FAA Faces Multiple Challenges in Drone Regulation

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As drone technology advances, the call for regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) by various parties is becoming more urgent. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been given a deadline of September 2015 to compile rules and protocols to regulate the use of UAVs in American airspace, but recent reports suggest this deadline will not be met as the regulatory body attempts to address all issues related to the use of drones. Drones come in all shapes and sizes, and are designed for a variety of uses, making it impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all set of rules to their use. The FAA anticipates that there will be as many as 7,500 active UAVs in US skies within five year’s time, with tens of billions of dollars being invested in drone technology worldwide.

For the FAA to regulate drones to the extent that aircraft are regulated, they would need to set standards and certification for drone designs and manufacture; mandate and approve technology to avert collisions between UAVs and airplanes; set standards for air-to-ground communication; establish criteria for training drone controllers; and a host of other complex factors.

Many are concerned that unregulated civilian, industry and commercial drones pose serious safety and privacy issues. Currently, commercial use of drones in the US is prohibited by the FAA, but when it comes to hobbyists the rules are not clear. In early July two drones came perilously close to colliding with a New York Police Department helicopter near the George Washington Bridge. The incident took place after midnight and had it had not been for the quick thinking of the helicopter pilot, could have turned out badly. As it was, the pilot followed the drones along the Hudson River to where they landed and NYPD arrested the operators of the drones, charging them with first degree reckless endangerment. Their lawyer compared their actions as being similar to flying a kite, as the UAVs apparently do not have the ability to fly above 300 feet, a claim that onlookers dispute as an unnamed source noted the drones in question can reach heights of 5,000 feet. Nonetheless, the owners of the UAVs appeared unaware of the risks involved in their newfound hobby – and therein lies one of the challenges the FAA will need to consider as they draft regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States.

RQ-4 Global Hawk

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The Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) began operational service in 2000 and remains in service with the United States Air Force. The Global Hawk is a high-altitude aircraft that has been used extensively for acquiring reconnaissance images in the Iraq War. These high-resolution images are received by battlefield commanders in almost real-time. The Global Hawk flies pre-determined flight plans and has the ability to take off, fly, remain on station, and return for landing without any human operators or assistance. Flight plans can also be modified in progress as the mission demands or personnel require.

The Global Hawk’s first trans-oceanic flight to Europe was in April 2000. It was also used that year in operations that included personnel from numerous branches of the military deployed in various environments, including sea, sub-surface, land, and air.

Equipment used by the Global Hawk includes a cloud-penetrating radar operated moving target indicator and infrared sensors that work together to provide near real-time imagery of up to 40,000 nautical square miles. Total mission time is often for a period of 24 hours after which it can be programmed to automatically return to base. Though its fuselage is constructed of aluminum, nearly half of the Global Hawk is built with composite materials including the wings, wing fairings, its three radomes, the engine intake and cover, and the empennage. The composite construction provides extra strength but weighs less than conventional materials. Because of its lighter weight, the aircraft gains fuel efficiency.

Though the Global Hawk has successfully flown hundreds of missions, it continues to undergo testing in advance of future missions. Manufacturing of the UAV is expected to continue through 2015. Eventually, the Global Hawk will be turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) takes possession of the airplanes. NOAA will use the Global Hawk to study Earth’s climate changes.

Speed: 340 kts
Range: 12,000 nm
Ceiling: 65,000′
Length: 44′
Wingspan: 116′
Height: 15′ 2″
Maximum weight: 25,600 pounds
Empty weight: 8,490 pounds
Engine(s): One Rolls Royce Allison Turbofan engine
Cruise speed: 404 mph

AIRTEC 2008 : Showcasing Aviation Innovation

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If you’re looking for the next big aircraft event to be held in Germany, you’ll want to know more about Airtec. This international aerospace supply fair has been running since 2006 and has already enjoyed massive support, with the fair growing steadily in size each year. The 2007 Airtec fair had scarcely ended before plans began for the 2008 show and now its here!

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Solar-Powered Plane Sets New Record

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The new record may be unofficial but it is definitely legitimate: a British-built spy plane has set a new precedent for the longest continuous unmanned flight when it stayed aloft for 82 hours and 37 minutes. In doing so it crushed the old record of 30 hours and 24 minutes. The old record remains the official current world record for unmanned flight and was set by Global Hawk in 2001.

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Odysseus Unmanned Aircraft Revealed by Aurora

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Aurora Flight Sciences recently revealed the details of its new solar-powered airplane at the Boston Museum of Science. Called Odysseus, the radical new aircraft is not only unmanned, but it can stay aloft for up to five years. Aurora has been working in conjunction with its partners Sierra Nevada, Draper Laboratory and BAE Systems.

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