Creating large restricted areas to segregate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) from other air traffic will have negative operational and economic consequences, and it is not the best way to ensure safety, AOPA told the Air Force in formal comments.
The comments, filed Nov. 11, were written in response to a plan to create a large complex of restricted areas in northern North Dakota. The plan marks the first time the FAA will consider creating a restricted area solely for the use of UAS.
“We have concerns about any plan that would close airspace to civilian traffic so UAS can fly,” said Pete Lehmann, AOPA manager of air traffic services. “Surveys have shown that 77 percent of our members, or more than half the U.S. pilot population, would rather fly with certified unmanned aircraft rather than be subject to flight restrictions.”
In its comments, AOPA recommended alternative means of ensuring safety for both piloted and unmanned aircraft, including using ground spotters or chase aircraft, and allowing operations in positively controlled airspace above Flight Level 180—all of which could be enacted immediately, without the long wait required to establish a restricted area.
AOPA also noted that creating restricted airspace would have serious operational and economic consequences for locally based and transient aircraft, as well as for underlying airports and the businesses based there.
Those affected by the proposal have until Nov. 21 to file comments on the plan by writing to Mr. Doug Albright, EIS Project Manager, HQ AMC/A7PI, 507 Symington Drive, Scott Air Force Base, IL 62225.