An FDA proposal to test unmanned drones in facility inspections was grounded before it could take flight, according to a report in Regulatory Focus.
An internal FDA memo obtained by the publication revealed that the agency was planning to "perform a test of drone technology" sometime this week.
The small "feasibility test," which was to be conducted by FDA’s Office of Informatics & Technology Innovation (OITI), was slated to examine whether the agency could use drone technology to scan large manufacturing facilities and agricultural settings.
FDA spokeswoman Andrea Fischer confirmed the test in an email to Regulatory Focus, the official news source of the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.
Although there was no "formal drone program in development," Fischer wrote, the agency is "conducting preliminary feasibility testing on possible applications for drone technology in fulfillment of the agency’s mission."
But the testing was apparently canceled soon after it was made public, according to Regulatory Focus, with Fischer walking the story back.
FDA is "not exploring this technology for inspections or surveillance," Fischer said yesterday. "The agency does not have an aerial device (or ‘drone’) program in place."
"The e-mail that was sent to DC-area FDA employees this week related to testing that FDA’s Office of Informatics & Technology Innovation was planning to do on emerging technologies for research and development purposes," she added.