A thing or two about drones

Published 12:08 am Sunday, August 30, 2015

This time of year usually has a lot of good flying days. In the autumn, the temperature falls a bit and we have clear skies and good visibility. If you have an acquaintance who is a pilot, see if you can bum a ride with him.

It is like looking out from a mountaintop. Perhaps the Tri-State Pilots Association may have another community fly day. I will keep you informed if and when it will happen.

Drones have been making the headlines in the past few weeks involving drones and airliners. It is rather scary when you realize that if an engine ingested one, it might lead to a crash.

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The drones are forbidden to fly within four miles of an active airport. It seems to me that it is going to be a difficult task to enforce that rule. The cost of the drones varies a great deal. I saw an ad at Christmastime for a drone for $79 and the military models can run up to multimillions of dollars.

The FAA has a bunch of rules for flying them. For recreational use, you do not need a license. It has to be flown within sight of the operator or pilot and has to weigh less than 55 pounds. You cannot fly it over populated areas. You cannot fly it over recreational events such as baseball or football games because of the possibility of aerial congestion.

It seems to me that the former rule of not flying over populated areas would cover that. Incidentally, the FAA calls them Unmanned Aircraft Systems, UAS.

For use in commerce, a license is needed from the FAA. The craft has to have a special air worthiness certificate. The FAA says the process of getting the certificate takes anywhere from six months to two years. “The mills of the gods grind exceedingly slow.”

If you finally obtain an airworthiness certificate, an FAA Airman Certificate is required to fly the UAS.

When I saw the F-35 fighter at Oshkosh, I was surprised to learn that it cost more than $100 million. But, I found a more expensive plane. The Global Hawk drone costs more than $222 million and they have reduced the cost per flight hour to $18,000 plus $11,000 contractor costs.

It takes a team of 180 people to support the flights. It was to replace the U-2 and is reported to be able to survey up to 40,000 square miles per day. It has been reported that military establishments have approximately 7,000 drones. All are less expensive than the Global Hawk.

The Reaper drone costs about $17 million and has evolved into a hunter/killer drone but is also used on the Mexican border for surveillance. Some models can stay aloft for 42 hours. It takes 1.2 seconds for the pilot to communicate to the aircraft via satellite.

It takes about an hour of maintenance time for each hour of flight. Now we all know that military drones are very expensive. Some of the military personnel say that the F-35 is the last manned fighter plane to be built.

The Air Force is training more drone pilots and support personnel than any other profession.