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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘Predator drone’

Unmanned Drones in U.S. Airspace? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

File under “OMG! WTF?”

We took our eyes off the BP oil cam just long enough to see this headline : “Feds Under Pressure to Open U.S. Skies to Drones.”

The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to issue flying rights for a range of pilotless planes to carry out civilian and law—enforcement functions but has been hesitant to act. Officials are worried that they might plow into airliners, cargo planes and corporate jets that zoom around at high altitudes, or helicopters and hot air balloons that fly as low as a few hundred feet off the ground.

Really? Something might go wrong?

. . . these pilotless aircraft come in a variety of sizes. Some are as big as a small airliner, others the size of a backpack. The tiniest are small enough to fly through a house window.

Cool. Maybe BP could use drones to shoo away those pesky reporters and photographers cluttering up BP’s beaches and wetlands along the Gulf Coast.

One major concern is the prospect of lost communication between unmanned aircraft and the operators who remotely control them. Another is a lack of firm separation of aircraft at lower altitudes, away from major cities and airports. Planes entering these areas are not required to have collision warning systems or even transponders. Simply being able to see another plane and take action is the chief means of preventing accidents. . . .

The National Transportation Safety Board held a forum in 2008 on safety concerns associated with pilotless aircraft after a Predator crashed in Arizona. The board concluded the ground operator remotely controlling the plane had inadvertently cut off the plane’s fuel. . . .