aircraft may prowl
Unmanned aerial vehicles have soared
the skies of
Now UAVs may be landing in the
A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday heard testimony from police agencies that envision using UAVs for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities. Private companies also hope to use UAVs for tasks such as aerial photography and pipeline monitoring.
"We need additional technology to
supplement manned aircraft surveillance and current ground assets to ensure more effective
Kostelnik was talking about patrolling
In a scene that could have been inspired
by the movie "Minority Report," one
That raises not just privacy concerns, but also safety concerns because of the possibility of collisions with commercial and general aviation aircraft.
"They're a legitimate user of the airspace and they need to play by the same rules as everyone else," Melissa Rudinger, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said in a telephone interview.
Pilots undergo extensive training on collision detection and avoidance. Planes that fly at night are required to have certain types of lights, for instance. Operating an aircraft near busy airports (in government parlance, "Class B" airports) requires a transponder that broadcasts its altitude. And during all flights that take place in poor weather or higher than 18,000 feet above sea level, the pilot must be in radio contact with controllers.
No such anti-collision rules apply to UAVs. Rudinger is concerned that UAVs--either remote-controlled or autonomous drones--will pose a safety threat to pilots and their passengers. She's not that worried about larger UAVs operated by the military that have sophisticated radar systems, but about smaller ones that have limited equipment and potentially inexperienced ground controllers.
"The FAA needs to define what is a UAV," Rudinger said. "And they need to regulate it just like they do any other aircraft, and integrate it into the system. The problem is the technology has advanced, and there are no regulations that talk about how to certify these aircraft, how to certify the operator, and how to operate in the national airspace system."
For its part, the FAA says it's created a UAV "program office" to come up with new rules of the sky. Preliminary standards for "sense and avoid" UAV avionics are expected in three to four years.
"Currently there is no recognized
technology solution that could make these aircraft capable of meeting regulatory
requirements for 'see and avoid,' and 'command and control,'" said Nick Sabatini,
associate FAA administrator for aviation safety. "Further, some unmanned aircraft
will likely never receive unrestricted access to (
Complicating the question of how to deal with UAVs is the fact that there are so many different varieties of them. Some are essentially large model aircraft and weigh only a few ounces or pounds, while some military models are the size of a Boeing 737. Most are designed to sip fuel slowly, so they have long flight times and low airspeeds--meaning that they could be flying at the same altitude as a jet aircraft but at half the speed.
Egging on Congress and the FAA are manufacturers of UAVs, who see a lucrative market in domestic surveillance and aerial photography.
"It is quite easy to envision a
future in which (UAVs), unaffected by pilot fatigue, provide 24-7 border and port
surveillance to protect against terrorist intrusion," said Mike Heintz on behalf of
the UNITE Alliance
which represents Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. "Other examples are
limited only by our imagination." (
(cnet, 3.29.2006, Declan McCullagh, Staff Writer, CNET News) http://news.cnet.com/2100-11746_3-6055658.html