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Editorial: FAA Plan for Skies with No Drones is No Plan at All

With the billions being invested in developing the technology, can the U.S. afford to proceed with a plan to coordinate airspace that doesn't accommodate these aircraft?

by Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Tribune News Service / September 30, 2014

In what can be considered as nothing less than a negligent lack of foresight, designers of the new U.S. air traffic control system that is supposed to be taking us into the future forgot to include drones in their planning.

"We didn't understand the magnitude to which (drones) would be an oncoming tidal wave, something that must be dealt with, and quickly," said Ed Bolton, assistant administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen program, in a Sept. 25 story in the Daily News.

Since Congress passed the legislation to create NextGen in 2003 - to replace radar, radio and other technology rooted in the 20th century with satellite navigation and digital communications to accommodate all aircraft - the FAA has spent more than $5 billion, and is nearly complete with software and hardware updates for several essential systems.

Assuming they don't have their head stuck in the sand, it seems ridiculous that anyone working on the project could have let drones - pardon the pun - fly under their radar.

While the overall program isn't expected to reach completion for another decade, NextGen plans for the next five years don't address how drones will fit into the current system designed for piloted aircraft. And the further into the process we get, the harder it will be to make significant changes.

Advances in drone technology, the parcel delivery drone race between Amazon and Google, issues with privacy concerns and drones venturing into illegal airspace, all these and more make headlines on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

With the billions being invested in developing this technology by general government, law enforcement, military and commercial entities, can we really afford to proceed with a plan to coordinate our airspace that doesn't accommodate these aircraft?

Drones aren't the future, they're the now. The future is their exponential growth.

©2014 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)


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