By AOPA ePublishing staff
Pilot attention has focused again on the issue of the small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) after news reports of a test by the Houston Police Department.
" We keep pushing the FAA to develop regulations to ensure that UAVs are flown safely in airspace shared with general aviation," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "Pilot reaction to this latest drone test should be a wake-up call that the time to act is now."
Numerous public safety agencies have been experimenting with small (under 35 pounds) remotely controlled aircraft to provide aerial surveillance of crime or disaster scenes. Some of the tests have been in clear violation of current FAA regulations, but the Houston test was conducted under FAA supervision.
"The police department applied for and got an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the flight," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "The COA required the drone to fly VFR below 1,200 feet agl within the line of sight of the operator, and remain well clear of Class B airspace." Miami is considering a similar test, which would also be flown under a COA and with similar restrictions.
AOPA has been fighting for years to ensure that unmanned aircraft—or more recently, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—operate safely within the National Airspace System with an equivalent level of safety as a manned aircraft. In other words, the ability to "sense and avoid" other aircraft.
AOPA serves on the industry advisory committee that is developing recommendations for all unmanned systems operating in civilian airspace.
November 26, 2007