AHS Advocates for Unmanned VTOL Technology and Safety
AHS International has been a strong advocate for unmanned aircraft. We established the Unmanned VTOL Aircraft & Rotorcraft Technical Committee in 2000 and have held annual technical sessions at the AHS Forum, as well as Unmanned Rotorcraft Systems conferences biennially since 2005.
In 2011, we began our annual Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) Student Challenge to help students develop skills and understanding of the challenges of unmanned VTOL aircraft and autonomy. In addition, our three most recent Student Design Competitions have focused on unmanned Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft.
AHS has also been one of the loudest voices warning of the dangers of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, but often referred to as “drones” in the press) in several Vertiflite Commentaries; in meetings with government officials, study panels and other associations; media interviews on the topic; and a social media campaign to educate the public. For example, recent Vertiflite Commentaries:
- Vertiflite, Sep-Oct 2015: Flying the Crowded Skies. "With UAS usage today appearing to be frightfully like the 'Wild West,' a dramatic change is needed in public awareness and attitudes toward flying unmanned aircraft near areas of operations for fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft."
- Vertiflite, Sep-Oct 2014: Innovation Outpaces Regulation. "Government regulators must work collaboratively with industry to help the regulatory environment keep pace with innovation – allowing vertical flight to reach its full potential, while ensuring safe skies around the world.
As a member of the Know Before You Fly industry campaign, AHS has been working to highlight the threat to helicopters and other manned aircraft of not flying safely with unmanned systems. (The campaign’s literature was updated earlier this year to highlight the threat to helicopters.)
Interim Final New Rule (Dec. 2014)
The FAA announced an Interim Final Rule on Small UAS registration on Dec. 14, 2015. All operators of unmanned aircraft in US airspace must first register their aircraft if it weighs more than 0.55 lb (8.8 oz or 250 g) and less than 55 lb (just under 25 kg) including payloads such as on-board cameras. (Unmanned aircraft larger than 55 lb must go through a more rigorous process.) The FAA set up a streamlined site for owners of toys or other small UAS (up to 55 lb) if they are used only for hobby and recreation purposes. Registration is required prior to first outdoors flight of the aircraft, and an N-registration number must be displayed or otherwise included on the drone. Registration costs $5 and can be found at registermyuas.faa.gov.
Section 107 Final Rule (Aug. 2016)
In June, the FAA finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small UAS, which went into effect on Aug. 29, 2016. The Part 107 rules allow UAS that are less than 55 lb (25 kg) to fly in visual line-of-sight conditions only, in daylight (or twilight with lights), up to 100 mph (87 kt or 161 km/h) and 400 ft (122 m) above ground level. The guidance specifically bans flights “near other aircraft,” including within 5 miles (8 km) of airports, heliports, or anywhere that manned aircraft are operating. For details, go to www.faa.gov/uas.
The FAA has published a mobile device app, B4UFLY for iOS and Androids, to help keep UAS operators aware of local airfields, including helipads. B4UFLY is an easy-to-use smartphone app that helps unmanned aircraft operators determine whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly. Features include:
- A clear "status" indicator that immediately informs the operator about the current or planned location. For example, it shows flying in the Special Flight Rules Area around Washington, D.C. is prohibited.
- Information on the parameters that drive the status indicator
- A "Planner Mode" for future flights in different locations
- Informative, interactive maps with filtering options
- Links to other FAA UAS resources and regulatory information
Updated Nov. 1, 2016