When Orville and Wilbur Wright took the first successful flight in 1903, the idea of a man flying seemed an impossibility. A century later, technology has advanced so that an aircraft can not only fly but can fly without a human pilot onboard. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are far from the end of advancement in aeronautics, but they may pose a threat to more traditional aircraft.
While the U.S. military began experimenting with unmanned aircraft as early as World War I, unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have also become a popular hobbyist aircraft used for photographing landscapes or as an advanced model airplane and in the commercial sector for maintenance and inspection of cell towers or eye-in-the-sky media coverage.
Encroachment has been an important topic in Altus since the multi-engine flight training school was activated in 1943 because it can affect the outcome of a Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, if it affects the success of the base’s designated mission. At Altus Air Force Base, that mission is centered around flight training.
With the popularity of UAVs increasing, the chance of civilian-operated aircraft occupying military-sanctioned airspace is higher without proper registration and knowledge of federal guidelines.
“We know the importance of the Altus Air Force Base mission, so we jealously protect our base,” Altus Area Economic Development Corporation, or SECD, Chairman Jim Gover said at the last SEDC meeting held Thursday when the topic of UAVs in the civilian sector was discussed.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has guidelines in place for UAVs that depend on the pilot’s use of the aircraft. Hobbyists are required to stay five miles from airports without prior notification to the airport and air traffic control, and commercial pilots of UAVs are required to adhere to the guidelines of Class G airspace, which includes all airspace below 14,500 feet that is not otherwise classified or controlled.
For a complete list of guidelines, visit the FAA website at www.faa.gov.
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.