Drones are Nowhere Near Ready to Enter National Airspace, Says Researcher

Mike O'Brien

A professor of software engineering says unleashing unmanned aircraft into the national airspace in the next few years as ordered by Congress is unrealistic.

John McDermid, who teaches at the University of York in England, told a crowd at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia this week that he doubted the Federal Aviation Administration would be in a position to carry out the order.

He said too many hurdles remain in developing the right software to load on UAVs to "sense and avoid" other aircraft.

Mr. McDermid said: "I honestly doubt it’s possible. Or would only be possible in very limited circumstances."

The FAA believes that tens of thousands of drones will populate the national airspace by 2020.

Great strides have been made recently, such as the landing of a X-47B drone on the deck of an aircraft carrier, but several obstacles exist before the skies above America are filled with UAVs.

Currently, UAVs only fly inside the expansive ranges on military bases due to FAA restrictions.

For developers, the biggest challenge is how drones will react to abrupt, unplanned changes in the airspace, defensetech.org reports.

Mc Dermid said: "Trying to design something that will cater to all possible situations is actually very difficult."

The issue of drones will be discussed at IDGA's Homeland Security 2013 event in October. For more details, go to www.HomelandSecurityExpo.com