From a meager 50 units of combat drones before the war on terror, the US military now has a fleet 7,500 robotic aircraft in its arsenal. With the war on Iraq and Afghanistan finally coming to a close, these robotic aircraft need to come, but Federal Aviation Administraion guidelines are hindering them.
The FAA does not permit robotic aircraft in US national airspace without a special permit. Remotely piloted aircraft do not have enough “detect, sense and avoid” technology to prevent mid-air collisions. Nevertheless, the FAA give way to some exceptions. It issued 313 certificates last year. Special certificates were given to Unarmed Predator drones that patrol the national border.
Just last week, congress have directed the FAA to plan how the military drones can be integrated into the national airspace in a wide scale by 2015. The military plans to use its drones for training and retraining of the pilots that remotely flies them. They also plan to station the robotic aircraft in different bases throughout the country.
The military is also confident that its fleet of robotic aircraft will find new roles to perform in the mainland. They can be very useful in emergencies. Drones can help firefighters locate hotspots during wildfires and even burst out water when needed. During the tsunami in Japan and earthquake in Haiti; the jet-powered, high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman Corp. provided aerial coverage of catastrophe. Law enforcement and the private sector are also looking into the possibility of using the smaller drone airplanes for aerial surveillance. The FAA is aiming to release a proposal for small drones this spring.
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