Should all UAVs Be Equipped with Transponders?

 - February 24, 2011, 7:02 AM

Manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may no longer have an excuse not to equip their aircraft with transponders, which should make at least one pilot happy. This pilot told AIN that he experienced a near-miss with a UAV while flying in the southwestern U.S. The UAV was being monitored by a trailing Cessna 172 but, oddly, the air traffic controller that the pilot was working with during this flight mentioned the UAV-Skyhawk traffic only after they had passed closely by. Thanks to the tiny lightweight XPS-TR transponder made by Sagetech of Hood River, Ore., encounters like these could be prevented, or at least pilots flying aircraft with traffic displays would have a better chance of spotting UAV traffic. Kansas State University says its UAV is the first to use the XPS-TR transponder, which has a footprint smaller than a business card and offers ADS-B in and out capabilities. K-State’s XPS-TR-equipped AAI Aerosonde Mark 4.7 is used in the university’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technology Evaluation Center, and K-State is working to establish policies and procedures for military and civilian organizations to fly and test UAVs at facilities near its Salina, Kan., campus. Pilots can hope that K-Stateπs experience with the XPS-TR will encourage other UAV manufacturers and operators to install transponders in their aircraft.