In a bid to dispel apparent confusion over the limits of its regulatory authority over unmanned aerial systems, the FAA on June 23 reminded users that it does possess the authority to regulate radio-controlled model airplanes. Publishing its interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the agency said, “The guidance comes after recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.
Unmanned aerial vehicle
Despite recently acquiring the GA-ASI Reaper UAS from the U.S., the French air force has extended the service of its predecessor UAS, the Harfang, until at least the end of 2017. The Harfang UAS consists of IAI Heron 1 UAVs that are equipped with a communications and control system designed by Airbus Defence & Space (previously EADS Cassidian) in France. The French defense procurement agency, DGA, has recently signed contracts with main contractor Airbus D&S, and with IAI, for the upgrade and continued maintenance of the Harfang system.
Flight-test operations have begun at the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site, which last week became the fourth operational site of six authorized in the U.S. by the FAA. The agency granted the university a two-year certificate of authorization (COA) to fly the 85-pound American Aerospace Advisors’ Recon System-16, based on the Arcturus T-16XL fixed-wing aircraft.
Boeing has added to its portfolio of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft a “multi-int” platform based on the Beechcraft King Air 350ER. The company’s Reconfigurable Airborne Multi-Intelligence System (Ramis) was originally developed as a demonstrator for the U.S. Army and is now being offered to customers.
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.
Airbus Defence and Space has teamed with Textron to offer the Shadow M2 tactical UAV for a French army requirement that is expected to be launched in the coming weeks. France has been deliberating over a UAV for the army for some time, and has tested the Thales Watchkeeper extensively. Meanwhile, Sagem has offered the Patroller UAV. However, the ministry of defense has indicated it will shortly issue an open tender. Under the teaming agreement, Airbus D&S will install French mission equipment in the Shadow.
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.
Nevada’s unmanned aircraft systems test site is ready to conduct “vital research” into integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s civil airspace system, the FAA announced yesterday. The FAA granted Nevada a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use an Insitu ScanEagle UAS at Desert Rock Airport in Mercury. With the approval, Nevada is the third of six UAS test sites to become operational.