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Sun, Apr 01, 2012

UAV, LSA Manufacturers Eye Joint R & D Program

Move Could Make Medical Issue Moot

ANN April 1st Special Edition

Several UAV and LSA manufacturers have gotten together to explore a joint research and development program that could finally open up aviation to the masses. The group announced April 1st that they hope to develop a low-cost Autonomous LSA that will take the pilot completely out of the loop.

"This solves the whole issue of FAA medicals, special training, you name it. All the operator needs to be able to do is program a car-style GPS and operate an on/off switch," said coalition spokeswoman Donna Wereweare.

The move was given a boost in March when the FAA announced it would be evaluating areas for UAV testing. "We decided to go with the LSA model to be able to keep the cost in the range of a high-end sports car," said Wereweare. "That, plus the lightweight construction and choices of powerplants just made it seem like a natural thing. Besides, selling these ULSAs to a lot of people will bring a much higher profit margin than selling a few unmanned airliners."

All aircraft will be equipped with airframe parachute systems "just in case," added Wereweare.

The ULSAs will be limited to two people on board, along with a small amount of baggage. The aircraft will be self-certified much as they are with traditionally-piloted LSAs, which will also keep costs down. "This will certainly open up aviation to a huge population that never thought they could get a medical or actually learn to fly an airplane. Yes, it'll be a bit like being a passenger in an airliner, but the ULSA (ULL-sah) will give people the opportunity to go where they want to when they want to without worrying about the airlines schedules, security, or fees."

Several ULAS air taxi companies have already been formed to take advantage of the technology once it reaches maturity. "We can see just putting people in a pre-programmed airplane, pushing 'Go', and sending them on their way," said Bill Owerly, an attorney specializing in helping such companies get their incorporation papers. "We call it the 'ULSAment' Flying Experience."

Small cargo operations are also interested in the airplanes. The consortium said they would be ideal for just loading up with a small shipment to a remote factory or other facility, programming the destination and pushing 'Go'.



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