Pilots: Drones pose major safety threat in civilian air space

Allowing widespread operation of drones in the United States amounts to a recipe for disaster, military and private pilots told the Federal Aviation Administration, which has cleared some 60 organizations to operate the remotely piloted planes and plans to set up six test ranges for unmanned aircraft systems this summer.
David Bourdon, a pilot who said he has flown surveillance missions in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003, said he has had five “near misses” with drones. Based on that experience, he opposes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States, except in restricted airspace or along the U.S. border in designated corridors.

FAA established a rule-making process in March for developing the six test sites required in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act prior to integration of drone flights into the national airspace system in 2015. Bourdon, in his comments to FAA, highlighted several key problems, particularly the fact that drone pilots operating from a remote location have limited vision.

Bourdon, who did not disclose his military affiliation in the filing, said, “the operators of these aircraft are looking through a soda straw” and “when a UAV loses its data link with its operator, they tend to change altitude on their own and violate other manned aircrafts’ airspace.”

Stefan Werner, who has flown as a spotter and chase pilot on Predator UAV test flights in Southern California around Edwards Air Force Base, said the focus of cameras mounted on drones makes it difficult for operators to adhere to an essential component of flight safety — the see-and-avoid rule.

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Source: nextgov.com

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