FAA Order of Right-Away Challenged by Unmanned Aircraft Or UAVs?

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  • Author Ifan Faris
  • Published June 15, 2019
  • Word count 625

Apparently, the big buzz now is the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is trying to figure out how to allow unmanned aerial systems UAS, sometimes called unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs, to operate in the same civilian airspace with general aviation, commercial aviation, and even private space flight. The last thing we need is a robotic aircraft causing a mid air collision with the family flying along in their Cessna Skyhawk. Read more about flameless lighter.

Now then, we have to decide which aircraft categories gets the right away, which Aircraft must yield to the other aircraft. In the Federal Air Regulations or FARs, there are various categories of aircraft. There are helicopters, blimps, hot air balloons, ultra-lights, gliders, and powered aircraft. As you can imagine hot air balloons and blimps have the right away, because they do not have the ability to turn as easily and get out of the way. A hot air balloon has the right away over a blimp, and a glider has the right away over a powered aircraft.

And common sense would dictate that if you're flying a small single-engine aircraft such as a Cessna 172 Skyhawk you'd better get out of the way of an airliner, even if you might assume you have the right away. Now then, does a robotic aircraft or unmanned aerial system have the right away over a powered aircraft? Remember unmanned aerial system is exactly what it says, it is unmanned.

There are Unmanned tethered balloons along the border used for surveillance, the US military is building unmanned blimps, in the future police departments will also have these available over their cities, and a blimp has the right away over a powered aircraft. But what happens when two powered aircraft are on a converging trajectory or collision course - one being a robotic aircraft and the other flown by a student pilot on his long cross country trying to get his pilot's license?

The reality is that any aircraft, which may be a threat to a collision is something to avoid, so the student pilot will yield to any aircraft that is near it. If the aircraft are approaching each other head-on, something that is merely a fly in your window, or that size, could be a full size aircraft traveling towards you at the same speed or greater in reality.

Even if you're only doing 145 knots in the Cessna 172 just cruising along, a UAV might be traveling at 225 knots directly at you, the closing speed would be the sum of those two speeds, and you won't be able to tell if it is an unmanned vehicle or not, because within 10 to 15 seconds that aircraft will be right in front of you. Therefore, you need to get out of the way, even if the tele-robotically operated (or fully autonomous, AI operated in the future) UAV doesn't see you in time.

The question is should a UAV have an avoidance system which takes over from the tele-robotic pilot who's sitting in a room somewhere flying that aircraft as if it was a video game, and then once the threat is gone, the override will stop, and the unmanned aircraft hands back over controls to the tele-robotic pilot.

The problem with this for some human pilots is they are putting their trust not in another human controlling that other aircraft, but a system that is built into that UAV, running on software. Perhaps you can see why the debate is all over the news, and the FAA has to deal with how to allow both unmanned and human piloted aircraft in the same airspace. Does this mean humans are already getting pushed aside by robots? Are we already giving our right-a-way to robots? Please consider all this.

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