FAA Adminstrator: UASs Not Ready for Prime Airspace

Randy Babbitt is concerned for his job, should unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) expand their horizons within U.S. civilian airspace. Referring to the August collision over the Hudson River, he told a gathering of the Aerospace Industries Association last week in Phoenix, "Can you even imagine if one of those aircraft had been an unmanned system? With the headline: 'Unmanned robot plane crash kills nine.' How do you think the Congress would react to that headline — after they confirmed my replacement?" Babbitt went on to acknowledge that UASs are the way of the future, but they are not yet sophisticated enough to navigate safely in visual airspace. UAS flights have tripled since 2007, with 20,000 flights totaling 2,500 hours this year, according to Babbitt. Those flights were conducted in restricted airspace or with highly restricted limitations related to line-of-sight contact at low altitudes. But Babbitt said he just can't allow further inroads into regular airspace. He said, "Right now, the era of the unmanned aircraft system in civilian airspace is just not here yet."

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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