Thousands of pages of FAA experimental drone flight records that were obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting(CIR) detail just how complicated it would be to operate thousands of unmanned arial vehicles safely without spending billions of dollars.Recently released FAA documents have raised yet more questions surrounding the opening up of US skies to unmanned surveillance drones.
The documents, received by CIR through the Freedom of Information Act, discuss at length the fact that drones do not have sophisticated collision-avoidance systems and pose more of a threat to other aircraft because their pilots are on the ground with limited visual contact.
Experienced California mechanic and pilot Mel Beckman, tells CIR that drone aircraft are problematic because pilots are required to “see and avoid,” – in other words, literally keep an eye out for other aircraft.
“There’s no way for a drone pilot to do that,” Beckman said. “He’s on the ground, and he’s looking through a small aperture. Yes, the camera can swivel a little bit, but it’s nothing like the panoramic view the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) envisioned when they expected pilots to maintain their own visual surveillance.”
“There’s a big disconnect between ground pilots and the aircraft they’re flying,” pilot Beckman said. “The regulations currently don’t accommodate that.”
The FAA documents estimate that an outlay of $2 billion is needed in order to begin development of a satisfactory safety program for drones. In a document dated 2008, the Government Accountability Office estimated that such a program would not be ready before 2020.
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