Airline Pilots Assured of Safe Introduction of UAS

Industry and government executives involved in the development and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) offered airline pilots assurances that air vehicles piloted from the ground will be introduced safely and incrementally to the U.S. national airspace system (NAS). “We’re doing this in an organized and structured fashion,” said Richard Prosek, manager of flight technologies and procedures in the FAA’s UASIntegration Office.

Prosek served on a panel that focused on the impending arrival of unmanned aircraft in the NAS at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Air Safety Forum in Washington, D.C., on August 9. The discussion came as theFAA nears a decision on the locations of six test ranges for UASs as required by congressional legislation. The agency also expects to issue a proposed rule on operating small UASs of about 55 pounds or less by year-end. UASs currently can fly only in segregated airspace or with a certificate of authorization or special airworthiness certificate from the FAA.

In addition to requiring the establishment of six test ranges, the FAA reauthorization bill signed into law in February sets a deadline for the integration of unmanned aircraft in the NAS “as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.” Prosek sought to clarify the bill language, which he said the media often misrepresents. “The language does not say full integration of UASs into the NAS by that date. It says safe integration,” he said.