By By Andrew Parker, Editor-in-Chief | August 6, 2014
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), optionally piloted vehicles, autonomous aircraft, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), remotely piloted vehicle systems (RPVS), drones – whatever you call them, they are beginning to take over the world. While no one can seem to agree on a term to describe their UAV/UAS/RPV, one thing everyone seems to realize is that UAVs have a future in the world of civil aviation, however limited or deep that role may turn out to be.
From police units to homeland security, surveillance and border patrol, to local July 4 celebrations across the United States – see story from Editor-at-Large Ernie Stephens online at www.rotorandwing.com – UAVs are popping up all over the place, in addition to the increasing role that drones play with military forces.
They come in all shapes and sizes, for both military and commercial applications. Sikorsky recently uncovered an optionally piloted Black Hawk, adding to its Matrix Technology platform for the commercial side. Late last year AeroVironment reached an agreement with Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) to develop unmanned systems, a few months after the first flight of the optionally manned EC145 in April 2013.
|Optionally manned Airbus EC145|
During Farnborough in July, AgustaWestland revealed that demonstration flights are complete for its Rotorcraft Unmanned Aerial System/Optionally Piloted Helicopter (RUAS/OPH) under an Italian Ministry of Defence R&D contract. AgustaWestland and PZL-Swidnik of Poland developed the aircraft based on a modified version of PZL’s single-engine SW-4 Solo.
Also at Farnborough, Terry Fogarty, general manager of Kaman Aerospace’s UAS product group, explained that the U.S. Army plans to test the K-Max unmanned coaxial helicopter during the second half of 2014. According to International Bureau Chief Andrew Drwiega (see the full story here), the first autonomous technologies trial was scheduled for July at Fort Benning with the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD). The second trail is set for mid-August with Lockheed Martin’s squad mission support system (SMSS).
On the civilian side, many operators continue to be in a “wait and see” mode pending the release of FAA’s long-delayed small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM is now expected sometime during late 2014, followed by a public comment period, meaning now is the time to identify what missions and functions would be easier – and less expensive – using commercial UAVs. So the question is: What does your operation want and what does it need from these new tools?
|Northrop Grumman/Yamaha unmanned R-Bat|
Following the comment period, FAA has 18 months (of course for FAA “months” are kind of like dog years) to publish a final rule. The takeaway here is: Get your comments ready. Now is the time. Send your thoughts about how to best integrate UAVs into your operations to firstname.lastname@example.org and tune in for a live town hall webinar in September that will dig deeper into this topic.
Find out more online via the “Webinars” link at: www.aviationtoday.com/rw
Related: Unmanned News