Arrival of Domestic Drones Challenges Air Safety
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
DraganFlyer X6 (photo: helifever.com)
Organizations representing commercial pilots have expressed serious concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision allowing drones to operate in the same airspace as airliners.
The FAA is preparing regulations to permit businesses and local law enforcement to fly small, unmanned aircraft over the U.S. by obtaining special permits. By June the agency is supposed to open up six test areas where drones will fly with other planes.
Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association union, told the media that no system currently exists that allows operators of unmanned aircraft to spot and avoid helicopters and planes. Moak added that it’s unclear how a drone pilots would respond to air traffic controllers in an emergency.
Given these concerns and the fact there are no guarantees unmanned aircraft won’t crash into other planes, Moak insisted drones should not be allowed to fly with other traffic.
About 1,800 police departments in the U.S. have aviation departments that own and operate helicopters. However the market for unmanned drones is potentially huge because while a helicopter can cost up to $1.7 million, a drone system can go for $50,000.
The FAA has acknowledged that it has issued 295 active drone permits, but will not reveal which agencies and private companies hold the permits. The first known drone-aided arrest took place in eastern North Dakota on June 24, 2011.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Commercial Drones That Controllers Can’t See Challenge U.S. Air Safety (by Alan Levin, Bloomberg)
Conference Report on H.R. 658, FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 (U.S. House of Representatives)
Border Patrol Using Drones to Battle Marijuana Trade (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Drones Fly into Nascent Civilian Market Ripe with Energy, Environmental Applications (by Anne Snider, E&E)
Drones Now Being Used by Police and Sheriffs in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Idea of Civilians Using Drone Aircraft May Soon Fly with FAA (by W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times)
Coming to a Neighborhood Near You…Drones You Can’t See (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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