AVmail: September 30, 2010

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Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

UAVs (Pro) ...

You know, I don't see where the problem is. It isn't like a UAV is not in control by someone. Just make it mandatory that they fly on an IFR flight plan and let them go.

As long as the operator is in contact with ATC (just like an onboard pilot is), it should be fine. I'm O.K. with sharing airspace with them when I'm VFR. Most of the time I'm getting advisories anyway, and how many times, even when getting advisories, do you not even see the other aircraft before it's not a conflict?

The UAVs ought to be restricted from busy air space, but, other than that, let them fly. I'm more concerned with what they are doing while flying in domestic airspace and object to their operations based on civil liberties [rather] than whether they will be a flight hazard. But for training missions, I say let them fly.

Gary Caron

... And UAVs (Con)

The Air Force has plenty of training areas and doesn't need more in North Dakota. Predators should be deployed in active war zones, and training can be accomplished near those areas. There's nothing more realistic than learning to fly UAVs in the mountains of Afghanistan, rather than the fields of North Dakota.

Besides, Customs and Border Protection is responsible for border protection, not the Air Force, so let's not use that ploy. Using all these high-tech toys in the U.S. has done nothing other than to bankrupt the taxpayers. We already know how to secure the borders, but it's dirty and dangerous and not nearly as glamorous as cool UAVs prowling the skies.

Glenn Juber

UAV flights should be standard IFR flights and would mix perfectly in all airspace. Comm between the ATC controllers and the UAV controller should be all that is required.

C. J. Stephens

UAVs present a level of risk which is acceptable in a military theatre of operations but not in civilian airspace outside of a state of emergency. Future advances may change this, but, for now, they do not belong in general airspace.

Mark Consigny

When a UAV has the same see-and-avoid ability as manned military aircraft, then they should be allowed to fly restricted to MOAs, with the same altitude restrictions, and with the same requirements for NOTAMS, etc.

Tom Mitchell

The military has loads of special use airspace in existing restricted areas (not to mention MOAs) in which to train UAV operators. There's a technical term for plunking six boxes of Predators down in North Dakota and whining that FAA foot-dragging impedes training by not affording yet more special use airspace for it: Airspace grab. I'm open to sharing civilian airspace with military UAV's, but only after all the kinks have been worked out of the concept ... in special use airspace they already own and with the traffic they already control in it: Their own.

Eric Coleson

In the bazillion cubic miles of our airspace that are already Restricted or Prohibited from general aviation operations, the Air Force can't find a 35x45x4-mile sandbox to play in?

I'm with the FAA on this one. Until they can prove that they can play nice with all GA operations (including ballooning and skydiving) they should not be allowed in MOAs, much less given a chunk of our ever-dwindling airspace, even in North Dakota.

I say, let them prove that they can safely mix it up with other military ops in the huge restricted areas of Nevada, Utah, or Texas before we ever consider unleashing them on general aviation.

Frankly, the idea of sensor-laden UAVs flying over the U.S. seems Huxlean to me. It certainly doesn't make me feel safer.

Chip Davis

I understand the need to train UAV pilots and that that involves flying UAVs in US Airspace. But we've lost sight of the fact that UAVs are intended to take the pilot out of harm's way.

Why, then, does CBP need to operate UAVs along the U.S./Mexico border (among other places)? Is the U.S./Mexico border so dangerous that a manned aircraft is unacceptable?

It seems to me that a Cessna 206, equipped with remotely controlled sensors and operated by a single pilot, would be just as effective and would be a lot safer.

Alas, UAVs are just cooler, I guess.

Rob Montgomery

UAVs are coming whether we like it or not. We might as well get on with it.

Charles Martel

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