UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

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Jack Tyler
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UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby Jack Tyler » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:43 am

Most of us know about NASA's ASRS - Aviation Safety Reporting System - which provides a way for pilots to self-report unintentional deviations from the FARs and (most of the time) escape adverse actions by the FAA. What I didn't know is that ASRS is made available to UAS pilots, UAS pilots actually use the system when in non-compliance, and so reading some of the UAS-related reports offers some interesting insights into the malfunctions of UAS a/c while flying in 'our' (National Air Space) airspace.

If so inclined, you can sign up to receive Callback, NASA's monthly newsletter on the ASRS. It makes for very interesting - and educational - reading. (Somewhat like those 'Never Again' columns in the mags). A number of UAS reports are covered in this month's (Mar 2013) issue, most of them having to do with the 'pilot' losing the link (or the UAS losing the link with its satellite) that provides control of the UAS. This included flights in Class A airspace (the flight levels), local flights where comms with local ATC were required, and one GA pilot reporting that a UAS, which should have been under ATC control given its altitude, flew within 100' of the GA aircraft at the same altitude, obviously indicating a UAS operator was flying where he wasn't permitted. Also of interest is that, when a link with the UAS is lost, its fail-safe mode is to fly a pre-programmed route back to the locale where the operator is located, theoretically allowing for visual sighting of the UAS and direct radio link to re-establish control. That sounds clever...but think about it a moment. ATC is responsible for providing positive control and safe separation of all aircraft in its NAS sector. The UAS is on an assigned heading and altitude, and perhaps on a pre-established flight plan. Suddenly, it departs its heading and altitude because it's lost link and being commanded by its fail-safe routing. That makes every lost link a potential emergency insofar as ATC is concerned.

A few snippets from Callback:
[Reported by ATC] "While working an adjacent sector, I witnessed a UAS deviate from his assigned altitude. This UAS was cleared to maintain FL350. The [UAS] aircraft descended out of FL350 to FL300 without a clearance. When questioned by the Air Traffic Controller, the Remote Pilot stated that he could not maintain FL350 so he descended." (If one of us did this, we would likely be violated).
[Reported by operator] "Climbing through FL210, conditions were encountered that affected the performance of the [UAS] aircraft and resulted in a loss of altitude from FL210 to 16,500 feet MSL. Due to my efforts to fully regain positive control of the aircraft, I failed to declare an emergency."

AOPA's tutorial (open to the public) on how UAS + ATC + NAS systems are supposed to work can be found here. It's instructive.
http://flash.aopa.org/asf/unmannedaircraft/index.cfm
Jack
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jnmeade
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby jnmeade » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:53 am

I read this and didn't know whether to be scared to death or just terrified.
I'm glad to see it being disseminated.
I wonder if the Congress persons who mandated UAS in our airspace get a copy? I think I'll forward a copy to mine.
I'm basically in favor of UAS - just want to be sure they are safe for me without it causing me a lot of hassle, which I'm afraid it will. (Can you see anything above 400' needing ADS-B sooner rather than later?)

Jack Tyler
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby Jack Tyler » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:00 am

My understanding is that Congress tasked the FAA with the responsibility to manage UAS use within the National Air Space, and that seems quite appropriate. (Who else would we want to see manage it? Would we want UAS deployment unregulated?) That's very different than 'mandating it'. Congressional action was based on what seems to be a realistic assumption: UAS testing and operation is not only occurring now but will increase significantly over time. So let's not blame Congress for anticipating a developing issue and fixing responsibility for that issue where it belongs.

I don't envy the FAA. It's 2013 budget is 5% less than 2012, it is under pressure to remain committed to the 2020 NexGen deadline, it faces an additional potential $1B funding reduction next month (that's another 6.6% budget reduction) if Sequestration occurs as is now expected, and it's easy to imagine UAS-related lobbyists are already busy - in the halls of Congress and with the FAA directors - pitching UAS activity for its promise of increased commercial & manufacturing activity, if only the FAA will avoid choking off UAS activity with 'unnecessary regulation'.

Of course, all of these points are conceptual. What I care about is the FAA tracking the identity of lost operator/com/sat/UAS links, tracking operators who don't know the FARs and how to operate in the NAS, and then holding UAS operators & their companies accountable, just like they do real pilots. My bet: On a day-to-day basis, that's a lot to expect from an ATC Center or Approach Controller who must carry on while working his/her scope, unless the FAA creates the mechanisms necessary.
Jack
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zaitcev
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby zaitcev » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:36 am

I don't see much of a problem, except possibly slight inconvenience for airliners. Someone descended from FL330 to FL300? Ha ha ha.

These reports talk about BIG airplanes, like Global Hawks. You can see them for 5 miles.

Stop blowing this out of proportion. It all has nothing to do with us at all.

What you should be concerned about is the proliferation of drones flown by local cops that are next to invisble, have harder components than birds and will go through your wing fabric like knife through butter, and swarm at altitudes where Sport Pilots actually fly.

jnmeade
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby jnmeade » Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:37 pm

I have some time at 35,000 feet and don't feel comfortable that I could see a Global Hawk every time. Part of it depends on the weather and time of day. When you are going 500 kias and the UAS is doing 200 the other way, your closure rate is 700 kph or one nm each five seconds. 25 seconds to impact if you can see the UAS 5 miles away. At night, you would likely not see it at all. If it is out of control, you don't immediately know what it's doing and may not know the best way to evade it. One would hope TCAS or ADS-B would work, but if it's lost it's data link, I don't know......I agree the odds are very low but a bad result would be catastrophic.

I agree completely with your concern over low flying UAS. They are the ones that will take out the crop duster over my corn field, me on final to my farm strip, or someone on a sight-seeing tour over the snow-covered fields.

I am concerned that a UAS flown by an activist, rogue cop, angry neighbor, etc. would fly without authorization. I'm worried it would be like the CB radio of the 70's. The average trucker bought them, could care less about the FTC license, and eventually the government gave in. Before one says that can never happen in aviation, who is going to identify, track down and prosecute rogue UAS fliers? It is common knowledge that some RC pilots routinely ignore the AC that purports to guide them - what about when UAS with cameras, that can hover, etc. offer so many opportunities for papparazi and other snoops to ignore law, convention and custom to fly when and where ever they wish?

Jack Tyler
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby Jack Tyler » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:21 am

Yes, the two Callback reports I happened to post are more relevant to commercial aircraft. How does that 'blow the issue out of proportion', Pete? I think we can be concerned as citizens and also Com Air passengers as well as active pilots. But as another example in the same Callback illustrated, these UAS problems occur at more common GA altitudes as well.

For those who want to stay informed on how the issue is progressing, here is a clip from this morning's Washington Post story on the FAA plan to regionalize UAS testing, a 'next step' in introducing a high level of UAS activity within the NAS.

"A future in which unmanned drones are as common in U.S. skies as helicopters and airliners has moved a step closer to reality with a government request for proposals to create six drone test sites around the country. The Federal Aviation Administration made the request Thursday, kicking off what is anticipated to be an intense competition between states hoping to win one of the sites.

The FAA also posted online a draft plan for protecting people’s privacy from the eyes in the sky. The plan would require each test site to follow federal and state laws and make a privacy policy publicly available.

Industry experts predict the takeoff of a multibillion-dollar market for civilian drones as soon as the FAA completes regulations to make sure they don’t pose a safety hazard to other aircraft. Potential civilian users are as varied as the drones themselves. Power companies want them to monitor transmission lines. Farmers want to fly them over fields to detect which crops need water. Ranchers want them to count cows. Film companies want to use drones to help make movies. Journalists are exploring drones’ newsgathering potential.

The FAA plans to begin integrating drones starting with small aircraft weighing less than about 55 pounds. The agency forecasts an estimated 10,000 civilian drones will be in use in the U.S. within five years."

The story is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ ... l?hpid=z10
Jack
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Jack Tyler
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby Jack Tyler » Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:26 pm

You folks be careful out there...

[Recent 'drone' activity just tied to com air traffic]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sp ... s/?hpid=z1
Jack
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bitten192
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby bitten192 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:15 pm

I was in Southern California on flight follow and got 2 calls from So Cal alerting me that there was a "UAV" at "-" O'clock, 10,000 feet (my altitude). I said "Roger looking". I wonder if there was someone driving the UAV that was looking for me? I'm pretty sure it was Border Patrol and they were looking down.
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby BrianL99 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:28 pm

bitten192 wrote:I was in Southern California on flight follow and got 2 calls from So Cal alerting me that there was a "UAV" at "-" O'clock, 10,000 feet (my altitude). I said "Roger looking". I wonder if there was someone driving the UAV that was looking for me? I'm pretty sure it was Border Patrol and they were looking down.



These things are going to start killing people, if the FAA doesn't get their act together on UAV's.

We're required to "see & avoid". UAV's are allowed to do just about anything they want and in most cases, they're flying blind.

The "big sky" theory is going to be seriously tested in the coming years.

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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby comperini » Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:04 am

bitten192 wrote:I was in Southern California on flight follow and got 2 calls from So Cal alerting me that there was a "UAV" at "-" O'clock, 10,000 feet (my altitude). .


If you were near the border, possibly. If you were in the high desert area south of Edwards, we have three facilities flying the predator, and other drones (Army, General Atomics, Grumman). It's a very common site during the business week, with often multiple drones at once
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MrMorden
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby MrMorden » Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:25 am

I'm less concerned about drones than I am about the buttholes that come blasting through the pattern with no radio calls. I almost got T-boned by a twin last week who decided to enter the pattern on the crosswind as I was climbing out, and never used the radio until I called him out.
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designrs
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby designrs » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:30 pm

All this talk about the volume of FAR's... tons of regulation... and no requirement to use the damn radio in the traffic pattern if your plane is so equipped. (Last I heard, radio use was suggested as it would be legal to fly VFR in most areas with no radio at all.) Radio use in the pattern should be required.

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MrMorden
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby MrMorden » Thu Dec 04, 2014 12:45 pm

designrs wrote:All this talk about the volume of FAR's... tons of regulation... and no requirement to use the damn radio in the traffic pattern if your plane is so equipped. (Last I heard, radio use was suggested as it would be legal to fly VFR in most areas with no radio at all.) Radio use in the pattern should be required.


Well, I'm the last person to want to add to the the volume of regulations. But I think pilots should voluntarily use the radio. It's just dumb not to, like not wearing a seat belt (I don't want that to be a law either, but I always wear one).
Andy Walker
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Flocker
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby Flocker » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:54 pm

MrMorden wrote:I almost got T-boned by a twin last week who decided to enter the pattern on the crosswind as I was climbing out, and never used the radio until I called him out.


WTF? What airport? Reminds me of the guy that flew right thru the Athens Class D cutting me off in the downwind without talking to the tower.

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MrMorden
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Re: UAS ('Drone') related incidents in 'our' airspace

Postby MrMorden » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:47 pm

Flocker wrote:
MrMorden wrote:I almost got T-boned by a twin last week who decided to enter the pattern on the crosswind as I was climbing out, and never used the radio until I called him out.


WTF? What airport? Reminds me of the guy that flew right thru the Athens Class D cutting me off in the downwind without talking to the tower.


Winder.
Andy Walker
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