to more e;ectively observe the world around them.
More broadly, the 21st century will, in many ways, be
the century of unmanned aircraft. A strong unmanned
aircraft industry will be an essential ingredient in
SAFETY CONCERNS ARISE
But civilian drones increasingly threaten the safety of
commercial aviation, as the International Air Transport
Association (IATA) has warned. The proliferation of
UAS is a major concern for the airline industry, as
airspace safety considerations must be addressed to
enable manned and unmanned aircraft to safely share
airspace. Over the past year, there have been many
encounters with a UAS flying too close to a plane at
a major airport.
"The issue is real," said Tony Tyler, CEO of IATA, during
this year’s Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership
Summit. "We have plenty of pilot reports of drones
where they were not expected — particularly at low
altitudes around airports. … There is no denying that
there is a real and growing threat to the safety of
Drones flying at low altitudes near airports,
potentially threatening planes that are taking o; or
landing, are of primary concerns to IATA and airlines.
While there is a significant amount of ongoing
research and regulatory activity aimed at addressing
the integration of UAS into shared airspace, there is
much work that still remains to be done. Regulators
undoubtedly will proceed extremely cautiously.
Airports across the country are seeing record
passenger counts. While infrastructure such as
terminals and runways can be expanded or enhanced,
there’s one piece of airport real estate that can’t be
stretched: airspace. As airspace becomes increasingly
crowded with additional planes, and with the upsurge
in UAS, aerospace o;cials at NASA say the current
Air Tra;c Control System will not be equipped to
handle the predicted volume or variety of aircraft
expected in 2035 and beyond.
To overcome this challenge and preserve safe access
for all commuters, the FAA has released an airspace
system that allows UAS to safely and e;ciently
navigate dense and diverse future airspace. The ruling
guides how businesses can use UAS for inspecting
power lines, filming movie scenes and accomplishing
so much more.
The FAA continues to promote awareness and safety
within the UAS market. The FAA is partnering with
several industry associations for a “Know Before You
Fly” educational campaign. The FAA also has developed
an app — B4UFLY — as part of the awareness and
safety initiative, providing UAS operators with pertinent
airspace requirements and restrictions. The overall
demand for commercial UAS will be expected to soar
once regulations more easily enable Beyond Visual Line
Of Sight (BVLOS) operations and operations of multiple
UAS by a single pilot.
From the FAA granting more than 1,000 exemptions to
businesses seeking to use drones, to the requirement
of registration recently taking e;ect, UAS are here —
and likely here to stay. Throughout the world, millions
of “pilots” are taking o; without ever leaving the
ground. And the industry will continue growing.
As the UAS industry prepares for this new airspace
system to take e;ect, concurrent industry initiatives
will help raise public awareness about what it means
to operate UAS safely in a changing and evolving
airspace environment. The e;orts also will continue
to educate and provide awareness for the UAS
community while fostering a culture of safety and
There is much work that still remains to be done to
keep the skies safe as the UAS market continues to
grow at a rapid rate, while proceeding cautiously,
with safety as the number one priority.
Doug Lenz is aviation projects manager in the Aviation
Group at Burns & McDonnell, where Dae Suh is a
project manager. Connect with them at linkedin.com/
in/douglenzbmcd and linkedin.com/in/daesuh.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
• Recreational UAS operators
must give notice for flights
within 5 miles of an airport.
• Recreational UAS operators are
prohibited in Class B airspace
without specific air tra;c
permission and coordination.