Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Send in the Drones

It happens at every Communicating for Safety (CFS). At least it does for me. A panel that I’m not interested in turns out to be fascinating. This year, it was the panel discussion on UAVs -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

The New York Times ran a story about their use in Iraq and Afghanistan today. It seems as if they’ve been wildly successful. It was the same story we got at CFS. As you can imagine, CFS isn’t too concerned with what goes on in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, yes, that does mean that drones and UAVs are being used here in the States.

”And Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. “

If you toss out all the military references in that sentence you start to see the civilian attraction for these planes -- “remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours...“ I know many Center controllers are thinking of missions they have worked in the past.

”As the Predator circled at 16,000 feet, the dark band of a river and craggy hills came into view, along with ribbons of farmland.

“We spend 70 to 80 percent of our time doing this, just scanning roads,” said the pilot, Matthew Morrison. “

Circling at 16,000 reminds me of working aerial surveys. As I said in that blog entry, just think of a rolling, air-traffic roadblock. That was the point of the subject at Communicating for Safety. Integrating these airplanes into the National Airspace System is going to be challenging. But ready or not, here they come.

Don Brown
March 17, 2009

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