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Sat, Sep 27, 2014

NextGen Planners Didn't Account For UAVs

'Oncoming Tidal Wave Must Be Dealt With,' Official Says

When Congress passed the legislation that created the NextGen air traffic control system in 2003, the word "drone" was something that was almost exclusively associate with military operations overseas. And now, with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle industry burgeoning, FAA officials say they didn't adequately plan for UAVs when conceptualizing NextGen.

Ed Bolton, the FAA's associate administrator for NexGen, recently told the Associated Press that the agency didn't expect the segment to grow the way it has. Now, he says, the "oncoming tidal wave" of UAVs is "something that must be dealt with, and quickly."

FAA deputy administrator Michael Whitaker agreed that UAVs "weren't really part of the equation when you go back to the origin of NextGen.

The AP reports that Whitaker told a recent meeting of the NextGen institute that the agency's five-year plan for implementation of the new system does not address how the unmanned aircraft will be accommodated in a system that is designed for piloted aircraft.

The industry is pressuring the FAA to quickly craft rules for smaller UAVs, and those rules are expected in November.

While rules for small UAVs flying below 400 feet may be forthcoming soon, larger aircraft, some of which can stay aloft at high altitudes for days or weeks at a time, will likely cause problems for the ERAM computer systems that will control high-altitude traffic. The software for the ERAM system will have to be adjusted to work with the UAVs potentially lengthy flight plans, as well as the differences in airspeed between airliners and UAVs.

(Image from file)



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