On February 14, 2012, the President signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) into law. The FMRA includes requirements for integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system (NAS), including direction for the FAA to “establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at six (6) test ranges.”
In March 2012, in an effort to solicit and capture the public perspective and opinion on the UAS Test Ranges (Sites), the FAA began an outreach campaign. The FAA posted a Request for Comment (RFC) in the Federal Register [Docket No. FAA—2012—0252] regarding the six Test Sites, and in April 2012, the FAA hosted two public webinars to facilitate direct public interaction. This outreach effort assisted FAA in developing the strategy for designating the sites.
The first formal step in designating the sites is the issuance of a Screening Information Request (SIR). The SIR, referred to in other Government agencies as a Request for Proposal, or RFP, is the vehicle through which the FAA will request interested parties (Applicants) to submit specific information for evaluation. This SIR (and any future changes, if any) will be available on the FAA Contract Opportunities Web Site (http://faaco.faa.gov). Additional information about the SIR process including the time critical schedule (Table 1) should be reviewed immediately by Applicants. One parameter of note is that all Test Site Operators (the awardees) MUST BE NON-FEDERAL PUBLIC ENTITIES.
The FAA’s common acquisition process for obtaining information, evaluating interested parties, and selecting successful Applicants is contained in the agency’s Acquisition Management System (AMS). The FAA will use the AMS as guidance in the SIR process for obtaining and evaluating information. The ultimate designation of the six Test Sites will be by Order of the Administrator.
Applicants who have been selected by the Administrator will enter into individual Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) with the FAA. Each OTA will set out the terms and conditions under which the respective entity will operate the UAS Test Site.
Prior to release of the SIR, privacy concerns were raised with regard to integrating UAS into the NAS. In order to address these concerns, the FAA is continuing to engage in outreach efforts to the public and interested parties for their perspectives. The SIR contains a draft OTA with the privacy-related requirements and recommendations (policy) reserved. The FAA will solicit perspectives from the public and interested parties on this proposed privacy language in a RFC process which will run concurrent with the SIR response process. The RFC posting will follow the SIR release by a few days. The RFC language will be made available at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/
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