people,
                machines, and the environment for the purpose of improving performance
                and reducing errors. Human factors are important for UAS operations as
                the pilot and aircraft are not collocated. The separation of pilot and aircraft
                creates a number of issues, including loss of sensory cues valuable for
                flight control, delays in control and communications loops, and difficulty in
                scanning the visual environment surrounding the unmanned aircraft. In
                2008, we reported that UAS developers had not fully incorporated human
                factors engineering in their products. Such engineering incorporates what
                is known about people, their abilities, characteristics, and limitations into
                the design of the equipment they use, the environments in which they
                function, and the jobs they perform. Several human factors issues have
                not yet been resolved. Specifically, how pilots or air traffic controllers
                respond to the lag in communication of information from the UAS, the skill
                set and medical qualifications required for UAS pilots, and UAS pilot-
                training requirements. As part of NASA’s UAS Integration in the National
                Airspace System Project, NASA is working to develop human factor
                guidelines for ground control stations. NASA plans to share the results
                with RTCA SC-203 to inform the recommended guidelines. In addition,
                the U.S. Army is working to develop universal ground control stations,
                which would allow UAS pilots to fly different types of UAS without having
                to be trained on multiple configurations of a ground control station.



                27
                  A National Airspace System Voice System is a new flexible networkable voice
                communications system with flexible networking capabilities that will be required for future
                air traffic operations, as envisioned by NextGen. The National Airspace System Voice
                System is the key voice communication component for NextGen, as many of the
                seventeen different switches currently used in the national airspace are already
                experiencing severe obsolescence issues.




                Page 18                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Reliability   FAA and NASA are taking steps to ensure the reliability of both small and
              large UAS by developing a certification process specific to UAS.
              Currently, FAA has a process and regulations in place for certifying any
              new aircraft type and allowing it access to the national airspace system.
              UAS stakeholders we interviewed stated that this process is costly and
              manpower intensive, and does not assure certification. One manufacturer
              that tried certifying a UAS through this process noted that it took one year
              and cost $1 million to permit a single airframe to have access to the
              national airspace system. According to FAA, another manufacturer
              recently started this process. FAA’s Research and Development office is
              working to identify the substantive differences in how to meet the
              certification standards for manned and unmanned aircraft. According to
              its Research Management Plan, the office has six activities under way
              that support the development of UAS-specific certification and
              airworthiness standards. One such activity brought subject matter experts
              together to examine how the varied requirements of certification 28 relate
              to operations of UAS in the national airspace system. A 2007 study
              examined the relevant federal regulations, statutes, orders, and policies
              applicable to UAS operating in the national airspace. It found that 30
              percent of the certification regulations would apply to UAS, 16 percent
              would not apply, and it was unclear whether the remaining 54 percent
              would apply.


Standards     Standards-making bodies are working to develop safety, reliability, and
              performance standards for UAS. The complexities of the issues to be
              addressed and the lack of operational and safety data have hindered the
              standards development process. Minimum aviation system performance
              standards (MASPS) and minimum operational performance standards
              (MOPS) are needed in the areas of: operational and navigational
              performance; command and control communications; and sense and
              avoid capabilities. RTCA, a standards-making body chartered by FAA,
              established a federal advisory committee called the Special Committee
              203 (or SC 203), to establish MASPS and MOPS for FAA to use in
              developing UAS regulations. Individuals from academia and the private
              sector serve on the committee, along with FAA, NASA, and DOD officials.
              According to an RTCA official, both DOD and NASA are sharing the



              28
                Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 C.F.R.) part 91, titled “General Operating and
              Flight Rules.”




              Page 19                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
results of their UAS flight experience and research and development
efforts to assist RTCA in the standards development process. In addition,
an international voluntary consensus standards-making body known as
ASTM International Committee F38 on UAS, is working with FAA to
develop standards to support the integration of small UAS into the
national airspace system. An official from RTCA suggested that the
standards-making process might be accelerated if RTCA SC 203 could
start by producing an initial set of standards for a specific UAS with a
clearly defined mission. RTCA SC 203 could then utilize those initial
standards, along with the subsequent safety and performance data from
those operations, to develop additional standards for increasingly
complex UAS functions and missions.

While FAA officials stated that the agency’s efforts to develop standards
have been slowed by the lack of operational data, FAA has not utilized
the operational data it does possess. In 2008, we recommended that FAA
expedite efforts to ensure that UAS have routine access to the national
airspace system by analyzing the data FAA collects on UAS operations
as part of its COA process and establish a process to analyze DOD data
on its UAS research, development, and operations. 29 Safety and
operational data can directly support the development of UAS technology.
For example, in the development and validation of UAS technology,
GBSAA for example, the FAA requires data to demonstrate that
cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft can be consistently indentified at
all operational altitudes and ranges, and the proposed system can
effectively avoid a potential collision. To date, FAA has not utilized the
operational data available to the agency as part of the COA process for
the development of standards. According to a DOD official, it started
providing, FAA with 7 years of operational and safety data in September
2011. 30 However, according to FAA officials, the agency has been unable
to use the data to support its standards development because the data
was not in a usable format. As of June 2012, FAA was still defining the
data fields it needed and how the data will be used to support the
development of performance or certification standards and the regulatory
process for UAS. FAA officials have since communicated their data
requirements to DOD and also provided us with a list of general data


29
     GAO-08-511.
30
  In June 2011, FAA and DOD signed a memorandum of agreement that specified the
data that would be provided.




Page 20                                       GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                        requirements. Furthermore, FAA officials also noted that the agency
                        currently has a contract with MITRE to address these data challenges in
                        fiscal year 2013.

Regulations             According to FAA, its draft Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) that
                        would define and govern how small UAS would potentially operate in the
                        national airspace system will be issued at the end of 2012. Concerns
                        relating to the process and potential timeline for publishing the final small
                        UAS rule will be discussed later in this report. FAA regulations govern the
                        routine operation of most aircraft in the national airspace system. 31
                        However, these regulations do not contain provisions that explicitly
                        address issues relating to UAS. As we highlighted in our 2008 report,
                        existing regulations may need to be modified to address the unique
                        characteristics of UAS to prevent “undue harm to manned aircraft.”
                        Today, UAS continue to operate as exceptions to the regulatory
                        framework rather than being governed by it. Without specific and
                        permanent regulations for safe operation of UAS, federal stakeholders,
                        including DOD, continue to face challenges and limitations on their UAS
                        operations. The lack of final regulations could hinder the acceleration of
                        safe and routine integration of UAS into the national airspace system. In
                        addition, as we stated earlier, the market for government and commercial
                        use of UAS is expected to grow with small UAS having the greatest
                        potential and a market forecast indicates that the United States could
                        account for 62 percent of the world’s research and development
                        investment for UAS technology over the coming decade.


Transition to NextGen   As FAA and others continue to address the challenges to UAS
                        integration, they must do so with the expected changes to the operations
                        of the national airspace system as a result of NextGen in mind. As UAS
                        operations are expected to proliferate, it is important that they are able to
                        safely operate in the NextGen environment. Both FAA’s NextGen
                        Integration Office and JPDO are working to coordinate UAS and NextGen
                        research and development. NextGen is a new satellite-based air traffic
                        management system that will replace the current radar-based system for
                        a variety of aircraft types, including UAS. NextGen is expected to
                        enhance the safety and capacity of the air transport system and will
                        provide a number of operational, technical, economic, and environmental



                        31
                             Title 14 of Code of Federal Regulations.




                        Page 21                                         GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
opportunities and challenges for all national airspace system users.
NextGen will use technological advancements to identify the location of
aircraft as they travel in the national airspace system and develop
efficient flight paths. The transition to NextGen and the integration of UAS
into the national airspace system entail many of the same technological
issues. We have previously reported on research gaps, 32 and the
Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General recently
reported that significant research and development issues remain
unresolved, including developing cross-agency requirements, standards,
procedures, and avionics for introducing UAS into the NextGen
environment, among others. 33 According to a JPDO official, UAS and
NextGen stakeholders should focus on critical and cross-cutting long-term
research and development issues. These include UAS technologies,
human factors, ground-control stations, communications, and sense and
avoid, all associated with UAS flying with manned aircraft in a future
NextGen airspace.

In addition, the NextGen Integration Office recently published its NextGen
Implementation Plan. The Implementation Plan identified a number of
NextGen-related efforts that could benefit UAS integration. For example,
in July 2011, FAA achieved initial operating capability with ADS-B
transponder-system data integrated into the air traffic control’s
automations system at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control
facility. As we stated earlier in this report, developing and testing ADS-B
transponder-system technology may be a key aspect of an airborne
sense and avoid system, which will allow for pilots of UAS to see and
avoid other aircraft. Furthermore, the Office of Management and Budget
recently tasked the NextGen partner agencies to develop a strategic,
multiagency, NextGen UAS road map with assistance from the JPDO. 34
This road map would identify the most critical technology issues involved
in establishing a plan for UAS operations as a part of NextGen.


32
   GAO, Transportation: Integration of Current Implementation Efforts with Long-term
Planning for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, GAO-11-132R (Washington,
D.C.: Nov. 22, 2010).
33
 Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Timely Actions Needed to
Advance the Next Generation Air Transportation System, Report Number AV-2010-068
(Washington, D.C.: June 16, 2010).
34
   The NextGen partner agencies include the Departments of Transportation, Commerce,
Defense, and Homeland Security, FAA, NASA, White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.




Page 22                                          GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                      Coordinating UAS integration and NextGen implementation efforts could
                      lead to opportunities to cost-share demonstrations, eliminate duplicate
                      investments and efforts, and accelerate the FAA’s use of data and
                      requirements to develop standards and regulations.

                      Similar to FAA’s NextGen efforts, other countries are also looking to
                      modernize their air traffic control systems and develop standards for UAS.
                      FAA has worked with the international community and Europe in
                      particular on harmonization of their systems to ensure that airplanes can
                      seamlessly fly and transfer between different air traffic control systems.
                      As other countries work toward integrating UAS in their respective
                      airspaces, similar harmonization efforts will be critical to developing
                      standards and operational procedures that could enable UAS to
                      seamlessly cross international borders and U.S. manufacturers to sell
                      their products in the global marketplace. International bodies and
                      individual countries face challenges similar to those that the United States
                      faces in integrating UAS into their respective airspaces and have similar
                      efforts underway to develop UAS standards. The European Organization
                      for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) working group 73 is developing
                      standards for large UAS (above 150 kilograms) that would be adopted by
                      the European Union as a whole; and working group 93 is developing
                      standards for small UAS (under 150 kilograms) that would be approved
                      on a country-by-country basis. Both EUROCAE working groups are
                      coordinating with RTCA SC 203 and ASTM F38 to try to ensure
                      harmonized standards. In addition, as of April 2012, the International Civil
                      Aviation Organization amended its International Standards, Rules of the
                      Air to identify high level requirements related to UAS while noting that
                      certification and licensing standards have not yet been developed.


                      Concerned with the pace of progress of UAS integration, Congress set
FAA Progress toward   forth specific requirements and deadlines for FAA to safely accelerate
UAS Integration       UAS integration in the 2012 Act. FAA—with its federal and other
                      stakeholders—has begun making progress toward completing those
Requirements          requirements, but has missed one deadline and could miss others. Many
                      of the requirements will require significant work on the part of FAA and its
                      stakeholders to complete. This work involves developing detailed steps
                      for achieving safe and routine access to the national airspace system,
                      including defining the characteristics of safe integration, identifying
                      needed research and development to achieve integration, and identifying
                      the information needed to issue regulations, among other tasks. By
                      meeting these requirements, FAA will be better positioned not only to
                      address the obstacles cited earlier, but to achieve UAS integration.


                      Page 23                                    GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                                          The requirements in the 2012 Act include streamlining the existing COA
                                          process for public safety entities, developing test ranges for developing
                                          and validating UAS technologies and potential standards to completing
                                          planning efforts and issuing a final rule for small UAS. Most of the
                                          requirements must be achieved between May 2012 and December 2015
                                          (see table 2), and FAA is working to identify the actions and resources
                                          needed to meet those requirements. The 2012 Act sets an aggressive
                                          time frame for FAA to integrate UAS into the national airspace system. In
                                          our 2008 report, we recommended that FAA expedite efforts to ensure
                                          that UAS have routine access to the national airspace system by
                                          finalizing and issuing a program plan to address future issues. In 2010,
                                          FAA implemented our recommendation by issuing a 2-page road map
                                          highlighting steps towards UAS integration, which included the goal of
                                          UAS having routine access to the national airspace system after 2020.

Table 2: Selected FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 Requirements for UAS Integration

Approximate
        a
deadline               FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requirement                                            Status of action
05/14/2012             Enter into agreements with appropriate government agencies to simplify the process for          In process
                       issuing COAs or waivers for public UAS.
08/12/2012             Establish a program to integrate UAS into the national airspace system at 6 test ranges.        In process
                       This program is to terminate 5 years after date of enactment.
08/12/2012             Develop an Arctic UAS operation plan and initiate a process to work with relevant federal In process
                       agencies and national and international communities to designate permanent areas in the
                       Arctic where small unmanned aircraft may operate 24 hours per day for research and
                       commercial purposes.
08/12/2012             Determine whether certain UAS can fly safely in the national airspace system before the         In process
                       completion of the Act’s requirements for a comprehensive plan and rulemaking to safely
                       accelerate the integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system or the Act’s
                       requirement for issuance of guidance regarding the operation of public UAS including
                       operating a UAS with a COA or waiver.
11/10/2012             Expedite the issuance of a COA for public safety entities.                                      Completed
11/10/2012             Develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate integration of civil UAS into national        In process
                       airspace system.
11/10/2012             Issue guidance regarding operation of civil UAS to expedite COA process; provide                In process
                       collaborative process with public agencies to allow an incremental expansion of access
                       into the national airspace system as technology matures and the necessary safety
                       analysis and data become available and until standards are completed and technology
                       issues are resolved; facilitate capability of public entities to develop and use test ranges;
                       provide guidance on public entities’ responsibility for operation.
02/14/2013             Approve and make publically available a 5-year road map for the introduction of civil UAS In process
                       into national airspace system, to be updated annually.
02/14/2013             Submit to Congress a copy of the comprehensive plan.                                            In process
02/12/2013             Make operational at least one project at a test range.                                          None to date




                                          Page 24                                               GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Approximate
        a
deadline      FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requirement                                                         Status of action
08/14/2014    Publish in the Federal Register the Final Rule on small UAS.                                                 In process
08/14/2014    Publish in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement                                 None to date
              recommendations of the comprehensive plan.
08/14/2014    Publish in the Federal Register an update to the Administration’s policy statement on UAS None to date
              in Docket No. FAA-2006-25714.
09/30/2015    Achieve safe integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system.                                     In process
12/14/2015    Publish in the Federal Register a Final Rule to implement the recommendations of the                         None to date
              comprehensive plan.
12/31/2015    Develop and implement operational and certification requirements for public UAS in                           In process
              national airspace system.
02/14/2017    Report to Congress on the test ranges.                                                                       None to date
                                 Source: GAO analysis of FAA Modernization and Reform Act as well as FAA progress.
                                 a
                                  Some of these deadlines are approximate. For example, while the 2012 Act requires that a program
                                 to integrate UAS at 6 test ranges is to be established no later than 08/12/2012, such test ranges
                                 could conceivably be established prior to that date. The date such a program is actually established
                                 triggers a deadline for an additional requirement.


                                 FAA has several efforts under way to satisfy its statutory requirements for
                                 safe integration of UAS. These include four broad categories of
                                 requirements, including: (1) developing plans for the integration of UAS
                                 into the national airspace system; (2) changes to the COA process; (3)
                                 efforts to develop UAS test ranges; and (4) developing, revising, or
                                 finalizing regulations and policies related to UAS.

                                 •     Comprehensive plan and road map. FAA, with the assistance of
                                       JPDO, is developing several planning documents required by the
                                       2012 Act, including a 5-year roadmap and comprehensive plan to
                                       outline the steps toward safe integration. The road map, which FAA
                                       must complete and make publicly available by February 2013, is
                                       intended to help facilitate UAS integration into the national airspace
                                       system. Given its unique role in managing partnerships among federal
                                       agencies for NextGen, JPDO is leading the development of a
                                       comprehensive plan for UAS on behalf of FAA. As required by law,
                                       this plan shall contain, among other elements, recommendations on
                                       the small UAS rulemaking, a phased-in approach to and timeline for
                                       the integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system, and the
                                       establishment of a process to develop certification, flight standards,
                                       and air traffic requirements at UAS test ranges. To assist in the
                                       development of the comprehensive plan, FAA is developing a
                                       Concept of Operations to guide efficient federal resources planning for
                                       UAS integration. To date, FAA has not developed measures for
                                       assessing the various efforts to achieve safe integration by



                                 Page 25                                                                GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
     September 2015. The 2012 Act specifies content for a more
     comprehensive plan than what was laid out in the 2-page road map,
     but it does not set forth any expectation for monitoring to assess the
     quality of progress over time toward meeting the range of activities to
     be outlined in the plan. Our Standards for Internal Control in the
     Federal Government provide the overall framework for establishing
     and maintaining internal control and for identifying and addressing
     major performance and management challenges and areas at
     greatest risk of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. 35 One of
     those standards is monitoring, which is an internal control designed to
     assess the quality of performance over time. This internal control
     should generally be designed to assure that ongoing monitoring
     occurs in the course of normal operations and that it is performed
     continually and is ingrained in the agency’s operations. In light of the
     time frames and complicated tasks ahead, the absence of regular
     monitoring precludes the agency and Congress from assessing
     progress toward completion of the 2012 Act requirements.

•    Changes to the COA process. FAA has changed the existing COA
     process in response to the 2012 Act, including taking steps to
     expedite COAs for public safety entities and finalizing agreements
     with government agencies to expedite the COA or waiver process for
     UAS. First, FAA extended the length of UAS authorization from a 12-
     month period to a 24-month period so that those entities receiving
     COAs do not have to reapply as frequently. Second, FAA worked with
     DOJ’s National Institute of Justice to develop a process through a
     memorandum of understanding to meet the operational requirements
     of law enforcement entities, which are expected to be early adopters
     of small UAS. According to FAA, two law enforcement entities
     currently use small UAS on a consistent basis for their missions and
     operations. Officials from both FAA and DOJ have reached
     agreement on a draft version of the memorandum of understanding
     establishing this process; the memorandum of understanding is still
     under legal review. The 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. While this process adds an additional step for



35
 GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1
(Washington, D.C.: November 1999).




Page 26                                        GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    entities applying to operate a UAS, once an entity receives the
    operational COA, it has more latitude for where and when it can
    operate its UAS. According to FAA data, as of July 2012, 12 state and
    local law enforcement entities have a COA. An official at the DOJ said
    that approximately 100 law enforcement entities have expressed
    interest in using 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 do not
    anticipate using small UAS for routine patrols or missions that would
    require flights over extended distances or time periods.

•   Test ranges. FAA has taken steps to develop, but has not yet
    established, a program to integrate UAS at six test ranges, as
    required by the 2012 Act. FAA must establish six test ranges, and as
    part of these ranges, FAA must safely designate airspace for
    integrated manned and unmanned flight operations, develop
    certification standards and air traffic requirements for UAS, ensure the
    program is coordinated with NextGen, and verify the safety of UAS
    and related navigation procedures before integrating them into the
    national airspace system. FAA expects data obtained from these test
    ranges will contribute to the continued development of standards for
    the safe and routine integration of UAS. In March 2012, FAA issued a
    Request for Comments in the Federal Register and subsequently
    received 227 comments from congressional members, state and local
    governments, industry firms, academic and other entities, and
    individuals. The comments addressed questions such as what
    certification requirements should be set for aircraft as part of the test
    ranges, who should manage the airspace and what restrictions should
    be placed on those using the test ranges, and where test ranges
    should be located. For example, FAA has proposed outsourcing the
    management of the test ranges; however, some commenters
    preferred FAA or another public entity to maintain oversight
    responsibility. Some commenters also said that test ranges should be
    selected based on locations with existing facilities and infrastructure,
    given the absence of any funding available for the set-up,
    management, or oversight of the test ranges. FAA officials told us
    they are still working to meet all of the specified requirements for the
    test ranges and had expected to issue a Request for Proposals in July
    2012. However, because of privacy concerns regarding the collection
    and use of UAS-acquired data expressed by commenters, the internal
    review process was delayed, and FAA officials do not know when they
    will issue the Request for Proposals. The 2012 Act requires the FAA


Page 27                                    GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    to have at least one project at a test range operational 180 days after
    the date the project is established.

•   Rulemaking. While FAA has efforts under way supporting a
    rulemaking for small UAS, as required by the 2012 Act, it is uncertain
    whether FAA will be able to meet the established deadline. The
    agency’s rulemaking efforts for UAS date back more than 5 years,
    when it established the small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee in
    2008. In August 2011, FAA provided the Secretary of Transportation
    with its draft NPRM for the first time. Since then, the Office of the
    Secretary has provided several rounds of comments to FAA to further
    refine the NPRM. FAA expected to publish the NPRM in late 2011, but
    FAA officials told us in August 2012 that the Office of the Secretary of
    Transportation was still reviewing the draft and that FAA does not
    expect to publish it in the Federal Register before the end of the
    year. 36 FAA is required by the 2012 Act to publish a final rule
    governing small UAS in the Federal Register by August 2014.

While FAA has made some progress to meet the requirements from the
2012 Act to date, those requirements that remain will require significant
work from the agency to meet the established deadlines. FAA has
reorganized to provide more focus on its UAS integration efforts;
however, because the reorganization has not yet been fully implemented,
it remains unclear whether it will provide the support needed to complete
the work. FAA’s UAS efforts rely on expertise and resources from several
offices within FAA, such as the Aviation Safety Organization, the Air
Traffic Organization, the Research and Development Integration Office,
JPDO, and the NextGen Office. FAA has reorganized its office that
oversees UAS activities several times over the past few years, but had
not previously assigned a single and visible leader to this effort. We have
previously reported the need for stable leadership at FAA for major
aviation efforts. 37 More recently, FAA has taken steps to provide the
organizational leadership needed to facilitate progress to safely



36
   In general, after OMB reviews a proposed rule, the proposed rule is issued and the
public provides comments generally within a 60-day period. This is followed by the
agency’s preparation and OMB’s review of the final rule, concluding with the agency
publishing the final rule in the Federal Register.
37
   GAO, Joint Planning and Development Office: Progress and Key Issues in Planning the
Transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System, GAO-07-693T (Washington,
D.C.: Mar. 29, 2007).




Page 28                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                           accelerate UAS integration into the national airspace system. In March
                           2012, FAA assigned an Executive Manager for its newly created UAS
                           Integration Office, which is expected to combine UAS-related activities
                           from the agency’s Air Traffic Organization and Aviation Safety
                           Organization. However, as of July 2012, the UAS Integration Office had
                           not yet been finalized within FAA and no employees had been officially
                           assigned to the UAS Integration Office. FAA officials told us that they
                           expect approximately 50 federal employees and contractors eventually
                           will be assigned to the office; however, the officials are still evaluating the
                           number of personnel needed. 38

                           While FAA has taken steps to meet the requirements set forth in the 2012
                           Act, it is uncertain when the national airspace system will be prepared to
                           accommodate UAS. FAA’s efforts and activities are occurring
                           simultaneously and without monitoring to assess the quality of progress
                           over time toward the deadlines Congress established as well as the
                           activities to occur over the next 5 years, as outlined in FAA’s road map.


                           Although not new, concerns about national security, privacy issues, and
Emerging Issues            GPS jamming and spoofing related to UAS have not been resolved and
Related to UAS             may influence the acceptance of routine access for UAS in the current
                           national airspace system or the forthcoming transition to NextGen.
Integration Include
Potential Security and
Privacy Concerns and
GPS Jamming and
Spoofing

Security of Domestic UAS   In 2008, we reported that TSA had not examined the security implications
Use                        of routine UAS access in the national airspace system, an assessment
                           that remains unchanged. Within DHS, TSA has authority to regulate
                           security of all transportation modes to ensure that appropriate security
                           safeguards are in place. According to TSA, its aviation security efforts


                           38
                            Presently, the Air Traffic Organization and the Flight Standards Organization are
                           developing a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that will define the reporting protocols for Air
                           Traffic Organization employees who would be reporting to the Aviation Safety
                           Organization, which structurally houses the UAS Integration Office.




                           Page 29                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
include addressing risks, threats, and vulnerabilities related to non-
military UAS. Working with FAA and other federal agencies, TSA
implements security procedures, such as allowing some flights into
restricted airspace (e.g., allowing certain operations into and out of
Ronald Reagan National Airport). 39 TSA also coordinates and provides
notice about threats to transportation in addition to carrying out other
security-related responsibilities.

In 2008, we recommended that TSA examine the security implications of
future, non-military UAS operations in the national airspace system and
take any actions deemed appropriate. At the time, TSA indicated that it
used a risk management approach to identify and address security
threats, but had not completed a UAS risk assessment. In response to
our recommendation, DHS referenced the 2007 National Strategy for
Aviation Security, which requires regular reviews of national aviation
security programs as a whole to identify conflicting procedures, changes
to threats, vulnerabilities, and resulting consequences, and coordinate
mitigation measures but does not specifically address UAS. Since 2008,
TSA has identified and documented the potential threat posed by UAS
and remote controlled aircraft on several occasions. In its 2004 advisory,
TSA noted the potential for UAS to carry explosives or biological weapons
and advised individuals to report any suspicious activities to local law
enforcement and the TSA General Aviation Hotline. 40 According to a TSA
official, it recently reviewed its UAS related advisories and determined
that they are still applicable. However, TSA has not provided information
on specific steps it has taken to mitigate the potential threats, but believes
its current practices are sufficient to address UAS security. A recent
incident in which a man pled guilty to plotting to use a large remote-
controlled model aircraft filled with plastic explosives to attack the



39
   After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the FAA maintained flight restrictions over
certain cities and sensitive sites, including Washington D.C., Ronald Reagan National
Airport. While commercial aircraft operators with full TSA security programs were
permitted to resume at Ronald Reagan National Airport, commercial operators without full
programs and general aviation operators were largely prohibited from operating into and
out of the airport. In order to fly into these restricted airspace areas, certain aircraft
operators must seek a waiver from TSA, which provides an analysis of the security
aspects of requests for waivers.
40
 Department of Homeland Security, TSA Advisory: Security Information Regarding
Remote Controlled Aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Washington, DC: Nov. 22,
2004).




Page 30                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Pentagon and U.S. Capitol highlights the potential for UAS being used as
weapons.

Security remains a significant issue that could be exacerbated with an
increase in the number of UAS. TSA’s practices might be sufficient in the
current UAS environment of limited operations taking place under closely
controlled conditions, but these controlled conditions will change as FAA
and others continue to work toward allowing routine UAS operations in
the national airspace system. Without an assessment of TSA’s current
security practices, TSA is not equipped to know whether any changes to
its practices are needed. As a partner agency of JPDO, DHS—and
specifically TSA—have an opportunity to shape the security requirements
for UAS from the outset. For example, TSA has not yet taken steps to
develop security requirements for UAS ground control stations, which are
the UAS equivalent of cockpits.

Another emerging issue is the operation of model aircraft—aircraft flown
for hobby or recreation. Congress defined the term “model aircraft” in the
2012 Act as an unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the
atmosphere, flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the
aircraft, and flown for hobby or recreational purposes. Model aircraft and
small UAS—the latter for which FAA is currently developing rules—may
essentially be the same aircraft with the critical difference being that the
operator of the model aircraft is a hobbyist and the small UAS is being
operated for an authorized purpose such as a search and rescue mission.
According to FAA officials, model aircraft, which are subject to special
statutory conditions outlined in the 2012 Act, can be larger and faster and
fly at higher altitudes than UAS that are expected to operate under the
proposed rule for small UAS. FAA provided guidance on voluntary safety
standards to model aircraft operators in 1981 in its Advisory Circular 91-
57. A model aircraft association has also published voluntary guidance
documents for its members. 41 Voluntary guidance, however, is not
enforceable and, according to FAA officials, does not address the
increased size and performance capability of model aircraft. Owners of
model aircraft do not require a COA to operate their aircraft. Pursuant to
the 2012 Act, FAA is prohibited from developing any rule or regulation for



41
 FAA’s Advisory Circular 91-57 sets out model aircraft operating standards that
encourage voluntary compliance with specified safety standards for model aircraft
operators.




Page 31                                           GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                             model aircraft that fly under a specified set of conditions. 42 Regardless of
                             the statutory prohibition against promulgating a rule or regulation for
                             model aircraft, FAA maintains the authority to take enforcement action
                             against the operator of a model aircraft who endangers the safety of the
                             national airspace system or persons and property on the ground. For
                             example, in April 2012, FAA took such action against a person who
                             operated a small remote controlled model aircraft on the campus of the
                             University of Virginia in close proximity of pedestrians. FAA fined the
                             operator $10,000, citing public safety concerns based on video footage of
                             the aircraft flying close to pedestrians, cyclists, and property.

                             We continue to believe that our 2008 recommendation—that TSA
                             examine the security implications of future, non-military UAS operations in
                             the national airspace system and take any actions deemed appropriate—
                             remains relevant and that TSA should take steps to implement the
                             recommendation.


Privacy Concerns over the    Recently, members of Congress, a civil liberties organization, and others
Collection and Use of UAS-   expressed concern that the potential increased use of small UAS for
Acquired Data                surveillance and other purposes in the national airspace system has
                             potential privacy implications. Concerns include the potential for
                             increased amounts of government surveillance using technologies placed
                             on UAS, the collection and use of such data, and potential violations of
                             constitutional Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable
                             search and seizure. 43 Additionally, a June 2012 poll conducted by
                             Monmouth University reported that 42 percent of those sampled were
                             very concerned about their own privacy if U.S. law enforcement started



                             42
                                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, operated under prior notice to the airport operator and the air traffic
                             control tower.
                             43
                               The Congressional Research Service has issued a report assessing the use of UAS
                             under the Fourth Amendment. Congressional Research Service, Drones in Domestic
                             Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses,
                             R42701 (Washington, D.C.: September 2012).




                             Page 32                                              GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
using UAS with high tech cameras, while 15 percent said they were not at
all concerned. However, the poll reported that of those sampled, 80
percent said they supported the use of UAS for search and rescue
missions while 67 percent said they oppose the use of UAS to issue
speeding tickets. 44 While the 2012 Act contains provisions designed to
accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace system,
proposed legislation in the 112th session of Congress seeks to limit or
serve as a check on government use 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. 45

Many stakeholders we interviewed projected how past Supreme Court
cases that address privacy issues related to government surveillance
might apply to UAS. While the Supreme Court has not addressed privacy
issues related to governmental UAS surveillance, the Court has, however,
upheld several instances involving government aerial surveillance from
manned aircraft. 46 Several other Supreme Court governmental
surveillance cases, while not aerial surveillance cases, specifically relate
to technology (one involving a GPS tracking device and the other a
thermal imaging device) and have included some general discussion of
the interplay between evolving technology and privacy. 47 In the 2012 GPS
case, for example, one Justice observed, in part, that with respect to
privacy expectations, “technology can change those expectations” and
that “dramatic technological changes may lead to periods in which
popular expectations are in flux and may ultimately produce significant
changes in popular attitudes. New technology may provide increased
convenience or security at the expense of privacy, and many people may



44
  The Monmouth University Polling Institute reported that it conducted the poll on June 4
to 6, 2012 with a national random sample of 1,708 adults age 18 and older, including 607
via live interview on a landline telephone, 675 via interactive voice response on a landline,
and 426 via live interview on a cell phone. Monmouth University Poll, “U.S. Supports
Some Domestic Drone Use, But Public Registers Concern About Own Privacy” (June 12,
2012).
45                                                                                th
  Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012, S. 3287, 112 Cong.
                                                       th
(2012) and Farmer’s Privacy Act of 2012, H.R. 5961, 112 Cong. (2012).
46
 See, e.g., California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207 (1986); Dow Chemical Co. v. United
States, 476 U.S. 227 (1986): and Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989).
47
  See, Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001); United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945
(2012).




Page 33                                             GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
find the tradeoff worthwhile.” 48 These manned aircraft and advanced
surveillance technology cases may present some issues similar to those
that may be raised as governmental use of UAS becomes more
widespread.

At the individual agency level, there are multiple federal laws designed to
provide protections for personal information collected and used by federal
agencies. As we have previously reported, 49 privacy protections for
personal information collected or used by federal agencies is governed
primarily by two laws: the Privacy Act of 1974 50 and the privacy provisions
of the E-Government Act of 2002. 51 The Privacy Act, as amended, places
limitations on agencies’ collection, disclosure, and use of personal
information maintained in systems of records. The E-Government Act of
2002 was passed, among other reasons, to enhance the protection for
personal information in government information systems or information
collections by requiring that agencies conduct privacy impact
assessments (PIA). PIAs are analyses of how personal information is
collected, stored, shared, and managed in a federal system. In addition, a
number of federal agencies including the Department of Transportation
(DOT), DHS, and DOJ, are statutorily required to establish a privacy
office and/or Chief Privacy Officers to assess their agency programs,
including proposed programs, systems, technologies, or rule-makings for
privacy risks. DHS reports that its associated privacy office also provides
policy and programmatic oversight across the agency. DHS was the first
federal agency to be statutorily required to establish a privacy officer.
With respect to the individual agencies, both DOT’s and DHS’s privacy
officers responsibilities include “assuring that the use of technologies




48
   United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 962 (2012) (Alito, J., concurring). In Kyllo, a
justice stated, in part, that “it would be foolish to contend that the degree of privacy
secured to citizens by the Fourth Amendment has been entirely unaffected by the
advance of technology. For example, the technology enabling human flight has exposed
to public view (and hence, we have said, to official observation) uncovered portions of the
house and its curtilage that once were private.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 33-34
(2001)
49
   See, GAO, Privacy: OPM Should Better Monitor Implementation of Privacy-Related
Policies and Procedures for Background Investigations GAO-10-849 (Washington, D.C.:
Sep. 7, 2010).
50
     Pub. L. No. 93-579, 88 Stat. 1896 (1974).
51
     Pub. L. No. 107-347, 116 Stat. 2899 (2002).




Page 34                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
sustain, and do not erode, privacy protections relating to the use,
collection, and disclosure” of personal information.

We recently testified that while laws and guidance set minimum
requirements for agencies, they may not protect personal information in
all circumstances in which it is collected and used throughout the
government and may not fully adhere to key privacy principles. 52 We have
previously suggested that Congress consider amending applicable
privacy laws to address identified issues in three major areas: applying
privacy protections consistently to all federal collection and use of
personal information, ensuring that use of personally identifiable
information is limited to a stated purpose, and establishing effective
mechanisms for informing the public about privacy protections. We have
also made numerous recommendations to agencies over the last several
years to address weaknesses in policies and procedures related to
privacy and to strengthen their information security programs. 53 In
addition, at a July 2012 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs committee, a law professor testified that the
Congress should create a Chief Privacy Officer to coordinate privacy
policy across federal agencies. 54

Currently, no single federal agency has been statutorily designated with
specific responsibility to regulate privacy matters relating to UAS for the
entire federal government. UAS stakeholders with whom we spoke
disagreed as to whether the regulation of UAS privacy-related issues
should be centralized within one federal agency and, if centralized, which
agency would be best positioned to handle such a responsibility.
Representatives from a civil liberties organization told us that since FAA



52
  Federal agency collection or use of personal information is governed primarily by two
laws: the Privacy Act of 1974 and the privacy provisions of the E-Government Act of 2002.
The Privacy Act places limitations on agencies’ collection, disclosure, and use of personal
information maintained in systems of records. The E-Government Act of 2002 was
passed, among other reasons, to enhance the protection for personal information in
government information systems or information collections by requiring that agencies
conduct PIAs. PIAs are analyses of how personal information is collected, stored, shared,
and managed in a federal system.
53
     GAO-12-961T
54
   Statement of Peter Swire, “State of Federal Privacy and Data Security Law: Lagging
Behind the Times?,” Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the
Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, July 31, 2012.




Page 35                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                  has responsibility to regulate the national airspace system, it could be
                  positioned to handle responsibility for incorporating rules that govern UAS
                  use and data collection. However, FAA officials and others have
                  suggested that regulating privacy issues in connection with equipment
                  carried on UAS, such as surveillance sensors that do not affect safety, is
                  outside FAA’s mission, which is primarily focused on aviation safety. DHS
                  or DOJ might be better positioned to address UAS privacy issues since
                  they generally stem from the operational uses of UAS for surveillance and
                  law enforcement purposes. While is it not clear what entity should be
                  responsible for addressing privacy concerns across the federal
                  government, many stakeholders believe that there should be federal
                  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 UAS can collect. As government use of UAS is expected to
                  increase with FAA’s development of standards and rules to allow routine
                  access to the national airspace system, the safety of personal information
                  collected by federal agencies using UAS is an emerging issue and the
                  government can take a number of steps to potentially address some of
                  these privacy issues. Some stakeholders have suggested that FAA has
                  the opportunity and responsibility to incorporate such privacy issues into
                  the small UAS NPRM that is currently under development and in future
                  rulemaking procedures. In addition, stakeholders we interviewed stated
                  that developing guidelines for technology use on UAS ahead of
                  widespread adoption by law enforcement entities could preclude abuses
                  of the technology that could lead to a negative public perception of UAS
                  and possibly affect their acceptance and use.


GPS Jamming and   The jamming of the GPS signal being transmitted to the UAS could also
Spoofing          interrupt the command and control of UAS operations. In a GPS jamming
                  scenario, the UAS could potentially lose its ability to determine its
                  location, altitude, and the direction in which it is traveling. Low 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, which is the case with larger UAS typically operated by
                  DOD and DHS. 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 redundant inertial navigation systems on
                  the aircraft. A stakeholder noted that GPS jamming can be mitigated for
                  small UAS by encrypting its communications, but the costs and weight
                  associated with encryption may make it infeasible.


                  Page 36                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
              GPS spoofing has also been identified as an emerging issue. Encrypting
              civil GPS signals could make it more difficult to “spoof” or counterfeit a
              GPS signal that could interfere with the navigation of a UAS. Non-military
              GPS signals, unlike military GPS signals, are not encrypted and
              transparency and predictability make them vulnerable to being
              counterfeited, or spoofed. In a GPS-spoofing scenario, the GPS signal
              going from the ground control station to the UAS is first counterfeited and
              then overpowered. Once the authentic (original) GPS signal is
              overpowered, the UAS is under the control of the “spoofer.” This type of
              scenario was recently demonstrated by researchers at the University of
              Texas at Austin at the behest of DHS. During the demonstration at the
              White Sands Missile Range, researchers spoofed one element of the
              unencrypted GPS signal of a fairly sophisticated small UAS (mini-
              helicopter) and induced it to plummet toward the desert floor. The
              research team found that it was straightforward to mount an intermediate-
              level spoofing attack, such as controlling the altitude of the UAS, but
              difficult and expensive to mount a more sophisticated attack. The
              research team recommended that spoof-resistant navigation systems be
              required on UAS exceeding 18 pounds. 55


              By establishing statutory requirements for FAA, Congress highlighted the
Conclusions   importance of accelerating the safe integration of UAS into the national
              airspace system. However, FAA faces the daunting task of ensuring that
              all of the various efforts within its own agency, as well as across agencies
              and other entities, will align and converge in a timely fashion. The pace of
              progress toward UAS integration that occurred prior to the 2012 Act and
              questions about the agency’s ability to meet deadline requirements raise
              concerns about when UAS integration in the national airspace system will
              be achieved. Incorporating regular monitoring will help to assess progress
              toward goals identified in the comprehensive plan and 5-year road map
              that can help FAA understand what has been achieved and what remains
              to be done. Monitoring can also help keep Congress informed about this
              significant change to the domestic aviation landscape.



              55
                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 37                                            GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
                  Concerns regarding the potential security and privacy implications of UAS
                  are growing. As the number of UAS operating in the national airspace
                  system increases, questions about how the security of the national
                  airspace system will be protected and how data captured by UAS will be
                  used by governmental or commercial entities will continue to arise.
                  Federal agencies have not yet stepped forward to proactively address
                  these issues. This lack of activity may result from agency officials’ belief
                  that they do not have direct authority to regulate privacy issues for UAS or
                  the current level of UAS activity in the national airspace system.
                  However, not working to proactively address security and privacy
                  concerns could lead to further delays in the integration of UAS into the
                  national airspace system.


                  We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation direct the FAA
Recommendations   Administrator to incorporate, in FAA’s comprehensive plan (to be
                  completed in November 2012) and the 5-year road map for UAS
                  integration (to be completed in February 2013), mechanisms that allow for
                  regular monitoring to assess progress toward safe and routine access of
                  UAS into the national airspace system.

                  We recommend that the Secretaries of Transportation and Homeland
                  Security and the Attorney General initiate discussions, prior to the
                  integration of UAS into the national airspace system, to explore whether
                  any actions should be taken to guide the collection and use of UAS-
                  acquired data.


                  We provided a draft of this report to officials at Commerce, DHS, DOD,
Agency Comments   DOJ, DOT, and NASA. DHS and DOJ concurred with our
                  recommendation. DOT officials agreed to consider our recommendations.
                  DHS, DOJ, DOD and DOT provided comments that were technical or
                  clarifying in nature, which were incorporated into the report as
                  appropriate. NASA and Commerce had no comments on the draft report.


                  We are sending copies of this report to interested congressional
                  committees, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Secretary
                  of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of the Department of
                  Commerce, Secretary of the Department of Defense, the Attorney
                  General, and the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space
                  Administration. In addition, this report will be available at no charge on
                  GAO’s Web site at http://www.gao.gov.


                  Page 38                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
me at (202) 512-2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key contributions to this
report are listed in appendix III.




Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D.
Director
Physical Infrastructure Issues




Page 39                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
List of Congressional Committees

The Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV
Chairman
The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate

The Honorable John L. Mica
Chairman
The Honorable Nick J. Rahall II
Ranking Member
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
House of Representatives

The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson
Ranking Member
Committee on Homeland Security
House of Representatives

The Honorable Thomas E. Petri
Chairman
The Honorable Jerry F. Costello
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Aviation
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
House of Representatives

The Honorable Michael T. McCaul
Chairman
Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management
House of Representatives




Page 40                                 GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              This report describes (1) the status of obstacles we identified in our
              previous report to the safe and routine integration of UAS into the national
              airspace system, (2) FAA’s progress in complying with FAA
              Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requirements, and (3) emerging
              issues pertaining to UAS.

              To describe and assess the status of obstacles to safe integration that we
              previously identified, we reviewed documents provided by and
              interviewed officials of government, academic, and private-sector entities
              involved with UAS issues. We reviewed relevant GAO reports and
              interviewed internal stakeholders working on related engagements. We
              also interviewed officials at federal agencies, including the FAA’s
              Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration and Research and Development
              Offices, DOD, NASA, Department of Commerce’s International Trade
              Administration, DHS, and the Department of Justice. We interviewed
              representatives from related federal advisory groups including FAA’s
              JPDO, RTCA Special Committee 203, the Interagency Taskforce on
              Unmanned Systems, and the DOD’s Air Force Research Lab as well as
              independent standards setting organizations RTCA and ASTM F38.
              Additionally, we interviewed representatives from universities with centers
              of research on UAS technology and issues, including the University of
              North Dakota and New Mexico State University, as well as a
              representative from the Mesa County, Colorado Sherriff’s Office. We
              interviewed private sector representatives from MITRE, Rockwell Collins,
              and Raytheon. We interviewed representatives from the Association for
              Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Aircraft Owners and Pilots
              Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the
              Airborne Law Enforcement Association. To obtain information on current
              civil UAS use, we obtained information from the FAA on the certificates of
              authority and special airworthiness certificates issued from January 2012
              to July 2012.

              To assess FAA’s progress in meeting its reauthorization requirements
              and to understand UAS coordination efforts across and federal
              government and private stakeholder, we reviewed relevant portions of the
              FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Federal Register. We
              identified criteria for assessments from GAO’s Standards for Internal
              Control in the Federal Government. We also reviewed documents
              provided by and conducted interviews with FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft
              Systems Integration Office and JPDO. Additionally, we participated in
              several public webinars that addressed privacy concerns over non-
              military UAS use and FAA’s request for comment on the UAS test range
              program.


              Page 41                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




To assess issues regarding privacy concerns over the use of UAS
acquired data, we reviewed documents provided by and interviewed UAS
federal, state, and local stakeholders as well as representatives from the
Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union. To
obtain information about UAS security considerations, we reviewed
documents from the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center and spoke with officials from FAA, DHS,
and the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International. We
also examined legal requirements to which federal agencies should
adhere when collecting and using personal information.

We conducted this performance audit from November 2011 through
September 2012 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 provides a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




Page 42                                   GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Appendix II: Federal Entities with Certificates
of Waiver or Authorization Approved from
January 1, 2012, to July 13, 2012


                                                                 Number of Groups within Federal
Federal Entities with Approved COAs                                           Entities with COAs              Number of approved COAs
DARPA                                                                                             1                                  3
Department of State                                                                               1                                  1
Department of Homeland Security                                                                   2                                 17
DOD – U.S. Special Operations Command                                                             1                                 32
DOD – Navy-USMC                                                                                  12                                 18
DOD – U.S. Air Force                                                                             16                                 56
DOD – U.S. Army                                                                                  33                                 54
Department of Energy – National Laboratories                                                      2                                  6
Department of Justice – Federal Bureau of
Investigation                                                                                     1                                  3
Department of Interior                                                                            1                                  7
NASA                                                                                              5                                 30
Total Federal Entities with approved COAs
between January 1, 2012 and July 13, 2012                                                        75                               227
                                            Source: GAO analysis of FAA data.

                                            Note: Federal agencies have COAs in multiple locations across the U.S.




                                            Page 43                                                GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., (202) 512-2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov.
GAO Contact

                  Individuals making key contributions to this report include Maria
Staff             Edelstein, Assistant Director; Amy Abramowitz; Gary Bianchi; Cristina
Acknowledgments   Chaplain; Erin Cohen; Elizabeth Curda; John de Ferrari; Colin Fallon;
                  Rebecca Gambler; Geoffrey Hamilton; David Hooper; Daniel Hoy; Joe
                  Kirschbaum; Patricia Lentini; Brian Lepore; SaraAnn Moessbauer; Faye
                  Morrison; Brian Mullins; Madhav Panwar; David Plocher; and Tina Won
                  Sherman.




(540233)
                  Page 44                                 GAO-12-981 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
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