MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, North Carolina — Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 launched into a new era with its RQ-21A Blackjack flight into Class D airspace, over Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, March 21.

Commonly only allowed to fly in restricted airspace, VMU-2 now has the expanded ability to integrate RQ-21A flight operations with manned aircraft over this air station.

Cherry Point’s Class D airspace is defined by a circle around the air station with a 5-mile radius, from the ground up to 2,500 feet above the air station. This is airspace that is constantly under the control of Cherry Point air traffic control, and is frequently busy with military air traffic, as well as contracted commercial flights landing and departing the air station.

“Unmanned aerial systems like the Blackjack are commonly flown from forward sites that sometimes restrict our integration with other air players and events,” explained 1st Lt. Orlando J. Benedict, an unmanned aerial systems officer with the squadron. “Having the RQ-21A at MCAS Cherry Point fosters connections with the rest of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and allows for procedures that integrate manned and unmanned aviation to be solidified for the future.”

The Blackjack is designed to operate off a Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of ground forces deployed worldwide. UAS requirements have evolved and the Marine Corps has refined its concept of operations to incorporate rapidly emerging technologies in its unmanned systems.

The RQ-21A Blackjack can safeguard military bases and activities through a pattern of life identification and explosive device detection. It is equipped with an electro-optic/infrared payload that supports the real-time monitoring to provide indications and threat warnings, and its plug-and-play payloads enable multi-intelligence capability to support a broad range of operations.

“The Blackjack’s main purpose is to support aerial reconnaissance missions,” said Sgt. James E. Burch, a UAV operator with VMU-2. “With the new system, we will now be able to launch and land the UAV on a ship, where with other systems, more space would be required for recovery.”

NASA, General Atomics Complete Third Phase of Sense & Avoid testing


Evolving technologies necessary for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to safely avoid other aircraft while moving through the nation’s skies recently were put to the test using NASA’s remotely piloted Ikhana aircraft.

The Ikhana UAS soars over the Mojave Desert during a flight from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. NASA Photo/Carla Thomas
The Ikhana UAS soars over the Mojave Desert during a flight from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. NASA Photo/Carla Thomas
Equipped with a prototype system of Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) sensors working in concert with airborne and ground-based computers, Ikhana made 11 flights involving more than 200 scripted encounters with approaching aircraft.

Depending on the specific scenario, either Ikhana detected one or more approaching aircraft and sent an alert to its remote pilot to take action, or Ikhana itself took action on its own by flying a programmed maneuver to avoid a collision — an aviation first.

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FAA: Military drone flew out of control over Upstate New York


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A small military drone flew out of control last month along the Susquehanna River west of Binghamton, prompting a series of alerts and warnings to pilots in Upstate New York.

Operators of the unmanned Desert Hawk IIIreported losing contact with the fixed-wing aircraft at 3:21 p.m. July 24, according to a newly disclosed incident report from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA control tower at Binghamton reported that an operator of the remotely piloted aircraft called to say “they have lost control of a drone and to watch out.” Meanwhile, a pilot in the area reported spotting the rogue drone as it meandered through the region.

The FAA did not disclose the operator of the drone.

But a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp. confirmed Monday that the military drone was on a test flight from Lockheed’s facility in Owego, N.Y.

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Pirker v. Huerta Ruling Clears Path for UAS Integration


Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officially placed model Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) within the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) definition of aircraft. The Nov. 18 final ruling in the Huerta v. Pirker case overturns a previous decision by Administrative Law Judge Patrick Geraghty and allows the FAA to take enforcement action against anyone operating commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems inappropriately. The milestone decision isn’t radical for those that have their finger on the pulse of the industry, however.


North Carolina: Drone uses, questions are many

nc state

In the air, droning overhead, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) is increasing. Hobbyists, photographers and even news organizations have deployed the remote-controlled flying machines. Amazon has joked about using drones for doorstep delivery.

The fleet overhead has raised questions about technology, privacy and air space safety. So far, many of those are unresolved while the Federal Aviation Administration works out rules for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. The only current clarity comes in a federal ban on the use of UAVs for commercial gain, but there are legal challenges to even that limit.

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers passed a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by state or local governments. The budget signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week set limits for drone use, but any state laws will eventually have to comply with FAA regulations.

At North Carolina State University, members of the Aerial Robotics Club design, build and navigate unmanned aerial vehicles without knowing how they’ll eventually use the skills they are practicing.

“It’s been a massive learning experience,” said student RJ Gritter. “UAVs have blown up in the market.”

Gritter’s team recently claimed first place in an international competition with a drone that can pinpoint targets for search missions and drop rescue supplies.

Kyle Snyder, of the NextGen Air Transportation Center at NC State, is working on ways to integrate drones into an efficient and updated national transportation network.

“There’s a lot of newness to it,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out how best to manage it, what are the real capabilities and who should have access, who can’t have access.”

That access will be key as drones become more common.

“In the image processing, in the manufacture, in the components, all of this has become more and more inexpensive,” said Dr. Larry Silverberg, associate head of NC State’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.

Privacy advocates worry that drones mean more surveillance of more people in more places, even on private property.

The FAA has the challenge of balancing legal constraints, public and air safety with economic opportunity. Their recommendations are expected by the end of the year.

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Drone Test Flights Underway Over South Texas

FAA Test sites pick up the pace and the Lone Star Center is making great progress.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center is conducting a series of flight missions this week, the first since becoming fully operational as a federally-designated test site.

Researchers conducted missions Wednesday and scheduled additional flights Thursday with the University’s RS-16 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated the center as one of only six test sites in December, and approved it as operational on Friday, June 20.

“The Texas test site will provide critical data to the FAA, which they need to develop rules, processes and procedures required to safely operate UAS in the national airspace,” said Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President of Research, Commercialization and Outreach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  “Texas is open for research, development, testing and evaluation offering diverse geography and climates.”

In the six months since the test site designation, the Lone Star Center has been preparing to receive private companies and other organizations that want to test and research aircraft, software or other possible uses for unmanned aircraft, commonly referred to as drones.  More…

Rockwell Collins and NASA to conduct tests aimed at safe integration of UAS into national airspace

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, 24 June 2014. 

Rockwell Collins and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials have scheduled risk reduction tests with the goal of enabling unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate safely in national airspace.

“Routine integration of sizeable numbers of UAS into the national airspace system is a challenging task,” explains Troy Brunk, vice president and general manager of Airborne Solutions for Rockwell Collins. “This technology will provide the critical communications link for UAS pilots on the ground to safely and securely operate their remotely piloted vehicles in flight even though they are many miles apart.”


The NASA-owned Lockheed S-3 Viking and the University of Iowa Operator Performance Laboratory’s Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft will serve as surrogates for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during two phases of testing.   More…

Crimes to crops: Drone display shows potential use

The Northern Plains (North Dakota) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, one of six designated by the FAA, quickly moving forward with developing a customer base for UAS testing..


GRAND FORKS, N.D. — An unmanned aircraft the size of a push lawnmower was launched shortly after a report of a person being held at knifepoint. With red, green and white lights flashing below its rotors, the drone slowly circled the scene and relayed sharp images to those watching from afar on a digital screen.

The mock police scene that played out Tuesday kicked off an annual unmanned aircraft conference in Grand Forks, home to the first drone test site in the country to open for business. Another demonstration featured the Draganflyer X4ES recording evidence, such as skid marks and debris, from a two-car accident.

“The possibilities are endless,” said pilot Jake Stoltz,  more…

Colorado Town Considers Letting Residents Shoot at Drones


Drones could join coyotes as prey on the dun-colored prairie if voters in Deer Trail, Colorado, population 563, approve a measure today allowing the town to issue hunting licenses for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Phillip Steel, a 49-year-old welding inspector, wrote the proposed law as a symbolic protest after hearing a radio news report that the federal government is drafting a plan to integrate drones into civilian airspace, he said. The measure sets a bounty of as much as $100 for a drone with U.S. government markings, although anyone who shoots at one could be subject to criminal or civil liability, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“That plan is a taking of property rights, a taking of civil rights,” said Steel, who wears a black duster coat and a cowboy hat. “According to a 1964 Supreme Court decision, a property owner owns airspace up to 1,000 feet above the ground.

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Drone driver licenses? How to make flying robots safe for American skies

13 October 2013


A romantic pre-wedding photo shoot turned sour when the photographer’s camera-equipped quadcopter swerved out of control and hit the groom on the head. 

“We cleaned up the blood and just kept going,” Davey Orgill, the photographer — who had been filming the bride- and groom-to-be on Aug. 1 on a grassy field near La Barge, Wyo. — told NBC News. After the wedding, with the couple’s permission, he uploaded the fateful shot to YouTube where it’s been viewed more than 1 million times.

In Manhattan, in October, a pedestrian narrowly missed a collision with a Phantom quadcopter when it landed on the sidewalk as he walked past Grand Central Station. Early in September, in a far more sobering incident, a 19-year-old hobbyist pilot was killed when his remotely operated helicopter hit him on the head during a flight in a park in Brooklyn.  More…