aircraft with a lot of
capability are so easy to
acquire, and the buyers
have no understanding
of the NAS.
How do we deal
aircraft and ensure a
safe flying environment
in our NAS?
FAA published a notice of proposed rulemaking for
unmanned aircraft of 55 pounds or less and received
a huge number of comments. The agency proposed,
among other regulations, operations only in VFR and
daytime; a 100 percent yield of right-of-way requirement
to all manned or other unmanned aircraft; a maximum
airspeed of 87 knots; a maximum altitude of 500 feet
above ground level; operations
in Class B, C, D and E airspace
only with air traffic control
permission; no operations
beyond line of sight of the
operator; and pilot certification
requirements. These are
certainly a great start for
providing safe operations, but
also they represent just the
beginning of a path to ensure safe airspace.
At the simplest level, airspace separation is a
great way to minimize, if not eliminate, risk. This
includes not flying UASs within so many miles of an
airport and keeping them below certain altitudes. At
more sophisticated levels, some unmanned aircraft
are being outfitted with aircraft avoidance radars,
encoding transponders, and automatic dependent
Unfortunately, there is no one technology that safely
integrates all unmanned aircraft into the NAS. The
largest UAS is the Air Force’s Global Hawk, which is
the size of a 737 and easily operates at flight levels.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have UASs the
size of bumblebees that would cause no more damage
than a real bumblebee if struck by a manned aircraft.
Consequently, FAA has created UAS size categories to
address the various risks.
Finally, while UASs can be used to harm, they
are also great tools to help. They can be used by
law enforcement to chase fleeing criminals and
keep a camera record of arrests. They can detect
danger at national security events such as a
Sensors are the key to making unmanned aircraft
useful, so useful, in fact, that the Association of
Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the business
league for unmanned aircraft companies, predicts
the UAS industry will grow to $90 billion a year by
2035. That number rivals all commercial maintenance,
repair and overhaul in the U.S. The largest beneficiary
will be agriculture, as UASs can replace all kinds of
manned missions for a fraction of the cost. In the future,
UASs also will be used for livestock, wildlife/forest
monitoring, search and rescue, pipeline/power line
monitoring, and a whole host of other purposes.
At the simplest level, airspace separation is a great way
to minimize, if not eliminate risk. This includes not flying
UASs within so many miles of an airport and keeping
them below certain altitudes.