Why “My Other Vehicle is Unmanned”?

You are probably wondering why I’ve given my blog such a strange title. It’s a tribute to a bumper sticker which I was given at a Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) conference organised by
AUVSI.  Although the reference to UAVs is mildly amusing, it makes the serious point that unmanned systems are becoming more and more pervasive.

Unmanned Systems (Wikipedia:
UAVs)
is an area of great interest to me because it is currently experiencing rapid growth  which is extending beyond military programmes to also include paramilitary and civil applications such as border patrol and search & rescue. These programmes face a number of technological challenges, which I intend to discuss in time. I’m also intrigued by the tension between technical developments and their regulatory challenges. Two cases which spring to mind are:

1) The recent crash of SkySeer at a Los Angeles Police Department Sheriff’s Department (LASD)  press demonstration, which was flown without FAA approval. This was reported in IET Computing & Control journal  (scroll down the page), and there’s also a good commentary in John Wiseman’s blog.

2) The damage caused when a 3kg Canada goose hit a Boeing 767 and entered the cockpit, causing cabin depressurization (Aviation Safety: Photo 1, Photo 2. The CAA (UK equivalent of FAA) presented these at a UAV conference and went on to explain why 150kg UAVs must be safety certified.

Are we heading for a showdown between UAV programme offices and regulators as pressure grows to allow the use of UAVs in civil airspace?