FAA Acts or Drones Stop Flying

FAA Acts or Drones Stop Flying

Army drones will have to curtail training and operational flights by fiscal 2012 in the United States unless the FAA approves some form of UAS deconfliction, a top Army UAS official says.

“We will start to lose currency on systems because pilots won’t be able to train,” Tim Owings, deputy project manager for unmanned aerial systems, told me at the annual Association of teh US Army conference. The Army will have to start mothballing drones or placing strict limits on the amount of flight time pilots get, he said.

“We have to have some some access to the national airspace,” Owings said.

The issue is not unique to the Army, since the Air Force is also struggling to find the sweet spot with the FAA and get it to permit UAS flights in civil airspace. There are 11 task forces working around the country to find solutions to the vexing issue of flying UAS in the same areas where civilian planes fly.

Along with policy answers to the problem of letting UAVs fly in civil airspace there may be technical solutions. Among the most promising approaches is sense-and-avoid technology. Essentially, UAVs would use a combination of radar, algorithms and software to ensure that if they detect they are on a collision course they would take evasive action.

But this technology will probably take more time to get approved than a variance of the tried and true ground-based radar, with which the FAA is intimately familiar, Owings said. So the Army, while pursuing sense-and-avoid technology, will focus in the near term on ground radar.

The UAS office has created a new program, airspace integration concepts, to lead this effort.


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Entirely typical. The USAF has nothing on the FAA when it comes to hidebound antitechnological conservatism. I’m pretty sure there are still guys at the FAA who are concerned about this newfangled whiz-bang “Jee Pee Ess” thing and want us all to go back to LORAN and paper maps the way God intended.

Do you think 11 Task Forces will come up with one solution? Could that be part of the “problem”?

With the tens of thousands of square miles of protected defense airspace I find it hard to believe that the Army and Air Force find it necessary to fly these UAV’s/UAS in commercial air space!

And, if the drones just happen to stray out of their protected space, I would hope the devices would still be under the control of thier operators. The whole point of testing is to get familiar with the technology! Give the military guys a break.

It seems like they are making the problem sound too difficult. Just give them something like between 40,000 feet and 40,900 feet (except around airports). Everyone else flying up there needs to be told how high and what speed they are going anyway. So it won’t really affect anyone (other than those doing flight planning and the commercial airliners won’t be able to fly that low, so they’ll have to fly at an altitude that will cause them to get slightly better fuel mileage, oh well!).

Are you telling the UAVs or the airliners to fly that high? Most of our UAVs don’t fly nearly that high. While air force bases might have protected airspace to the edge of the atmosphere, army bases do not. I don’t know too much about civil aviation, but I doubt every commercial airplane can fly at 40,000 feet. Another issue that has to be worked out is frequency management. The radio and satellite links that allow us to fly UAVs are owned by the FAA and FCC while we’re in the states. We have to request use of very busy airwaves in order to fly.

I don’t think any of you are current users of the US civil airspace. Take a look at the FlightAware web site’s radar mosaic of the US during prime time. It looks like a dog with fleas. The mixing of passenger aircraft and UASs is a recipe for a mid air. The airlines use simulators, why not the military? There have been a couple notable loss of control UAS events already. One splatted on a house in AZ. What about the recent Afgan blue on blue (USAF fighter had to shot down a UAS) because of loss of control? The UAS fleet is so varied in performance that the simple give them a block of 40 to 40.9 would work, besides how do they get up there and down? Recently the high altitude structure vertical separation was reduced to one thousand feet, not much room for error by a wayward UAS is it? It requires special crew and aircraft certification to operate in this airspace. Also at high altitudes airliners have performance limitations in performing evasive actions. And remember the Army’s operators are not even qualified aviators. Next time you are in an airliner at altitude sipping a soda at Mach .78, ask yourself, could the pilot spot and evade a wayward Gobal Hawk in time?

Seems that you could make this argument about any kind of flight training at all…

ack got it — “with tens of thousands of square miles of protected defense airspace” — they only need civil air space clearance to come after civies with these things. Thank goodness “11 task forces working around the country to find solutions” will find a way to lock down the grid when the hammer drops and it is time to go to your designated internment camp. My question is, if “Army drones will have to curtail training and operational flights by fiscal 2012 unless…” does that mean they have a temporary permit — heard they were already in use along the southern border for drug wars, etc>?

Density, The difference between UAS training and human flight training is the operators awareness of their surroundings. The pilot is there, can see the airspace and has direct control of the aircraft. A UAS operator does not have a view of the aircraft’s surroundings (Just a limited, through the soda straw sensor view), and is dependent on a data link. Also remember the Army/Marine operators are not qualified pilots with the understanding of Federal Aviation Regulations. The military has vast amount of restricted airspace to use for their activities (Prohibited, Restricted Area, Military Operating Areas), they can fly their UAS within them to their hearts content, mixing civil aircraft and UAS is plainly not safe! WarPony, yes Home Land Security does use UAS on the border, but in restricted airspace, not mixing with manned civil aircraft. Also the development path of UAS operation is for less human intervention and more autonomous operation, that is point and launch it to it’s area of operation. The operator will be a sensor manager, the vehicle will have automatic takeoff, cruise and landing. Clouds, what clouds? Traffic? What traffic?

Good night almighty this nation’s commercial and private pilots can’t or “Won’t” allow the use of airspace so that’s this nation’s most critical ISR gather and hunter/killer system operators to train. Place the blame on AOPA, EAA and FAA that can’t get there act together. Lives are on the line and if UASs are not allowed to fly over this country then the next man or women in uniform who is killed because of the lack of a UAS’s to protect them is tantamount to murder by these three organizations. I am sick and tired of there foot dragging on this issue they don’t get it, troops of this nation are being killed because we don’t have enough of such unmanned aviation systems but you would never know it at the corporate head quarters of AOPA, EAA, and FAA. I live in Oregon and in Eastern Oregon there is a lot of airspace that doesn’t see an airplane for a week or longer. We have huge areas with Military operations areas over open space with very few individuals who live under such MOAs. Don’t tell me that there is no place to fly. You people that live on the east coast need to spend some time north of Plush Oregon by yourselves and then tell me about airspace you weak people of the east coast.

There are UAS ops in the CONUS now covered by temporary procedures. This is simply just a political move by DoD to get the FAA moving on permanent procedures. The FAA’s beurocracy make’s the DoD’s mild by comparison.

One issue the Army faces that the USAF doesn’t is the former’s treatment of UAVs as big RC models instead of real aircraft. It will be a very long time before the FAA allows, or should allow, non-pilots to play with multi-thousand pound Remotely Piloted Aircraft in non-segregated airspace. The first time one of these RPV/RPA hits a civilian aircraft and causes deaths, it will reverse any progress we’ve made in the sandbox proving grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan.

it seems like you can make a argument about any kind of task force that contains 11 people

Possibly, with TCAS


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