Unmanned Aircraft: Coming to Some Sky near You

 - March 23, 2012, 11:23 AM
Coming to airspace near you?

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could soon be coming to civil airspace near you, and the FAA wants to know what you think. The safety considerations of mixing piloted aircraft in NextGen airspace with those flown by people on the ground or even totally by computer are serious concerns for most aviators.

Through the National Defense Authorization Act and the 2012 FAA Reauthorization bill, Congress has mandated that the FAA create six test locations in the U.S. where UAVs may be flown safely. Data gathered from tests flown in these areas will be used to determine the safest methods to integrate UAVs into regular airspace by 2015.

According to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, “Unmanned aircraft can help us meet a number of challenges, from spotting wildfires to assessing natural disasters. These test sites will help us ensure that our high safety standards are maintained as the use of these aircraft becomes more widespread.”

The FAA wants comments from the UAV user community and the public. Questions from commenters could range from who will manage the test sites, the nature of the research activity at the sites, test-site operator requirements and any geographic and climate factors affecting site selection. The comment period is open for 60 days from the March 2 publication in the Federal Register.