Safety for manned aircraft, not commercial expediency, must be the priority for FAA officials as they consider an application for exemptions from Amazon regarding package deliveries by unmanned aerial systems (UAS), according to officials with the Experimental Aircraft Association.
EAA made these points, and more, in formal comments in response to Amazon’s petition that requested relief from certain rules to conduct deliveries by UAS, commonly known as drones. The exemption would allow Amazon additional freedom to operate below 400′ above ground level (AGL) without the line-of-sight observation requirements for drone operations.
“There is an asymmetrical challenge to safety as UAS flights are integrated into the national airspace, as the priority must be preventing hazards to people in the event of a collision over threats to unmanned machinery,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “EAA is not opposed to integrating unmanned systems into the airspace, as long as they observe appropriate safety protocols and do not lead to additional regulations and mandated equipment for manned aircraft. In addition, manned aircraft must have the right-of-way in all circumstances.”
In addition to reaffirming EAA’s long-standing position on UAS integration, the association’s comments give specific examples of various types of flying that takes place on a regular basis below 400′ AGL, where Amazon intends to operate. Those operations include ultralight vehicles, private airports and helipads, emergency medical flight operations, backcountry flying, seaplanes, and flights over open water or sparsely populated areas.
“This affirms the need for extremely reliable sense-and-avoid technology aboard unmanned systems that can detect any and all manned aircraft,” EAA officials said.
“While we are pleased that Amazon stated in its petition that it must demonstrate an equivalent level of safety to ‘see-and-avoid’ principles of manned aircraft, we urge the FAA review and confirm Amazon’s risk assumptions are accurate and its redundancy procedures are as vigorous as those for manned aircraft,” Elliott said. “It is the responsibility of every entity using the airspace to maintain the equivalent safety standards as we explore the opportunities and benefits of this new technology. The stakes are too high for any alternative to be acceptable.”
Werner von Stein says
History tells us that when money is exchanged the risk go up….. and the safety out of the window. The FAA as well as any other government who is in charge of the airspace will tell you that. Safety in the air means safety on the ground. That does not mean it is not possible to fly a sUAS safely in the air. All it means that there have to be safety protocols in place. As well as commonsense, there is no need to deliver you a new iPhone case or pizza in minutes to you….. Can it be done of course, but really how lazy are we :-). While the transport of medical cargo like blood, organs …. would help here, it is and will be safer and maybe quicker than a helicopter. Frankly let Amazon or others deliver stuff….. but who picks up the tab when a little kid or dog or something else get hit…… The FAA of course and not Amazon or the other delivery company’s as the FAA approved the flight…… via UTM or what ever the flight management software will be called down the road. This is after all America it is always someone elses fault never yourself in this case Amazon or the delivery company. Or the RPIC who programmed the flight…………
Again can it be done of course, but can it be done safely once, twice, three times…….. or more?
Have you looked into a Amazon truck lately, what sizes of boxes they are using? That means they would have to small or larger sUAS to deliver this stuff. The person who packs the sUAS Amazon cargo box would have to ensure that the item(s) will not sift inside the cargo box…… otherwise the CG can shift….. Hm It is may understanding that a current Amazon employee has 10 to 20 sec to pack a box otherwise he or she can not meet the demand….. that would increase the price for shipping items.
So really the bug is in the detail, and from a current business sense it does not make sense for normal drone delivery
The FAA is to blame.
Anthony Byrnes says
I strongly agree with the EAA’s position. Congress seems to have lost its collective ability to reason the consequences of UAS systems flying in the National Airspace System with manned aircraft. If a flock of geese can bring down an airliner with bones, flesh and feathers, by damaging the engines, what reasonable person would believe that a metal and plastic UAV could not. I have been a professional fixed-wing and rotor-wing pilot for 37 years. A small UAV would certainly penetrate the windshield of a light aircraft or helicopter in a mid-air collision. Worse yet, the coming together of a small UAV and a tail-rotor would be catastrophic because the tail-rotor would depart the aircraft and take the gear-box with it. This changes the CG so that the helicopter is uncontrollable. As these companies race to field these larger UAS , I find that the FAA is not keeping its eye on the equivalent level of safety ball. This may be due to Congressional interference and it’s incumbent on the aviation industry and individual pilots to provide the oversight.
Miami Mike says
Amazon couldn’t care less about aviation safety. All they are interested in is fast delivery, nothing else matters. There are news articles about Amazon drivers getting into accidents, being advised NOT to wear their seatbelts so they can get in and out of the vans faster, working long long days under tremendous pressure, having to pee into bottles to save a few precious seconds on behalf of their Amazon overlords.
Amazon has so far successfully avoided ALL liability by claiming the deliveries are being made by subcontractors, so go sue the subs (and the subs are usually flat broke anyway).
Do you want these clowns in our airspace? I sure don’t.