Unmanned aerial vehicles will operate at 45,000 feet over California's Channel Islands and farther out over the Pacific Ocean in late April and early May. They are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA for atmospheric and oceanic research off the California coastline. The flights can last as long as 20 hours, according to officials at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA officials said they are looking forward to "routine access to the National Airspace System" in the future that will allow unmanned vehicles to play an expanding role in Earth science and other missions. AOPA has expressed concern about potential conflicts between GA aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles at lower altitudes. For more information on AOPA's perspective see the issue brief on unmanned aircraft systems.
April 29, 2005