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THE BELLS — The MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can employ four air-to-ground Hellfire missiles and a guided bomb. It’s the kind of drone that Call of Duty fanatics foam at the mouth for, hopingto use its power during gameplay.
But drones are no game. Enemies of the United States can attest to that fact. Drones have been around as agents of war, mostly for reconnaissance purposes, since the Spanish-American War (that is if you count a kite with a camera attached to it as a UAV), but no one doubts their capabilities today.
Drones offer us so much more than an upper hand on our enemies. Commercial America has much to gain if it accepts the use of these vehicles.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shocked the nation when he revealed his big R&D project to 60 Minutes in December. His “Octocopter” is set to deliver packages to customers doorsteps in 30 minutes or less.
UAV’s are predicted to be most useful flying over miles of farmland. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, it’s expected that the commercial market for drones will find about 80 percent of its work in an agricultural setting.
Kevin Price is an employee of RoboFlight, a Denver based company that sells drones and analyzes field crop data.
“It is endless right now, the applications in agriculture,” he told USAToday. Farmers “are going to be able to see things and monitor their crops in ways they never have before. In the next 10 years, almost every farm will be using it.”
The drone industry is in limbo right now due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s slow response to establish guidelines for commercial use.
Certainly, much thought must be put into regulating drones. Problems can occur if they inhibit the flight paths of airliners and civilian aircraft. According to its website, the FAA’s top priority is safety.
The FAA has set up two camps of UAV operations: Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems and (UAS) Public UAS. Civil UAS is where farmers would fall.
Their website says that “Obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate for a particular UAS is currently the only way civil operators of unmanned aircraft are accessing the National Airspace System.”
This is causing a holdup, and although the FAA is attempting to improve its current Civil UAS (i.e. farmers) regulations, nearly 100,000 potential jobs sit unfilled.
Public UAS is a more complicated issue because much of it surrounds urban areas where commercial airliners dominate the airspace.
The FAA must step up and realize the positive economic impact both UAS sectors could have on our nation.