The FAA has temporarily reduced the size of the temporary flight restriction (TFR) along the U.S.-Mexico border. That TFR is in place to protect civilian aircraft from being run over by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) patrolling the border.
AOPA has been pushing security officials to find alternatives to removing large chunks of airspace from civilian use to protect UAV flights.
"We're certainly pleased that the FAA has released airspace that the Department of Homeland Security is not currently using for UAV operations," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "However, we still object to the use of TFRs for long-term UAV operations."
There are two issues here.
First, TFRs are intended for temporary situations, not for long-term, planned operations.
"If you're going to take airspace for the long term, you should go through the rulemaking process. And that includes opportunity for public review and comment," said Rudinger.
The second issue is the ability of UAVs to operate safely in the National Airspace System. UAV technology hasn't yet advanced to the point where the unmanned flying robots can reliably "sense and avoid" other aircraft.
"Frankly, we don't believe that airspace should be walled off simply because UAVs can't play with the rest of us," said Rudinger.
AOPA continues to work with the FAA and the UAV community to resolve these problems and set reasonable certification standards for UAV operations in civilian airspace.
February 3, 2006