The skies are going to look very different pretty soon, and it's been a long time coming. Congress finally passed a spending bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, allocating $63.4 billion for modernizing the country's air traffic control systems and expanding airspace for unmanned planes within three and a half years.
By Sept. 30, 2015, drones will have to have access to U.S. airspace that is currently reserved for piloted aircraft. This applies to military, commercial and privately owned drones — so it could mean a major increase in unmanned aircraft winging through our airspace. That's airspace to be shared with airliners, cargo planes and small private aircraft.
As it is now, drones can only use some pieces of military airspace and they can patrol the nation's borders. Some 300 public agencies can also use drones, according to the AP, but they must be at low altitudes and away from airports.
The FAA has spent years planning its NextGen upgrade, a new system designed to streamline traffic at airports, save fuel and reduce air travel headaches. NextGen is a behemoth program that consists of several complementary systems, notably the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B in airspace lingo. This system uses GPS to determine aircraft location, and it will enable planes to land in a more efficient, steep glide, rather than the fuel-wasting stair-step descents of the past and present. This is already being rolled out in some places, but the new bill requires the FAA to set up new arrival procedures at the country's 35 busiest airports.
Eventually, planes will all have GPS that can update a plane's location every second, instead of the six to 12 seconds it takes with current radar systems, AP points out. This will allow pilots to know where their planes are relative to each other, and this could help ease congestion and make for smoother taxi procedures.
NextGen has been planned and debated for years, and the modernization plan has been stymied by Congressional wrangling since 2007. This new bill, which now goes to President Obama for his signature, will finally get things moving again.
This is awesome. I've heard about this for quite a while so I'm glad its finally being implemented. Also, i've never heard that drones were part of the package. This opens up all sorts of opportunities if commerical companies can also use drones. Just think if highly efficient cargo carrying drones were used to fly mail and pakcages. It could cut shipping costs and allow for more cargo per flight if space wasn't needed for the cockpit.
Overall very cool and lots of neat possibilites when its all said and done with.
While it's nice to see the FAA funded, drones in civilian airspace are a huge problem. They do not operate as cheaply as manned aircraft and they cannot "see and avoid" other aircraft. For example, ready and eager for duty CAP crewed Cessna's operate for $140/hr while a Predator drone runs about $1500/hr.
Drones represent a significant and unnecessary risk to other airspace users. I fully expect the first mid-air collision with an airliner will ground them permanently. It seems the solution to "crowded skies" is to throw unmanned aircraft into the mix.
ADS-B has been promised "next year" for decades. Even if the FAA does get its part of the system operating - a big if - then the existing aircraft fleet faces very expensive avionics upgrades which will take decades.
modern planes can practically fly themselves, pilots are becoming a feel good item for the passenger's confidence that the plane is safely in the capable hands of a human pilot...aircraft can see each other, ever heard of a collision warning system, soon the pilot will omly be on board incase of a total system's failure and once the technology is proven more reliable than a pilot, no more pilots, cheers
I do know how modern planes work - I fly them.
So you mean to tell me that the U.S. Military can miraculously find a cost effective way to get GPS on literally every HUMVEE, tank, truck, tractor-trailer, etc, in theater but that exact same technology would be cost prohibitive for airplanes? I think you're not familiar enough with this topic.
As far as being a risk to other airspace users, that is an uneducated statement as well. Simply put, when all aircraft have been outfitted with GPS, this real-time data can easily be used to keep drones well clear of other aircraft. (It's a simple software program at that point...)
A large part of the Predator cost is for intel analysts looking at the video feeds, the high-bandwidth data consumption via satellites, ground based pilots, maintenance of sophisticated sensor/optical equipment, handling of munitions and other payloads, etc. Obviously with civilian aircraft there is no need to transmit sensor data nor to maintain that type of equipment or munitions. Furthermore, the goal of drone aircraft is fully autonomous flight with the *option* of human intervention, which eliminates even more of these costs. (One pilot could oversee a dozen or more drones in flight.) Lastly, the Predator program lacks the benefits of economies of scale, something drones in the civilian realm will quickly overcome.
I understand that pilots get heartburn over the prospect of being replaced by computers, but trying to stop this tide is futile. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking you can't/won't be replaced by technology at some point. It is much more prudent to identify how you will work with it when these changes do come.
In addition to some individuals reportedly having their jobs taken from them, automation also seems to have engendered a widespread adoption of the cravenly, reptilianly cold-blooded contempt such ilk as 8654 displays. "This has nothing to do with you or how you feel about things. This is going to happen to you, so shut up and get ready to be raped!" You have to ask, what kind of individual would embrace so eagerly the idea of institutionalized marginalization or elimination, almost assuredly not someone who will be affected by it! Or thinks they won't be, or thinks they won't mind being shoved around to adopt entirely new goals and interests just so a corporate thug can scam more money. A crucial part of humanity is having a sense of self and personal respect that makes them bridle at the prospect of being pushed around solely for the whim of another. So 8654, unlike "preaching to the choir" takes upon themself the position of "the concentration camp head issuing orders to the condemned".
This is awesome - I hear that the original name was 'The Sky Network', but that was changed to 'NextGen' due to some unknown IP dispute. I think it's supposed to come online December 20th of this year.
yep thats skynet
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
Headline for October 1, 2015: "MPAA/RIAA Anti-piracy Drone Collides With Jet, 200 Dead. MPAA Blames Illegal Downloaders"
So I heard the FAA wants to test drones at Santa Monica Airport as one of the six selected sites. Then the Santa Monica folks started to complain (rightly so), and now I've heard interest has moved to San Diego...which is bad for me because that's where I live. Is there anything we can do to stop this? I'm not an aviator, just a concerned citizen who really doesn't want drones in my neighborhood!