FAA Punishes RC Models for UAV Precedent
The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has struggled in recent years with the question of what to do about regulating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in US airspace. With its counterparts in other developed regions watching intently, the FAA has now apparently indicated that it will mostly just sayno. That indication is seen in the fact that the FAA plans to add restrictions to the very similar Radio Controlled (RC) aircraft that have flown safely for many decades. Those new restrictions will eliminate the argument that Micro UAVs should be able to fly as freely as the RC aircraft do now. A recent Wall Street Journal article titled: “Earthbound Jet Jockeys Caught in Dogfight With FAA“ noted that the airspace regulatory agency proposed to: “… prohibit jet propulsion, set a 100 mph speed limit, maximum altitude of 400 feet and top weight of 55 pounds.” A little recent history explains why: NATO’s Near East activities are winding down and, along with it, so are orders for new UAVs. This chart shows current UAV budget projections for the main American military services. DoD Acquisition Plus R&D spending by [$Million] – 2009-2015 DOD Spending UAV manufactures want to preserve their profits by selling civilian Predators, Reapers, Scan Eagles, Ravens, etc. for use over the United States but must get FAA permission. They’re getting nowhere. FAA staffers insist that drones fly to the manned aircraft ‘see and avoid’ level of safety, a deceptively logical argument given that UAVs in combat are already as safe as the piloted Cessnas and Mooneys flying over the US. But drones can’t ‘see’ anything and so are excluded, despite their proven safety record. In fact, unmanned aircraft airshows are far safer than manned aircraft airshows. But those manufacturers are kidding themselves if they think that the FAA will integrate UAVs into American national airspace anytime soon. The Market Intel Group (MiG) forecasts that those familiar, large UAVs will not sell successfully for civilian uses in any case. There’s simply no robust market for their $2,000 – $9,000 per flight hour capabilities. The Micro UAVs that are similar to RC aircraft are another story in that there are several profitable niches for them. They’re also so small as to be no more of a hazard to manned aircraft than are birds today. That means Micro UAVs could operate profitably and safely – setting a precedent that would increase pressure to allow other UAVs. The FAA, so far, will not tolerate that precedent and so will ban existing RC aircraft rather than allow their UAV cousins to fly. Those conclusions are part of MiG’s “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Commercial Applications Global Market & Technologies Outlook – 2011-2016“. That research report includes an historical example of FAA resistance when anti-collision electronics were first developed in the 1970s. It took an act of the American Congress to force the FAA to move from endless study to requiring the safety improvement, which is partially responsible for today’s excellent airline safety record. Such political intervention is likely required for UAVs now but will be much more difficult. UAVs do not benefit from airline crash carnage shown on the nightly news – politicians simply will not care enough to intervene. The new report includes analysis and forecasts covering three different possible scenarios: No Commercial Access to Developed Airspace Restricted Access to Developed Airspace Full Access to Developed Airspace The report identifies, analyzes and forecasts these topics, among others: Commercialization Drivers and Inhibitors Competing Technologies Suggested Operating Concepts Market Forecasts by Market Sector Market Forecasts by Technology Market Forecasts by Region Potential Markets Beyond this Forecast’s Period How to Sell Commercial Applications UAVs To learn more about commercial opportunities for UAVs, please visit: “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Commercial Applications Global Market & Technologies Outlook – 2011-2016“.