NTSB To Hold Safety Forum About Unmanned Aircraft

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The growing use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System is raising a number of safety concerns, and the NTSB said this week it will address them all in a three-day forum, April 29 to May 1, in Washington, D.C. The forum will provide an opportunity for the board and interested parties to discuss issues such as regulatory standards, perspectives of current UAS operators, certification and airworthiness, perspectives of current users of the National Airspace System (that would be all of us), and future UAS applications. The forum is a result of the safety board's investigation into the crash of a Predator B unmanned aircraft near Nogales, Ariz., in April 2006. "The Nogales accident surfaced a number of important questions that need to be addressed if UAS's are to operate safely in the National Air Space," said board member Kitty Higgins, who will chair the forum. The board's investigation of the Nogales accident resulted in 22 safety recommendations to address deficiencies associated with the civilian use of unmanned aircraft. "We are very interested in the military's experience with UAS's, training of pilots, maintenance of the aircraft, communication with Air Traffic Control and oversight of UAS operations by public-use agencies and other operators," Higgins said.

The forum will include representatives from the military, industry, the FAA, and government agencies involved in UAS operations. Interested members of the aviation community and general public are encouraged to attend. A forum agenda will be announced in mid-April. Representatives from the UAS industry also are invited to set up display booths and unmanned aircraft vehicle scale models that demonstrate unmanned aircraft systems and technologies. A live and archived webcast of the forum will be available on the board's Web site.