A New Paradigm for Small UAS

June 2012
Topics: Unmanned Systems, Civil Aviation Security, Air Traffic Management, Aircraft, Airspace
Andrew R. Lacher, The MITRE Corporation
David R. Maroney, The MITRE Corporation
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Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are different than almost any other kind of aircraft. They can fly in places where no manned aircraft flies or where it would not be desirable to fly. They also pose different risks based upon their small size and performance. Today, the FAA regulates all navigable airspace, which extends to the ground. Within this airspace, there are some areas in which manned aircraft are simply not capable of flying by existing Federal Regulations. This may include areas that are very close to the sides of buildings, under bridges, below tree cover, and near power cables. Our research envisions that small UAS might make use of this airspace, which would be considered non-navigable by traditional manned aircraft due to the proximity of obstacles. Additionally, a small UAS may weigh only ounces. An aircraft that small is likely to pose a vastly different risk to people and property on the ground than would manned aircraft. Considering usage of airspace and the associated risk in this manner represents a departure from current thinking and may influence the methods of regulating these new aircraft. This paper explores and discusses this potential new paradigm further, and illustrates the implications with a set of operational scenarios.


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