Altair/Predator B (courtesy of NASA)
The FAA on Wednesday canceled a UAV temporary flight restriction (TFR) that stretched across 300 nautical miles of Arizona and New Mexico in response to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol UAV that crashed on Tuesday.
"AOPA is pleased that the FAA has finally canceled the TFR, considering the fact that there are no operations being conducted in it at this time," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "AOPA has been opposed to using flight restrictions to control UAV operations, and it's a shame that it took an accident to illustrate why TFRs are a bad idea."
"In fact, this accident illustrates why UAV operations should not be conducted until these unmanned aircraft are certified to the same level of safety as manned aircraft. Just think that if a pilot had been flying legally under the TFR and the UAV hit the aircraft from behind and above - the pilot would have had no chance to see and avoid the uncontrolled UAV."
Just last month, AOPA alerted Congress to the threat UAVs pose to GA pilots and voiced members' opposition to restricting civilian access to airspace for UAV operations.
The 300-nm stretch of airspace was cordoned off from 14,000 feet msl to 16,000 feet msl to prevent a midair collision because UAVs cannot see and avoid other aircraft. When the UAV's operators lose contact, the drone is supposed to execute a preprogrammed plan to land at a specified location. However, no one is in control to bring it safely out of the TFR and away from other aircraft.
Updated: April 27, 2006, 2:10 p.m. EDT