Internet-age companies are forging ahead with plans to incorporate small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—better known as drones—in their commercial operations. On August 28, Internet search engine and services company Google revealed that it is developing a drone delivery service and has already tested a prototype aircraft.
Unmanned aerial vehicle
Federal and city officials in the Los Angeles area have been unsuccessful in their attempts to identify the owner/operator of a small drone seen by the pilots of an airliner on August 4 while they were on final approach into Los Angeles International Airport The pilots reported the drone 10 miles east of the airport at 4,000 feet, well inside the airport’s Class B airspace.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $240 million contract modification to build three more RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft, each with integrated sensor suite and signals intelligence (Sigint) payloads, plus two Sigint payloads as retrofit kits. The new aircraft will join 18 Block 30 Global Hawks the service earlier planned to retire.
The FAA on August 14 released its final solicitation for a new Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) tasked with identifying current and future issues critical to the safe integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace. These issues include detect-and-avoid technology, control and communications, low-altitude operations safety, compatibility with ATC operations and training and certification of UAS pilots and other crewmembers. The agency will support this new COE with at least $500,000 per year over the next 10 years.
Aurora Flight Sciences told AIN that it is close to securing up to three customers in Europe, plus one in the U.S., for its Centaur optionally piloted aircraft (OPA), which is based on the Diamond DA42 twin-engine tourer. The American company has been marketing the Centaur in the U.S. as a versatile, low-cost airborne sensing platform for two years but only recently expanded the effort to Europe.
The FAA announced that the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site Virginia Polytechnic Institute will manage is cleared to start flying aircraft.
Airlines should not expect to see unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying regularly in U.S. airspace “anytime soon,” a senior official with the Federal Aviation Administration told pilots August 7. The assurance came amid continuing reports of unauthorized UAS flights near airliners.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general’s office (IG) has significant concerns about the FAA’s plan to integrate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System. The FAA will miss the August 2014 deadline for issuing a UAS rule, “due to unresolved technological, regulatory and privacy issues,” according to the IG.
Testing the U.S. Army conducted in June proved that equipping an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for an airborne electronic attack role is “technically and tactically feasible.” The service will continue experimenting with the system, although it has no immediate plans to field it on a UAS.
A federal appeals court has dismissed the case a Texas non-profit search and rescue organization brought against the FAA after the agency ordered it to stop using a model aircraft fitted with a camera to assist in searches. Both parties claimed an advantage from the decision.
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