EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — While the number of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also known as drones or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), is rising rapidly, their entrance into the national airspace system cannot come to the detriment of manned aircraft operations, say officials with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
EAA made that point as part of its official comments to a proposal by the U.S. Department of Transportation and FAA that would require registration of RPAs, including those used for recreation or hobby purposes. The comment period is part of a fast-track effort by the government to finalize registration procedures by the end of the year.
“EAA remains committed to the safety of manned aircraft operations as regulations catch up to the fast-growing demand for drone activities,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “No new airspace restrictions should be forced on manned operations because of drone flights, and right-of-way and priority should always be given to manned aircraft operations. In addition, aircraft owners and pilots should not have to be required to install new equipment to track and ‘see’ drones beyond that already required by FAA regulations.”
Along with an established hierarchy of manned air operations over RPA uses, EAA sees potential for education within the RPA community in keeping with the organization’s “education is more effective than regulation” philosophy.
EAA was one of the inaugural aviation organizations to join with the “Know Before You Fly” education campaign that promoted safety education and accountability among RPA users. This education program helps awareness of the potential risks in RPA operations and how to avoid possible tragedies endangering human life involving drones and manned aircraft.
“We recognize the possibilities for some UAS operations, but it must not come at the cost of additional restrictions on recreational aviation, which operate from ground level to tens of thousands of feet above the surface,” Elliott said.
EAA has welcomed drone operators as part of activities at its annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in each summer as another gateway to the world of flight.
Although EAA was not invited to participate in the task force of industry stakeholders helping to shape the coming drone registration process, the organization will continue to closely watch the recommendations and voice support for its members and flight safety, officials noted.