A new study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in the US has revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should change its excessively conservative safety risk assessment approach on drones.

Prepared by a committee of NASEM at the direction of the US Congress, the report also noted that a changed approach from the FAA is required to safely integrate drone operations into the country’s airspace.

Sponsored by the FAA, it further added that the existing FAA approach to drone regulation tends to overestimate the severity and likelihood of risks from various drone operations.

FAA’s current safety risk assessment techniques are developed over the years for manned aviation that require evidence of a near-zero tolerance for risk.

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These techniques, however, have prevented the potential safety benefits of drone operations from entering the US, said the report.

“The FAA needs to accelerate its move away from the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for UAS operations.”

According to the report, the FAA is very much focused on the issue of ‘fear of making a mistake’, especially in terms of drone activities, which do not pose a direct risk to human life in the same way as technologies used in manned aircraft.

NASEM committee chair George Ligler said: “The FAA needs to accelerate its move away from the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for UAS operations.

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“The FAA’s current methods for safety and risk management certainly ensure safety within the manned aircraft sector, but UASs present new and unique challenges and opportunities, which make it important for the agency to take a broader view on risk analysis.”

The report has called upon the FAA to understand the risk factor that the public is likely to accept for small drones, in the same context as other levels of publicly accepted risks for various other activities including travelling by car, swimming in the ocean, or walking across the street.

The FAA is also advised to establish and publish specific guidelines within the next 12 months to execute a predictable, repeatable, quantitative risk-based process for certifying drones and aircraft and granting operations approval.

Among various recommendations, the report further noted that a changed FAA approach could result in using drones in several beneficial applications such as preventing derailments, inspecting cell phone towers, delivering medical devices to patients in cardiac distress, and assisting firefighters.