Military, FAA Disagree On Airspace For UAVs

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The U.S. Air Force said this week it has unmanned aerial vehicles ready to deploy in North Dakota, but is being held back by the FAA's reluctance to open airspace access for the aircraft. The military has asked for an area 35 miles wide by 45 miles long to be designated for UAV training. "We have six ... Predators in the state right now in boxes, waiting to be opened up and put into the sky," Brigadier General Leon Rice said at a hearing on Monday, according to Minnesota Public Radio. "Our limiting factor now is the training airspace for the crews." Hank Krakowski, chief operating officer for the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, said the airspace accommodation must be done "deliberatively." The agency is concerned about allowing the unmanned aircraft to use the same airspace as civilian aircraft, he said. "These are unusual vehicles to enter in to the national airspace system; they were designed for typically the war theater," Krakowski said.

The Air Force has proposed a three-layer restricted area for UAV operations in North Dakota. The bottom layer would be from 6,000 to 10,000 feet MSL, a second layer to 14,000 feet, and a third layer to 18,000. When one section was being used by a UAV, civilian aircraft could still freely use the other two levels. Several transit areas are also included in the proposal.

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