Air Line Pilots Association proposes UAS safety measures

By Patrick C. Miller | August 06, 2015

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is recommending that pilots flying unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for pay in the same airspace as commercial aircraft should be required to have a commercial pilot certificate.

It is one of several UAS-related safety recommendations the organization made in a recently released white paper titled “Keep America Flying: A Flight Plan for Safe and Fair Skies.” According to the ALPA, the paper “lays out reasoned and achievable policy solutions to enhance aviation safety and provide a strong and fair economic environment for U.S. airlines and their employees.”

Regarding UAS, the paper states, “We must not allow pressure to rapidly integrate UAS into the NAS (national airspace) to rush a process that must be solely focused on safety.”

Tim Canoll, ALPA president, said, “As the largest union representing airline pilots, ALPA takes extremely seriously its role and responsibility to help advance the North American airline industry and the airline piloting profession.”

Topics covered in the white paper include airline pilot supply, UAS, NextGen, safe air transport of lithium batteries, secondary cockpit barriers, science-based fatigue rules for all-cargo pilots, and the Federal Flight Deck Officer program.

In the section devoted to UAS, the paper says, “All rules developed to ensure the safe operation of UAS must be consistent with and compatible with those for other airspace users. No UAS should be allowed unrestricted access to conduct flight operations into the NAS unless it meets all of the high standards currently required for every other airspace user.”

Further, the paper states, “UAS must be designed with similar safeguards and functional requirements as current certificated commercial and general aviation aircraft.”

Among the white paper’s recommendations for UAS are:

- Operators of commercial UAS should come under the same operational approval and oversight as commercial airlines and be limited to control of one aircraft.

- No UAS should be given unrestricted access for flight operations in the NAS unless it meets all of the standards required for all airspace users.

- UAS must be designed with similar safeguards and functional requirements as current certificated commercial and general aviation aircraft.

-All UAS operated in the same airspace as airliners or that could inadvertently enter this airspace should have “active collision-avoidance functionality and must have technology that allows them to be clearly shown on pilots’ and controllers’ displays.”

- All other UAS “must have altitude-limiting and geographic-avoidance features included as an incorruptible feature of their software.”

- In the event of a lost communications link between a pilot and a UAS, there must be a solution that enables the UAS to land safely without endangering other aircraft or anyone on the ground.

The ALPA warns that, “Above all, UAS operation in the NAS must not introduce any hazard that would negatively impact the unparalleled safety record of U.S. aviation.”


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