AOPA Pressures FAA To Address Issue
Aero-News first reported on the Gaston
County (NC) police department's plans to deploy a CyberBug
UAV earlier this month. At the time, AOPA's Chris
Dancy told ANN the association would be contacting the FAA to
address the issue... and AOPA reports the FAA has acted.
Well, eventually. AOPA tells Aero-News it contacted the FAA,
which initially said it had no authority to stop the flights. So
AOPA President Phil Boyer bucked the issue up to senior agency
That resulted in regional FAA officials contacting the police
department, which agreed to voluntarily abide by the provisions of
Advisory Circular 91-57, "Model Aircraft Operating Standards,"
which require the drones to remain clear of navigable airspace and
below 400 feet AGL.
While the compromise should mean that the community's new UAV
will be able to peacefully coexist with general aviation traffic in
the skies over Gaston County, the issue promises to only become
more pronounced as an increasing number of municipalities consider
using less-expensive UAVs in roles once reserved for manned
"Safety is paramount, and current airspace users must be assured
that a reasonable level of safety can be maintained," said Melissa
Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "The prospect
of small UAVs flitting around in the same airspace we use is
"We know what kind of damage a 5-pound bird can do to a GA
aircraft," Rudinger said. "Imagine what would happen if you hit a
The issue will only be resolved, Rudinger said, when the FAA
addresses it directly.
"AOPA has been pushing for two years to get the FAA to issue
guidance on UAV operations and their integration into the National
Airspace System," said Rudinger. "[AC 91-57] isn't the final
solution, but it's a step in the right direction."
AOPA states that UAV operators and their drones should be
certified to meet the operating requirements that manned aircraft
currently meet -- including the ability to sense and avoid other
"What do you think your chances are of seeing [a CyberBug]
before you hit it?" said Rudinger. "And it can't sense you or get
out of the way."
The company says the
14-pound UAV cruises at 29 mph at 1,300 feet AGL, which puts it
easily into navigable airspace and creates a potential midair
"What do you think your chances are of seeing this thing before
you hit it?" said Rudinger. "And it can't sense you or get out of
This isn't the first time law enforcement has flown the
CyberBug. Cyber Defense, the company that produces the CyberBug,
claims it was used to watch for "unruly behavior" and "alert
authorities about accidents" during the 12th Annual Southern
Maryland "Blessing of the Bikes" in La Plata.
The company also sells a much larger 70-pound, turbine-powered
drone that cruises at 250 knots.
"These UAVs currently fall into a regulatory gray zone," said
Rudinger. "Because of their relatively low cost, we can expect that
many more jurisdictions may try to put these collision hazards
aloft. That's why AOPA will continue to advocate that the FAA take