UAV/UAS operations in NAS

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Richard, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. Richard

    Richard Final Approach

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    Most pilots are aware of the growing participation of unmanned aerial vehicles/systems in the National Airspace System. Following is something I found in, of all places, the minutes of the 2009 HSAC (Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference) meeting.

    Certificate of Authorization (COA) for Nicholls State University to map barrier islands
    • UAS to map barrier islands
    • UAS small aircraft with 6-foot wing span
    • Operator and observer present on site
    • Operations within a mile of barrier island and altitude to be determined
    • Some may be equipped with a transponder
    • Proposed date to issue COA is March 5, 2009

    Of special consideration to me, these small UAVs may not be equipped with a transponder. It is unclear if they would have a chase plane and observer. (What constitutes "on site" in reference to operator and observer?)

    Further along in the minutes, Martha Woods/Lockheed Martin makes two suggestions.

    • Suggest development offshore PIREP reporting systems using the seven ADS-B frequencies incorporated with the offshore AWOS station.
    • COA for UAS operations should require notification to FSS when active. Provide FSS with email addresses to discriminate NOTAMs. Best to have one central source for operators who would then distribute to Gulf Coast operators.

    While these two comments are worthy, my experience has repeatedly shown that dessimination through FSS has not been timely, or has been in error. Also, based on the 2nd suggestion, should a pilot conclude that the FSS be the source for real time information in lieu of transponder information coded to ATC? Afterall, it had been previous mentioned that a UAV may not be equipped with a transponder.

    While the comments are directed at operations over the barrier islands of the Gulf of Mexico, I foresee such operations being conducted in any area as determined by federal agencies. In other words, they are coming to a town near you. It's only a question of when.

    http://www.hsac.org/Minutes/Minutes011509.htm
     
  2. Richard

    Richard Final Approach

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    I see I did not address the NOTAM system. While that is a good source for dessimination of information, it too is fraught with errors. I've had several run-ins with erroneous NOTAMs (either time of use, altitudes, or long/lat coordinates in error).

    Basically, I don't understand how either the FSS or NOTAMs can be used as equivalent substitutions for ATC services as it pertains to UAV operations.
     
  3. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ En-Route

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    These are small UAS/UAV operations.
    I would not expect to see a chase plane.
    The "observer" means someone standing next to the "operator/pilot" looking for full scale aircraft and alerts the operator.

    I agree that the NOTAM system is full of errors. It is only as good as the person who submits it and then abides by what is submitted.

    Plan a low altitude 10K MSL flight from LAS to PMD and look at all the UAS NOTAMS that pop up. Most are at about 1500AGL and below.
     
  4. Richard

    Richard Final Approach

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    Thanks for replying. Birds are small too but look at all the damage they cause.

    UAVs have a narrow field of vision. I think as low as 10 degrees per side. Does the "observer" have his own viewing device to scan the skies?

    I have flown that route several times from Vegas and many more times from other airports. The NOTAM UAV boxes are smack dab between the R-airspace and the big rocks. (A favorite VFR flyway.) You said 1500AGL but they do extend to 13 thousand. Flying over the higher terrain puts you up there with arr/deps into ONT, BUR, and VNY.

    And yeah, I had a close call on one flight. I was NORDO to boot.
     
  5. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ En-Route

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    The "observer" is standing on the ground next to the "operator".
    The Operator is watching his aircraft with his eyes and may be using a "camera" on the UAS feed back to his display.

    The Observer is using his eyes, and may have binoculars. Both have to be able to see the UAS and see conflicting traffic.

    Roger on the "up to 13K MSL" UAS Operations, those near Gray Butte and operating in the area south of the EDW MOA. The operators are in contact with Joshua Approach and receive "traffic advisories" on all traffic. They are flying Predators, etc. RQ1?

    I talk to Josuha myself when going through that area.

    The OP was referring to much smaller UAS / UAV Birds.
     
  6. Richard

    Richard Final Approach

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    So in lieu of true "see and avoid" protocol, ATC (Joshua in this case) is the eyes for UAVs? (via traffic advisories)

    I don't understand how a ground based observer can maintain a scan of the sky on all points. IIRC, AOPA ASF stats show the majority of mid-air collisions results from someone climbing up your 6 o'clock. Yes, S&A goes both ways, but the regs state each pilot shall be responsible.
     
  7. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ En-Route

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    You are correct... and when they first started flying the predator outside of a MOA or Restricted airspace, they had a C-172 chase plane. Because of advancements in technology, think TIS from your transponder. The guy on the ground is now getting a "picture" and also has to talk to Joshua Approach. He cannot fly without talking to approach control.

    The first miss hap with a UAS will (or at least it should) close down their flying outside of protected airspace.
     
  8. kkoran

    kkoran Cleared for Takeoff

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    No ground observers or chase planes? ATC providing separation via radar traffic advisories? What do you base this on?
     
  9. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ En-Route

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    Based on daily operations of Predators out of Gray Butte Field and other locations just south of the Edwards AFB Restricted Area. Talk to Joshua Approach as you transition the area and they will give you traffic advisiories.

    http://www.city-data.com/airports/Gray-Butte-Field-Airport-Palmdale-California.html

    http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1199816

    Los Angeles Center (Palmdale CA) [ZLA]: November NOTAM #56 issued by Hawthorne CA [HHR] Airspace unmanned aircraft 20 nautical mile radius 14 nautical miles on the 275° radial of Victorville [VCV VOR] / 04CA 13000 / below daylight avoidance advised
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  10. kkoran

    kkoran Cleared for Takeoff

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    Just because Joshua provides traffic advisories doesn't mean they are doing so in lieu of ground or airborne observers. It's no different than them providing trafficc advisories on manned aircraft.
     
  11. Richard

    Richard Final Approach

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    It does when no airborne observer exists.
     
  12. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Fixed that for you. The various alphabet soup agencies will claim the UAVs are an essential part of our national security, and will limit our freedom that much more.