HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Industry insiders report the Federal Aviation Administration will not meet a 2015 deadline set by Congress to have drones flying safely in the same airspace as commercial aircraft.
The delay leaves companies in North Alabama "in limbo" and could be costing the US economy 27 million dollars per day the FAA is delayed past their 2015 deadline, according to a report by The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Madison County is a hub for unmanned aircraft research and development. Several companies working on new commercial ventures say they are being forced to wait until the federal guidelines for safety are released before they can move forward on any new designs.
Congress set a deadline for the FAA to create a road map for safety plans to have both unmanned and maned aircraft operating in the same airspace in order to spur integration.
Some air traffic controls have testified the current air control monitoring automated system will not be able to handle the addition of unmanned aircraft to the already busy skies.
The FAA has already licensed about 300 commercial UAVs, but that total is expected to increase to 30,000 by 2020.
A number of aerospace companies in addition to Lockheed Martin have UAV projects in Huntsville: Sierra Nevada Corp., Camber, Griffon Aerospace and Dynetics all have operations in North Alabama. For example, Dynetics – founded and headquartered in Huntsville – supports UAS training operations, payloads, system engineering and mechanical design, according to the Alabama Chamber of Commerce.
Currently six locations around the country are testing drones. Huntsville was passed over by the FAA to be one of those six designated test flight areas.