How’s the FAA Doing? You Tell Us: Results from a 5-Minute Survey We Built for the FAA

BY Zacc Dukowitz
14 February 2018

Recently we put together a short, informal survey in partnership with a contact we have at the FAA to help evaluate how well drone pilots think the FAA is doing when it comes to educating them and the public about sUAS policies.

In the end we had 493 people fill out the five minute survey. In this post we’re going to review the answers we received, and discuss any trends we noticed among the responses.

By the way, if you participated, THANK YOU. We really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

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Image source

Who Were the Respondents?

About 2/3 of respondents identified as commercial pilots, and 1/3 identified as hobbyists (with a handful of Other / Non-pilot respondents as well):

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So according to the folks who chimed in, how well is the FAA doing when it comes to educating people about drones? Let’s take a look.

How Do Drone Pilots Interact with the FAA and FAA Resources?

The first section of survey questions relates to how people interact with FAA resources.

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It’s pretty neat that 89% of respondents have been exposed to the FAA’s webpages and FAQ materials. Given that about 7% of respondents probably don’t fly, this means almost everyone who flies and responded to the survey interacts with the FAA website in some way.

Which is good news.

The first step in making sure the skies are safe, and drones are being flown responsibly by commercial and hobbyist pilots alike, is simply knowing what the FAA recommends.

The next question is similar to the first:

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These numbers aren’t too surprising, given that the B4UFLY app isn’t necessarily for everyone, and that there are other apps that can serve similar functions. 56% is still pretty darn high, when you think about it.

And of those 56% who say they use it, the B4UFLY app seems to have a pretty high approval rating:

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One last data point about how people interact with the FAA is this question about whether respondents had ever contacted someone at the FAA. We were pleased to see that about a quarter of the respondents had done so:

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27% of the drone pilots surveyed reaching out to the FAA seems like a great percentage.

To us, this indicates that people 1) Know that the FAA is the place to go with questions about airspace (pretty basic, but hey, still a good thing!); and 2) Feel comfortable reaching out to them. The second point is not a small one—can you imagine contacting the Department of Transportation with a question about roads in the U.S.? OK, that example is a little far fetched, but the point stands: most of us don’t think about reaching out to an organ of the federal government to have our questions answered, and certainly not a quarter of those who drive (or even a quarter of a percent, we would imagine).

So from this, we’d say we can at least glean that the FAA has done a pretty good job letting people know that they’re around, and happy to talk.

So How Well Is the FAA Doing?

So-so, according to you:

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It seems like the key word in this question is “public.”

The answers above seem to indicate that respondents—i.e., drone pilots—engage with the FAA regularly, and know that the FAA is a go-to location for information about how and where to fly.

But do the same pilots think the FAA is doing a good job informing the general public about those issues that most concern drone pilots? Not so much, is what we take away from this answer.

One respondent wrote:

There should be a notice inside every drone sold that directs people to the FAA website. Some of the info is there, but it is not as obvious as one would expect or hope.

Love that idea!

The same so-so feeling also seemed to apply to this question on how well the FAA is doing with efforts to integrate drones into the national airspace:

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This isn’t too surprising. And, to be fair to the FAA, this isn’t entirely up to them, but also involves congress and other stakeholders.

When you consider the White House’s new pilot programs that will explore sharing airspace authority between the FAA and local entities, and other initiatives in the works like LAANC, the FAA is for better or worse not always in a position to lead the charge when it comes to integration.

But they’re certainly going to take the brunt of frustration when people are asked how integration is going. Even still, given how Sisyphean (meaning, two steps forward, one back) the integration effort appears at times, 6 out of 10 is actually not so bad.

Regarding progress that’s been made, like the instant airspace authorizations provided by LAANC, one respondent commented:

LAANC is a great start but the roll-out is excruciatingly long. Simple airspace waivers take forever to process. There is low confidence that a system like LAANC will ever come to an area such as ours (greater NYC area).

But then we had people who felt like this:

It is a huge undertaking and I believe they are doing a good job.

Hear hear.

I think most of us would agree on this—not only is the project of integrating drones into national airspace a huge undertaking, but it’s something that we’d be intimidated to take on ourselves.

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Image source

And that’s all folks. As you can see, it was a short survey, but pretty revealing.

Here are our main takeaways from this survey:

  • Drone pilots—commercial and hobbyists alike—are engaging with the FAA in a big way. They’re visiting the FAA’s website, reading FAA materials, and contacting the FAA.
  • Drone pilots think more could be done to educate the public about national airspace, and to get drones integrated into it. These two things are intertwined, in that the integration effort is a legislative one, and legislation is, by definition, tied to public opinion and perception.

We have a long way to go, but we’re in this journey together. Here’s to pushing the drone industry forward in partnership with the FAA, one step at a time.

Zacc Dukowitz

Director of Marketing

Zacc Dukowitz is the Director of Marketing for UAV Coach. A writer with professional experience in education technology and digital marketing, Zacc is passionate about reporting on the drone industry at a time when UAVs can help us live better lives. Zacc also holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and is a widely published fiction writer. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John's College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or check out zaccdukowitz.com to read his work.

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