The US Congress has recently approved legislation to allow unmanned aviation vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to have greater freedom over US airspace rather than just along the Mexican border and within restricted airspace. However, both Max Trescott and David Cenciotti have noted on their respective blogs the potential safety nightmare for general aviation pilots when the use of drones becomes more widespread.
Nevertheless, David’s post did a good job of explaining how drones were used both safely and effectively in the recent air operation over Libya. In fact, they operated very much like normal aircraft to the point that their controllers would ask ATC for clearances to change altitude or to cross controlled airspace.
On the other hand, Max noted that so far, there has been at least one mid-air collision involving a drone and a normal aircraft. Specifically and in August 2011 over Afghanistan, a 450-pound UAV hit a C130 cargo plane – causing damage to the aircraft and forcing an emergency landing (the UAV was destroyed).
Moreover, a recent ABC News segment has noted that military drones are already being used by everyone in the US from real estate agents to paparazzi – leading to both safety and privacy concerns:
Apparently though, most other countries still limit the use of UAVs in their airspace with the UK providing a small area over the Irish Sea for the training of UK personnel on WatchKeeper and other systems.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what specific rules the FAA comes up with for UAVs and just what ordinary people end up using (or abusing)them for.