The agency maintains that it complied with that order in March by technically launching the effort and beginning to solicit public comments.
“The 2012 reauthorization directs the FAA to establish the program within 180 days, which the agency did,” the FAA said in a statement Thursday to The Washington Times. “The FAA is continuing to work diligently on the test-site solicitation.”
But the true intent of Congress is now in question. Representatives of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and others say lawmakers’ instruction that the program be “established” means the FAA was to have the six test sites selected within 180 days. A congressional staffer also told The Times on Friday that the “FAA may be misinterpreting the intent of the provision” and that the authors of the legislation meant for the test-site program to be fully up and running within 180 days, or Aug. 12.
A September report from the Government Accountability Office also implies that the FAA has not complied with the act entirely.
“FAA has taken steps to develop, but has not yet established, a program to integrate [drones] at six test ranges, as required by the 2012 act,” the GAO study reads in part.