Beyond the Headlines: Future of Drones Featured at Singapore Airshow

This week at Asia’s largest air show, the Singapore Airshow, drones continued to dominate the news coverage. With zero commercial aircraft orders announced, there was much discussion on how to effectively ensure that as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continue to rise in popularity, they do not adversely threaten safety.

The threat that UAS pose to aircraft was unfortunately highlighted recently when a video of a Frontier Airlines flight landing in Las Vegas, which appears to have been captured by a drone, surfaced on social media. This video underscored the importance of mandatory identification and tracking capabilities for remotely piloted aircraft systems. Not only did the careless and reckless behavior of this operator put the passengers and crew on this flight at risk, but the operator did so during one of the most critical phases of any flight—during final approach into an airport.  Small drones like the one used to capture the video do not have any electronic equipment that broadcast their position so that airline collision avoidance systems can detect their presence.

On a panel at the air show, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reiterated their intentions to create the regulatory framework needed to implement mandatory identification and tracking capabilities for UAS. ALPA has supported these efforts requiring drone operators to equip their devices with identification and tracking systems so that law enforcement officials have the ability to identify and track down a UAS pilot who may be involved in a collision or is jeopardizing the safety of our national air space or the general public. ALPA has also been calling on the FAA to require drones that are capable of operating in the same airspace where commercial airplanes fly, to equip with the collision avoidance systems that would allow airline aircraft to take evasive action.

With UAS usage growing rapidly, incidents such as this one involving Frontier Airlines (whose pilots are represented by ALPA) will no doubt increase in frequency, and will continue to put lives at risk. We must remain focused on safety as the highest priority, and we call on Congress to take action now and give the FAA the authority to fully regulate all UAS operators to keep flying safe.

Categories: Advocacy, Safety