Sharing the Sky with Robots—and ADS-B

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The weather’s still pretty good as I write—though we’ve had a few cloudy days, and winter rain, fog and ice are just a couple of months away. Nonetheless, I’ve been spending more time on the ground than in the air lately.

I’ve spent some of it thinking about the changes we’re going to see in the air in the next few years, and the most worrying of those changes will be sharing the air with robots—unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remotely piloted aircraft (RPVs), in a word: drones.

It’s already happened on a limited basis. Until recently there was a TFR over Beale Air Force Base due to operation of the Air Force’s Global Hawk RPV. It wasn’t all that restrictive—Beale is Class C airspace, so two-way radio contact is already required. The TFR added a requirement to have an operating transponder before entering the airspace. That assured ATC could track all aircraft in the area and provide separation between civil aircraft and the robots.

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