For the second time in less than a month, a major Internet-related company has acquired a firm developing a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which could serve as a node to provide Internet connectivity from the stratosphere.
Unmanned aerial vehicle
The European Commission proposed new guidelines last week designed to harmonize rules and regulations that dictate the operation of unmanned aerial systems, which the EC designates as remotely piloted aircraft systems. Potential European operators are eager to put unmanned vehicles into service as soon as possible. The proposed new European guidelines will look at safety, security, privacy, data protection and insurance liability issues.
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft is progressing through its flight-test program, but still without a “sense-and-avoid” system that would protect against collisions with other aircraft. The program office said it is taking a “layered approach” to meeting the requirement until it finds a technology solution.
The Grand Forks, N.D., Sheriff’s Department announced in late March that it has received FAA authorization to fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) throughout its jurisdiction at night, making it the first law enforcement agency in the U.S. to gain such authorization.
Social media site Facebook has acquired a UK-based company whose founders helped develop the Zephyr, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft, as part of its “Connectivity Lab” project to more widely distribute Internet access.
Europe’s first purpose-built center for UAV research activities has opened in Spain. Known as Atlas (air traffic laboratory for advanced unmanned systems), the facility was officially opened on March 21 by the president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, whose regional government has funded much of the €4.5 million implementation of the project from EU allocations. Additional funding has come from national government, and the site has been developed in close cooperation with potential customers, such as Boeing.
An administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dismissed the $10,000 fine the FAA levied against Raphael Pirker for flying a small unmanned aircraft, casting doubt on the agency’s ability to regulate their commercial use.
The UK Ministry of Defence has finally signed off on the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned air system for the British Army, awarding the system a formal Release to Service. The RTS award brings to an end a process to certificate the Watchkeeper for military service that has dragged on approximately three years longer than originally anticipated.
I have to admit that my interest in drones–or unmanned aircraft systems, as the FAA prefers to call them–has been re-energized by my students at Vaughn College of Aeronautics. Sure, like most aviation enthusiasts, I’m interested in anything that flies and have been a model airplane fan from childhood.
Vertical lift UAV developer CybAero said the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls approved export permits for a €5.5 million ($7.5 million) order a Chinese customer placed for its APID 60 unmanned helicopter, the company’s largest order.