Accessing National Airspace

The Department of Defense needs more access to the National Airspace System for its unmanned aerial vehicles. According to the Pentagon’s newly released Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report (full document; caution large file), the services will increasingly need that admittance, both for training and operational missions, since there is limited availability in restricted airspace and UAV fleets are continuing to expand rapidly. In fact, by 2013, the services estimate that UAV missions will eat up more than one million flight hours, the majority of which will occur outside of restricted airspace. Accordingly, the report states that the Pentagon’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force is developing a plan to alleviate flight restrictions for all classes of UAVs in the NAS. And, US Joint Forces Command’s UAS Center of Excellence is leading a review of the airspace access requirements for all classes of military UAVs. JFCOM’s UAS COE is also tackling issues associated with airworthiness certification, standardized UAV qualifications for each class of airspace, and development of sense-and-avoid technology to prevent midair collisions.