30,000 drones by 2020

“Integrating drones with existing aviation,” tops the list of concerns and analysis in a National Center for Policy Analysis report released in March.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 calls for “full integration” of civilians drones by September 2015. Additionally, the act anticipates “30,000 drones operating by 2020.”

The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) industry is forecast to expand from $5.9 billion in 2012 to $11.3 billion in 2021. A 2012 UAS competition hosted by DARPA produced more than 140 teams and 3,500 people from 153 countries.

The report also raised the concern of “Potential for Abuse.” Specifically, “The array of drone capabilities creates considerable concern that unmanned technology might be used to circumvent Americans’ constitutional protections,” and concerns of infringing Fourth Amendment rights.

There can be little doubt that UAVs are coming to U.S. airspace in significant numbers. The best we pilots can do is stay informed and engaged in the process.

The report concludes, “With substantial economic growth at stake, proper safeguards must be established to provide protection from overzealous government.”

Stay tuned…

Comments

  1. Richard Baker says

    30,000 drones just to observe crops and gather population data in the US? Obviously, we’ve become immune to government intrusion in our lives. Does anyone honestly believe that these aircraft won’t be used to keep tabs on our movements beyond benign uses?

  2. unclelar says

    The numbers seem large until you start thinking about all of the pilots and aircraft flying thirty or more years ago. One big question I have is where will the drones launch and recover from? That’s probably where the real danger is. It’s one thing to fly one straight and level on a course line where you can see what’s out in front of you and another whole different thing in a pattern of some sort for landing. I would think that they wouldn’t be allowed to enter traffic patterns at our typical airports but who knows? I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows what the plan is for launch and landing these #@&^ things.

  3. Greg w says

    This will of course happen, but how are the UAS to “see and avoid”? If the answer is the ADS-B system and TCAS what about the non-electric airplanes? Will the exemption from ADS-B for aircraft certified without electric systems be eliminated, requiring us to spend 15+ thousand dollars on radio gear for our $15,000 airplanes? Of course if part of the goal is to eliminate private aircraft this should work out great.

  4. Steve Mann says

    People with knee-jerk distrust of drones are remarkably poorly informed. (But then, people who get all their news from the fake news network *are* poorly informed).

    Drones will be used to monitor crops, wildlife, river levels and flooding and many more applications where the cost of a helicopter is prohibitive. I have discussed design ideas with a shellfish farmer who wants to fly a drone over his fields as opposed to spending hours in a boat to visually inspect his crop. UAV’s will be essential tools in search and rescue missions, and yes, many will have a camera on board. And WOW! your police department would like to replace a million-dollar helicopter that cost $1,000 per hour to fly with a $20,000 drone that costs at most, $100 per hour to fly. As a taxpayer, what is wrong with that?

    I fly a hexacopter with a GPS guided autopilot that can carry up to three pounds of camera gear. My hex is pretty typical of the small UAV aircraft. It has a six to ten minute endurance before the batteries are dangerously low. If I can hold it within a cubic meter loiter, it’s performing quite well. A three-meter “box” is more normal. I couldn’t hover outside a window if I wanted to.

    The fake news network exists to spread fear, not facts. Privacy concerns are the biggest joke. THERE ARE ALREADY EXISTING LAWS AGAINST INVASION OF PRIVACY!!!! Just because the camera is on a drone and not at the end of a broomstick or attached to a kite – no new privacy laws need be enacted. (And it is clearly out of the scope of the FAA mission to promote aviation safety). And, Linda, “.. spying on the American People” from 12,000 feet? Really? Can you even SEE people from 12,000 ft?

    The low-cost UAV’s similar to my hex will be used in a lot of applications that never go above 400 ft. Heck, at 400 ft you need the eyesight of an eagle to see my aircraft. In my opinion, UAV flight below 400 ft should not be candidates for regulation because the opportunity of encountering another aircraft at that low altitude is nearly impossible. Except for takeoff and landing, no fixed wing piloted aircraft should be below 500 ft anyway, and helicopters that low are a bit noisy and hard to not see (and avoid). I predict that the rules for integrating UAV’s into the NAS will be, at the minimum, the pilots will hold a commercial certificate, and the aircraft will be type-certified; probably requiring ADS-out and an encoding transponder. Contact with ATC will probably be required. That would be no problem with “heavy” UAV’s similar to the civil version of the Predator that will fly higher and farther than the light UAV (like the ones I fly). The heavies can carry the payload of the avionics to make it visible to ATC and other aircraft.

    Here’s a bold prediction. Within ten years Fed Ex or UPS will be flying unmanned 747’s. Even today flying a 747 is easier than a Cessna in the pattern. You just program the flight computer and point the nose down the runway.

    “..spying on the American People” from 12,000 feet? Really?

  5. says

    At a minimum, UAV’s should adhere the the minimums defined by FAR 91.119. Paragraph d should not apply to unmanned helicopters, lest they be hovering outside second floor windows.

  6. Gary says

    Aside from UAV’s “Potential for Abuse” and infringing on our Fourth Amendment rights, it should be of much greater concern to pilots that the FAA will impose airspace restrictions on General Aviation for operations in areas that UAV’s are operating similar to TFRs. The FAA seams to be popping up more and more TFR’s at the drop of a hat.

  7. says

    The problem includes ignorance on the part of safety for a congress assigned to protect our constitutional protections, and dismissiveness toward our constitutional protections on the part of those in public safety assigned to keep us physically safe. Clearly, 30,000 arm-chair air vehicle jockeys, most with fields of view that look like seeing through straws, and many separate non-integrated means of communication is asking for safety problems. This is dangerous for the flying public and those unfortunate enough to be in the debris fields on the ground.

    Simply assigning a deadline for a safe solution does in no way mean that a safe solution is to be had to meet the deadline. There are many people involved with woefully distorted perceptions of how nature works, and what it takes to have a safe system within it.

  8. Rick says

    Why must we assume the only purpose for UAVs is to spy on us or shhot us. Google Earth is currenly looking in your back yard more than any UAV and posting what they find online. Additionaly after taking a very clear picture of your property from the air (space) they get a detailed shot from street side.
    There will be many positive uses for UAVs that will save lives, reduce risks, aid in agriculture, protect forests, aid in rescue, assess quality of infrastructure etc. The rules to operate in the NAS will be equal to or more stringent than existing FAA Regulations.
    The sky is not falling and we can all remove our tinfoil hats.

  9. Linda S. Berl says

    There is no good that will come with mixing drones with the rest of aviation. It terrifies me to think that these “arm-chair” pilot controlled drones will be flying in the same air space as me. I just know I will be the first to hit one!
    And just why is it that the government needs to spy on the American people anyway? They already have multiple private companies using GA airplanes circling around larger cities at 12,000 video taping us. This is approaching the ridiculous.

    • says

      Linda, I can see you concerns but stop for a moment and think…Why would you think the government needs drones to spy on you? Satellites are capable of reading the date on a quarter from orbit, nearly every street corner has a camera as does nearly every public building etc. Privacy? That was gone some time ago as there’s so many venues where you’re always being photographed or on video now.

      Another consideration is the positive uses for “drones” also known as unmanned vehicles. If you believe that untrained rogue armchair pilots are going to be pilot the vehicles, well, that speaks also to your naivety. Several organizations have been working diligently for years to develop standards, policies and procedures for unmanned vehicles flying into the airspace as well as addressing privacy concerns. Unfortunately when most people think of “drones” they think of a vehicle like the Preditor. Most of the vehicles flying will never interfere with you, unless your flying fifty feet above a home or farm field or near a forest fire. There are many, many positive uses for unmanned vehicles that you and many others are not considering. Calm down and carry on…you will be just fine and still be able to fly with confidence in the airspace.

      • says

        THE FOLLOWING COMMENT WAS MODIFIED AND RE-POSTED DUE TO ERROR IN PREVIOUS WEBSITE LISTING:

        Linda, I can see you concerns but stop for a moment and think…Why would you think the government needs drones to spy on you? Satellites are capable of reading the date on a quarter from orbit, nearly every street corner has a camera as does nearly every public building etc. Privacy? That was gone some time ago as there’s so many venues where you’re always being photographed or on video now.

        Another consideration is the positive uses for “drones” also known as unmanned vehicles. If you believe that untrained rogue armchair pilots are going to be pilot the vehicles, well, that speaks also to your naivety. Several organizations have been working diligently for years to develop standards, policies and procedures for unmanned vehicles flying into the airspace as well as addressing privacy concerns. Unfortunately when most people think of “drones” they think of a vehicle like the Preditor. Most of the vehicles flying will never interfere with you, unless your flying fifty feet above a home or farm field or near a forest fire. There are many, many positive uses for unmanned vehicles that you and many others are not considering.
        FYI, I too am a pilot with over 17, 000 hours, four type ratings, a CFI/CFII/MEI and a certificate in Aviation Safety and Security from USC. I’ve also been involved in in various other capacities in aviation safety for over 12 years. Calm down and carry on…you will be just fine and still be able to fly with confidence in the airspace.

    • says

      Linda, you make a few incorrect assumptions. First, the majority of these drones will not be controlled by “arm-chair” pilots as you put it, they will be autonomous, which one could argue makes it worse. Secondly, the drones are not merely for the government to spy on the people, though I’m quite sure much of that will be done. They will also be used for but not limited too, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and mapping (think Google Earth or Bing maps), which happens to be my industry. So as an aerial mapping pilot, when it comes to mixing drones with manned aircraft, I am both intrigued and dreading it at the same time. The potential for good is as great as the potential for bad. Only time will tell how it pans out, but I foresee them eventually being integrated into the ADSB system.

      • says

        Because there has already been at least one near miss reported by the crew of an Italian air liner coming into New York and a drone with 4 small engines, it is logical to conclude more will occur. This is the existence theorem.
        Because some of the drones actually are Preditors, it is natural to be concerned with Preditor-sized drones. This, again, is the existence theorem. The safety record of this type of drone (in terms of crashes per 1000 hours flown) has been abysmal, when compared to other things such as GA, even in the calm airspace of the USA.
        A Texas University study showed that at least some existing drones can be hacked, and flown by those not designated to control them.
        Because our nation has functioned without drones, they should be considered a luxury for some entities, and not a necessity.
        Many drones are noisy, and when they are snooping around to see if you have improved your home in a manner that can be taxed, or checking everything from real-estate to oyster beds, they will be annoying and obtrusive to people, and disturbing to wildlife.
        Lastly, because smart people are working on the (possibly extraconstitutional) problem and have been given a timeline for a safe solution, there is no reason at this point to think such an answer is anywhere close in reality.
        Some drones are planned to be autonomous. There isn’t such thing as an autonomous logic system that can’t fail in an unforeseen way. What can happen after such a failure depends on the nature of the failure, meaning that can’t be foreseen either.
        If there are tens of thousands of drones in the sky, there is an open opportunity for all kinds of snooping and worse with plausible deniability, for having so many makes individuals more difficult to track and prove.
        A small drone ingested into an engine can lead to fatal consequences, as can a mid-air with a larger drone.

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