- Advocacy & Policy
- Research Center
Q. What is the current level of global awareness of UAS?
A. There is a high level of awareness of UAS and support for their increased use. According to a recent joint poll conducted by AIA and the Christian Science Monitor the majority of respondents (54%) are supportive of increased use, provided issues like safety and privacy are addressed. There is consensus on the top non-military uses for UAS – border protection (68%), law enforcement support (62%), search & rescue (55%) and severe weather monitoring (40%). There is also consensus on the top issues that need to be addressed – individual privacy (60%) and safety of those on the ground (57%). Also, perhaps more interestingly, the respondents make no distinction between whether the aircraft is manned or unmanned when it comes to protecting individual privacy, indicating that many of our existing policies on airborne surveillance can be applied to UAS operations.
Q. What are some of the potential civil applications of UAS?
A. Search and rescue, weather forecasting, law enforcement, border patrol, firefighting, disaster response, precision farming, commercial fisheries, scientific research, aerial photography, mail delivery, communications relay, infrastructure monitoring and emergency management.
Q. What is the economic potential of civil UAS applications?
A. Growth of UAS markets could help create up to 100,000 jobs and contribute $82 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product by 2025.
Q. Does AIA have any other concerns with the way UAS policy is going?
A. Failure to implement effective policies regarding spectrum allocation, airspace and certification regulations and export controls will severely limit the UAS sector, which could otherwise grow to become an $89 billion market in the next decade.
Policy makers and regulators must do everything possible to ensure U.S. competitiveness in the UAS field with the following steps:
Q. What does AIA propose be done domestically to address privacy and safety issues?
A. AIA is following closely the FAA’s rulemaking process for integrating UAS into the domestic air space by the congressionally mandated date of 2015. The FAA has a long and successful history of dealing with safety questions in the national airspace system, and we are confident they can handle safety issues with UAS. The Obama Administration has an interagency working group on UAS that will assist them on this subject, drawing in the DOD, NASA and DHS. We don’t have a specific position on the privacy issue, but our industry recognizes this issue needs to be adequately addressed to the satisfaction of the American public.
Q. What do you think about the number of state and local laws springing up to restrict UAS applications in the name of protecting privacy?
A. A national framework must be identified to address the concerns of these communities while avoiding the creation of a national patchwork of conflicting rules that may ultimately limit UAS use for public service missions. An appropriate first step would be the creation of national privacy objectives and guidelines.
Q. Could home-grown terrorists use UAS to attack Americans?
A. These sophisticated, lightweight aircraft with limited payload capacities are very difficult to weaponize and present significant barriers to use by terrorists. While any aircraft, or object for that matter, may be used as a weapon, UAS are unlikely candidates for such use.
Q. Do UAS have a bad image because they are being used indiscriminately in war?
A. Actually, UAS strikes involve thoughtful decision in a human chain of command. This chain of command views information from UAS surveillance, processes other intelligence, considers strategic impact, rules of engagement and immediate concern such as the likelihood of civilian casualties. Due to longer “loiter” times on target, and advances in surveillance imaging provided by UAS, strikes are becoming incredibly accurate. The fact remains that only people make decisions regarding UAS military missions and tactics.
Q. Will U.S. Government use UAS to spy on individual citizens in the U.S. and abroad?
A. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, and the courts have addressed the issue of inadmissible privacy invasion in cases of manned aircraft, which are relevant to UAS. While courts have ruled that aircraft may be used for legitimate surveillance in some cases, UAS do not present any new threat to the Constitutional rights of our citizens.
Q. In cases similar to the recent NSA spying, could UAS be subpoenaed or hacked by private users to allow for wide-blanket surveillance?
A. UAS are individually operated and not part of a networked system, so hacking them in such a manner would be of extremely limited value. UAS flights are of limited scope and duration, closely monitored and do not possess equipment to monitor communications. Lastly, UAS electronics systems are sophisticated and difficult to compromise.
Q. Are UAS similar to unmanned systems used on the ground and in the seas?
A. Yes, in the sense that we are already using unmanned ground systems and unmanned maritime systems (called autonomous underwater vehicles or unmanned surface vehicles) for a variety of military, government and commercial applications. Examples include counter-explosive robots used to counter the threat from improvised explosive devices and minisubs called remotely operated vehicles that helped cut off oil flowing from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig. Interestingly, these systems have generated far less public policy debate then unmanned aircraft systems, which also have been deployed for the same life-saving purposes, and often where the mission for manned vehicles may be too “dirty, dull or dangerous.”
Q. How should policy makers address the issue of spectrum allocation?
A. UAS communications, both for command and control and the transmission of data, require a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, already in short supply. Without sufficient spectrum, UAS signals may interfere with other forms of communication. While spectrum allocations for radio line-of-sight communications for UAS operations have been secured, work toward securing ample allocations for those requiring radio beyond-line-of-sight communications via satellite must continue. One option for spectrum allocations presented to the UN International Telecommunications Union by the U.S. government – with industry support – is the use of fixed satellite service, which is in abundance and can safely support the projected growth of the UAS market for years to come.
Q. Will UAS integration into the U.S. National Airspace System lead to interference with civil aviation?
A. As part of the transition to the NextGen air transportation system, the FAA and its partners are developing solutions that would integrate data from UAS ground control stations, share real-time flight data with Air Traffic Control systems, and establish two-way communications between UAS pilots and air traffic controllers. This work is ongoing. It is vital that Congress provide FAA with the necessary resources to achieve integration of commercial and civil unmanned systems into the National Airspace System by 2015. UAS integration requires a funded, timely, focused standards development and certification process. Some UAS must be type certified to facilitate NAS integration, which may take several years. A lack of long-term funding commitments and sequestration pose a threat to UAS integration.
Q. What is the relationship between UAS exports and the Missile Technology Control Regime?
A. As U.S. defense budgets decline, maintaining a strong U.S. aerospace industry will increasingly depend on an effective export strategy for technologies where the U.S. is a global leader. Our industry’s leadership is threatened by the application of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to UAS exports, and other nations are taking advantage of those issues. While the 25-year-old MTCR has been an effective tool in limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction delivery systems like missiles, but it has not evolved to account for the current and potential use of modern unmanned systems, particularly those models primarily designed for civil use. Changes to the MTCR will help ensure that American unmanned systems remain available to markets around the world. These changes must include: