Friday, May 11, 2012

Drones Over US Skies (Update)

There was an article pointed out to me by Suburban Banshee about 3 agencies being required to cooperate. Apparently they put in some updates to UAV use in the states included in this year's NDAA. They are minor however, additions to the NDAA from 2009, and don't really contain any cause for alarm even though the DOD is involved (they already were).

So I went through the new NDAA for 2013 (search "sec. 1074" and pick the second one), and then backtracked through the 2009 NDAA (lookup "sec. 1036" and pick the third one) that it referenced. From what I could tell the only real changes it made is that the military needs to get off their butt and pay more attention to their certification of pilots and updating licenses for flight areas with the FAA. They've always been required to apply for authorization to fly UAVs within NAS (National Air Space), so you won't see them flying around spying on people. Legally they aren't allowed to do so in the first place with any intel collection method, and any information they gain on US citizens during the performance of their duties must be reported to local/federal law enforcement if it's determined to be illegal activity. It also must be deleted/destroyed within 90 days (might be 60, been awhile since I dealt with that stuff directly).

Also it requires the SecDef to work with the Administrator of the FAA to find better ways to go about certifying and approving licenses between the two agencies given how much the DoD needs to use NAS for training purposes. From another pair of people I talked to on the Air Force side (their opinions do not represent the opinions of the Air Force, nor should they be construed as an attempt to set policy, or be considered an official statement by any means) I know they are wishing they could transport the UAVs by actually flying them from base to base instead of having to tear them apart, package them, ship them, then reassemble them due to the fact that they fly in the same altitude sets as most private planes.

There are additonal provisions directing the two agencies and NASA to collaborate "scientific and technical personnel and sharing resources" to "advance an enduring relationship of research capability to advance the access of unmanned aircraft systems of the Department of Defense to the National Airspace System" and "to conduct research and seek solutions to challenges associated with the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System." Not anything to be worried about, they still have to go through the FAA for permission, the DOD, FAA, and NASA are just being told to find a faster way to get it done between the agencies.

The SecDef is also required to submit annual reports to the congressional defense committees on all collaboration efforts.

I really despise how Congress writes bills and then references old bills instead of putting everything in one package with a supercede note at the end like the military does, by the way. Of course, that would make every bill as long as the AHCA (Obamacare) and people would actually be able to pay more attention to what they're doing up there...