November 11, 2009
You won't have a close encounter with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) any time soon. And AOPA is fighting to keep it that way.
Some members in the Southwest expressed concerned when the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday that two Hermes 450 UAVs would fly surveillance patrols along the Arizona-Mexico border. (The 1,000-pound, remotely controlled aircraft can cruise at 95 knots up to 18,000 feet altitude.) But where and how the UAVs fly is being strictly controlled.
"AOPA has consistently advocated that UAVs must meet an equivalent level of safety, said Melissa Bailey Rudinger, AOPA vice president of Air Traffic. "In other words, there must be mechanisms and procedures in place so that the UAV can avoid general aviation aircraft."
Current UAV operations are conducted within special-use airspace, either restricted areas or military operations areas. Outside of such airspace, UAV operations must have a "Certificate of Authorization" approved by both the air traffic and flight standards branches of FAA. The operations have to be conducted within strict parameters, including using chase-planes and/or ground spotters to monitor their activity.
"In a meeting with flight standards officials just one month ago, AOPA reiterated that UAV flights should have, at the very minimum, a manned chase-plane to ensure collision avoidance," said Rudinger.
AOPA has also asked the FAA to establish an industry committee to address UAV operations outside of restricted airspace and to develop aircraft certification standards dealing with collision avoidance.
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