By Capt. Tim Canoll
Earlier this month, I testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on the need to fully regulate all uses of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
During this hearing, additional testimony provided by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University cited a recently published report alleging that the “small UAS under 2 kg pose a negligible risk to the safety of the national airspace.”
ALPA takes exception to these conclusions about the extremely low risk of collision. The report’s statistics were built by evaluating the historical number of wildlife strikes and damage caused throughout the past 25 years. Comparing a small machine, often comprised of metal parts, to a bird provides no reasonable correlation. Aircraft engines have been tested against birds and designed to withstand a certain level of ingestion. To date, no such tests have been conducted with UAS. Based on a lack of research and testing data, it is presumptuous to correlate UAS and bird strikes.
Another important difference between wildlife and drones is that wildlife (including birds) have a natural collision-avoidance system and a built-in will to survive. Pilots frequently see this first-hand when spotting birds in-flight and observing their efforts to avoid collision with the aircraft. Conversely, UAS as discussed in the paper are not currently equipped with built-in collision-avoidance capability.
The United States has one of the safest aviation systems in the world thanks to thorough testing and evaluation of nearly all aspects of the system. It is through this level of detail that we continue to maintain one of the safest periods in aviation history. ALPA is proud to be the largest, nongovernment aviation safety organization in the world, and we will continue our long history of advocating for aviation safety through all means possible.