Un-manned Aircraft vs. The Rest of Us – Another UAV Bites the Dust…

PAUL’s first rant…

It’s only a matter of time… before one of these UAV’s comes into contact with another airplane.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big of a “technologist” as anyone, but the level of technology required to keep these things separated from “the rest of us” is NOT THERE YET!  Most of the UAV’s of the world are piloted by a guy in a mountain cave in Colorada in front of a computer screen with a joystick.  Some, are flown locally from an inconspicuous trailer in the Walmart parking lot, but they all require a radio signal to the UAV via a satellite data link… that is where the problem starts!  The system latency of a long distance, point to point satellite signal can be several seconds AT BEST… imagine a 400 MPH vehicle being controlled by someone who only knows where it was 3 or 4 seconds ago.

Skin in the game…  When we are flying the RV-9A around, we are always looking for other planes, even if we are on an instrument flight plan.  The most basic rule of flying is “see and avoid”… I don’t think this can be done as effectively from a cushy seat in the Colorado “bat cave”… what does he have to lose?   If the drone, Captain America is “flying”, “scrapes paint” with my little plane or God forbid a 737 with 184 souls on board, he goes home a little upset and the rest of us get shipped back in a pine box!

LANDED – WTF???…  Details of todays incident in Maryland can be found at this link on USA Today.  You gotta love the mainstream media’s view of what happened.  Look about 2/3 of the way down and see the quote “CNN says the drone landed in a marshy area near Salisbury Md.”…. LANDED!!!, I was always taught that a great landing was one you could walk away from  and a good landing was one that you could still fly the plane after.  Apparently, CNN thinks that any drone in a SMOKING HOLE has landed!

Time and a Place… Don’t get me wrong – I think these things have a place “in theater” during war time and “off shore” for for testing.  But, PLEASE don’t put me face-to-face with this 176 Million dollar RC plane operated by Captain America until his seat is rigged with a little C-4 plastic explosive that is set to go off when we make contact!

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Posted on June 11, 2012, in Airplanes, Aviation, Rants and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. While reading this, Fox promo for the story said crashed. Of course, they are trying to get us to watch. CNN is covering for someone. Gotta love the media!

  2. There’s two sides to sense and avoid and UAS v manned aircraft near misses so far have been because the MANNED aircraft has deviated from where is was meant/told to be. Anyone that can’t see something the size of Pred/Reaper/Global Hawk/BAMS under VFR probably should be up there and at night they are just another set lights and strobes – unless you are some place you are probably not meant to be…

    So far as lost link goes, it’s not like a productionalised UAS just goes into either ballistic or autonomous killer robot drone mode when the link is lost – the are a range of hard-wired action on modes that kick in. There is greater risk to general aviation from those member of the RC community operating large aircraft without the robust oversight of the UAS community.

    The greater risk to all airspace operators from UAS is not at the larger level but at the mini/micro level where the popular perception is that they don’t need to be taken seriously because they look like something that you could buy from Toys’R’Us – right up to the point where its battery comes through your windscreen or down your intake at your velocity…

    • SJPONeill, Thanks for the comment… I do agree that the threat from UAV’s in their current airspace restrictions is minimal, but the wave of requests for expanding that airspace by government & industry is cause for alarm to GA. As far as the threat from RC aircraft goes, if they follow the rules (no comment) and I stay above 500 feet AGL we should not have any issues…

      • I think that a lot of the wannabe commercial operators had a bit of an ‘oh crap’ experience a few months ago when it looked like the broadening of UAS use in normal airspace was going to occur and all of a sudden people started to realise the scope of the responsibility involved in commencing large scale (in terms of platform size, numbers and geographic scope) and got cold feet. While it is technically possibly for the current generation of airliners to essentially transit autonomously (including take off and landing) from Point A to Point B, there are still good reasons for retaining the two to three seats at the pointy end…as they say, an airline pilot is paid to do nothing UNTIL they have to do something (did someone say Sully and Hudson River?). I think that a lot of the responsible operators have put the idea on hold til the technology is more mature and the responsibility/liability reduced. In the meantime, we just have to keep the cowboys out of the game…

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