Though steps have been made in that direction recently, the
As has occurred with many deadlines
Many of the technologies necessary to allow drones to safely fly alongside manned, commercial aircraft are still under development, and federal policies to regulate the aircraft and certify pilots have lagged, said engineers familiar with the efforts.
Drones already are flown over
"Although aviation regulations have been developed generically for all aircraft, until recendy these efforts were not done with UAS specifically in mind," the roadmap said. "This presents certain challenges because the underlying assumptions that existed during the previous efforts may not now fully accommodate UAS operations."
Some of the necessary regulatory clarifications are arcane, such as security requirements for certain elements of aircraft. For example, current standards require that an airplane cockpit have certain safety features, the roadmap said. But where is the "cockpit" of an unmanned aircraft?
"This presents a challenge for UAS considering that the cockpit or 'control station' may be located in an office building, in a vehicle or outside with no physical boundaries," the document said.
As of August, the
"Because of many distinct differences between UAS and manned aircraft, there are [also] required technologies that must be matured to enable the safe and seamless integration of UAS in the [National Airspace]," the roadmap said. "Research will be focused in the areas of sense and avoid, control and communications, and human factors."
The first step to surmounting those technological hurdles was taken at the 11th hour of 2013 when the
"From advancing scientific research and responding to natural disasters to locating missing persons and helping to fight wildfires, UAS can save time, save money and, most importantly, save lives," he said in a statement outlining the likely civil and commercial future uses of drones. "In designating the first UAS test sites in these states, the
AUVSI's economic outlook for commercial drone technology projects that their integration into the national airspace will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than
The range of jobs created will include pilots, teachers and instructors, machinists, aircraft mechanics, software developers and electrical engineers, to name only a few.
"In addition to agricultural surveying, exploring areas affected by natural disasters and helping with search-and-rescue efforts, the safe integration of unmanned systems into the national airspace will lead to a wide variety of other commercial applications," Becklund said. "Unmanned aircraft have the potential to be less expensive and more efficient than manned aircraft in many instances."
"Our hope is this will lead to the creation of more sites and eventually to full integration of UAS into our skies, which will help create lasting jobs and boost the U.S. economy,'' he said.
Many technologies, such as sense-andavoid systems, that are necessary for drones to operate safely around structures and other aircraft, are ready to be installed, said
"The systems that are most mature now are used in precision agriculture," Semke said. "Multispectral cameras that gather information on plant health are very mature. But search-and-rescue technologies and sense-and-avoid technologies also are becoming more advanced and more miniaturized every day."
The university has tested several senseand-avoid systems aboard some of its
Similar feats of miniaturization are occurring in nearly all technologies necessary for safe and efficient drone operation, Semke said.
"The biggest challenge is proving these technologies and having them accepted for wide use in aircraft," he said. "Once you develop and prove a technology, you can always find someone who is working on other research that will help miniaturize it. The technologies exist that will allow unmanned systems to sense and avoid other aircraft and trees and everything. They just need to be refined, proven and made small enough."
Manned commercial aircraft already carry many of the technologies that the
"We're not seeing anything in unmanned aircraft that we haven't already been doing in manned aircraft for 30, 40 or 50 years," Corcoran said. "The only difference is that [there is no] human bag of Jell-0 sitting in the cockpit."
Besides sense and avoid, the
"We can safely fly unmanned aircraft now," Corcoran added. "1 understand why it is important to get this stuff right, but we need to get the regulations on the books so we can start using all these technologies."
Those regulations - metrics for UAS control stations, airframes, and control systems and propulsion - should have been in place by the end of 2013, but have not been released by the
The document includes a 2017 deadline for certification of large and high-altitude unmanned aircraft. The full integration envisioned by
Before 2020, the
Integration efforts will focus on sequentially developing and implementing the UAS system requirements established by the
These midterm goals include finalizing policy and safety and technological standards to further ensure safe operation of drones within populated areas and around aircraft that carry passengers. The administration also will seek to address concerns over the implications of drones on privacy, national security and the environment.
In the end, the
Email your comments to DParsons@ndia.org
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