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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

UAS in National Skies

Today more than 1,500 types of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are in production worldwide and the commercial interest in UAS is growing. The probability is high that many of the military uses of UAS will migrate over into the civil sectors. The U.S. Border Patrol is using civilian versions of UAS to monitor vast stretches of the border area between Mexico and the U.S. In Japan rotary wing UAS platforms are being used for aerial agricultural crop spraying. In England, smaller fixed wing UAS are being used for monitoring road traffic and congestion, and for tracking suspicious or illegal behaviors by motorists.

But the biggest barrier to routine commercial UAS missions is still the lack of regulatory guidance and standards.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working with the Congress, the Defense Department, Homeland Security and NASA to determine the means and requirements for the integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System.

Recently FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center has established a cooperative research and development agreement with Insitu Inc., of Bingen, Washington, and the New Jersey Air National Guard to conduct research to guide development of recommendations for integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system. The research will be managed by the FAA’s Research and Technology Development office and conducted at the Technical Center.

Insitu Inc., a wholly-owned, independent subsidiary of The Boeing Company, will provide two ScanEagle aircraft and their related support hardware and data to the FAA. The ScanEagle has flown more than 315,000 hours in military operations, providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. It can fly more than 24 hours at a time and has been used in many civil applications, including search-and-rescue operations, fire and flood monitoring, and evacuation efforts conducted in hazardous weather.

European Conference on UAS 2010

The first high-level European Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) will be held on 1 July 2010 in Brussels organised by the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European Commission (EC). The conference marks a cornerstone in the efforts undertaken by the EDA and the EC in the field of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. As the first European joint civil/defence initiative in the field, it widely opens the path to sustainable technological innovation and offers a bridge into a future European UAS market.

Since 2008 the Air4All consortium is working with EDA to develop a common strategy for the seamless integration of UAS within General Air Traffic. It is expected that this joint approach will lead to a set of coherent projects addressing the commercial as well as the security and defence uses of UAS.

In November 2008 the EDA Steering Board approved a new Category B project on a Future Aerial Unmanned System (FUAS). Seven EDA participating Member States contribute to this project: Germany, Finland, France, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The FUAS project is currently in its Preparation Phase. It aims at fulfilling Army and Navy tactical ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) requirements from the seven contributing Member States, reflected in the Common Staff Requirement (CSR), by means of a Vertical Take Off and Landing Unmanned Aerial System (VTOL-UAS). An initial in service horizon of the FUAS is the timeframe 2016-2018.

UAS in Asia

The Asian UAS market is still in its infacy stage but spending is expected to increase in the next 5-10 years. Most Asian countries have set up UAS development programs but still lack expertise and resources to develop advanced domestic UAS. Japan could be a global leader in UAS technology but is still restricted by international arm adn weapon trade restrictions. China has started UAS development and is expected to become a main player in the region.

(Sources: FAA, EDA, EASA, Eurocontrol, Frost & Sullivan)

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