ATCA poses good questions about UAS interaction with NextGen

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Article: US air traffic controllers discuss challenges, solutions to UAS integration

The Air Traffic Control Association was established as a professional association of controllers. It has historically been a forum to ask and debate the leading edge questions related to navigation, communications and direction of aircraft by safety personnel on the ground. The role of these public servants will be dramatically altered by NextGen . Arguably the human interface position between the aircraft and the new technology will not control traffic. The disruption to the traditional ATC function by UAS’ will be even more extreme.

The speakers at the recent ATCA event identified some of the traditional concerns about the operation of these unmanned vehicles:

· The on board visual systems which are needed to see and avoid; perhaps instead of relying on eyes, flying systems will use some form of radar to maintain separation? Can NextGen enhance its information by downloading whatever data is developed by the UAV.

· A delay loop from the instruction from the human in the “ATC” (or is it air traffic management?) to the human flying the vehicle. Is it not more likely that the ATM computer will communicate directly to the UAS?

· need for a UAS to be protected from hacking

· the need to establish procedures to cope with a “lost link” between an air vehicle and its operator

These are excellent questions and the various UAS test sites should be told to incorporate them in their work programs. Those are the laboratories that will provide answers beyond the capabilities of even today’s virtual reality monitoring systems.

Hopefully ATCA will share these thoughts with the FAA UAS office and continue to add to the quality of the discussion/debate about this new technology.

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