The FAA reauthorization legislation that President Obama signed into law in February 2012 gives the FAA the authority to regulate a model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft if it is flown in an unsafe manner, the FAA states in a policy notice published in the Federal Register on June 23.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
News and issues relating to civil and military unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) of all kinds and sizes, including those used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), combat (unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs), law enforcement, research and other applications. Of particular focus is the FAA's planned integration of UAS into the U.S. national airspace system.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted the first flight of an MQ-8B Fire Scout equipped with a new maritime surveillance radar that will “drastically” improve the Navy’s long-range surface search capabilities, the contractor said. The Navy plans to field the radar on the unmanned helicopter next year.
The FAA last week issued oil company BP and unmanned aircraft manufacturer AeroVironment its first official approval for commercial operations over land in the U.S. using unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Flights using AeroVironment’s 13.5-pound Puma AE began immediately on June 8, performing aerial surveillance of BP’s pipelines and other facilities in support of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska.
Last summer, the FAA issued restricted-category type certificates to the Puma for limited aerial surveillance but only over Arctic waters.
The Swiss air force has selected the Elbit Hermes 900 to replace its earlier-generation IAI Ranger UAVs. IAI also competed for the UAS 15 contract, which is worth about $280 million. The selection is subject to further government and parliamentary approvals.
The FAA issued a certificate of authorization (COA) to AeroVironment allowing the company to fly its Puma AE unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for energy company BP in Alaska, the first time the agency has approved a commercial UAS operation over land.
The U.S. Marine Corps has deployed the new RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to Afghanistan through an early operational capability. The 135-pound-mtow aircraft is undergoing initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), a phase the service expects to complete this year.
Raphael Pirker cast a long shadow over the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference. Pirker’s challenge of an FAA fine for allegedly flying his Ritewing Zephyr recklessly at the University of Virginia came up repeatedly during the annual conference the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) stages, this year in Orlando.
Battle lines have formed in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) review of the $10,000 fine the FAA charged Raphael Pirker for operating a small unmanned aircraft. Six parties filed “friend of the court” amicus briefs by the NTSB’s May 16 deadline, including a coalition of major news media organizations supporting Pirker’s position.
UK carrier EasyJet said it will apply new technologies, including operating small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to maintain its Airbus fleet. The airline is also developing 3D virtual reality and augmented reality technology, customized engineering applications and early fault prognosis. It is installing Panasonic Toughpad tablets in cockpits fleetwide.
The U.S. Navy has not determined how to fit a “due regard” radar on its unmanned MQ-4C Triton, which will likely start initial operations in 2017 without the subsystem intended to help protect it from midair collisions. But the Triton will enter service with more capability than any other unmanned aircraft to “detect and avoid” other aircraft, the Navy’s program manager asserts.