Skip to comments.Safety concerns, pilot shortage slow use of drones on border
Posted on 07/17/2010 10:02:31 AM PDT by SwinneySwitch
WASHINGTON Safety concerns and a shortage of remote pilots have slowed the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into security plans for the Southwest border, officials told a House Homeland Security panel Thursday.
Federal Aviation Administration officials said the UAVs operated in U.S. airspace initially were designed for military applications. While the technology has advanced, their safety record warrants careful review.
The limited safety and operational data available does not support expedited or full integration into the national air space, said Nancy Kalinowski, FAA vice president for system operations services.
The FAA recently approved the use of a UAV for South Texas, and the agency has streamlined the review process for applications to use the unmanned craft for border security and emergency purposes.
There are six Predator B UAVs operated by Customs and Border Protection along the northern and southern borders.
A seventh is expected to be delivered this year, and another is included in President Barack Obama's budget blueprint for fiscal year 2011, which begins Oct. 1.
Retired Maj. Gen. Michael Kostelnik, the assistant CBP commissioner for the office of air and marine, told the House Homeland Security subcommittee on border, maritime and global terrorism that there is a shortage of pilots specifically trained to remotely launch and land the unmanned craft.
We are growing that problem, Kostelnik said. It takes time.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, the subcommittee chairman, said deploying UAVs to Texas is a critical step in securing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cuellar said there are situational threats where putting eyes in the sky can assist our law enforcement in monitoring patterns and practices of criminal organizations along our borders.
The UAVs are a crucial piece in providing surveillance, said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee.
There is clearly bipartisan support for this mission, McCaul said.
Kostelnik told the panel that in the future, he envisions up to 24 of the unmanned aircraft to provide immediate surveillance and observation of the entire U.S. coastline and borders.
He said the shortage of pilots and operators, specifically pilots with specialized training who can launch and land the aircraft, is the greatest near-term challenge for the program.
Kostelnik said pilots currently are being cross-trained to operate the Predator B UAV, and its maritime equivalent Guardian, both of which will be eventually based at a CBP facility at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station.
The western portion of the Texas border, between Big Bend National Park and El Paso, is being observed by a Predator UAV flown out of Sierra Vista.
As for the safety record, Kostelnik said that only one Predator has been lost, and it was due to a pilot error that forced the aircraft to crash near Nogales, Ariz., in 2006.
FAA officials said that this yearr alone, CBP has had seven reported deviations, in which the aircraft made an unplanned or unexpected move that violated airspace regulations.
The FAA must continue to take a look at the risk that UAVs will have on the traveling public, as well as the risk to people or property on the ground, Kalinowski said.
There will always be some excuse for not stopping the illegals.
If you want on, or off this S. Texas/Mexico ping list, please FReepMail me.
Tell you what...train me, and make sure I get to control the Reaper variant of the Predator, plus add a pair of .50 cal chain guns.
Heck...I’ll work cheap.
Auction off the bagging/bragging rights and the program would pay for itself.
Quit dilly-dallying around! Build a wall/fence!
Sorry, but this one IS squarely George Bush's fault for promising it and then not making it happen...
There are tens of thousands of level-headed American citizens who would gladly take on the jobs as police or Border Patrol of enforcing U.S. border security and deporting illegal aliens IF ONLY THE GOVERNMENT WOULD PERMIT THE JOB BE DONE.
We have enough people that we COULD place teams and observation posts along the entire border between Mexico and the U.S. so that every team was in sight of the adjacent team,and no one could cross un-noticed.We have the people who COULD be waiting to arrest and escort the illegalls back to their homelands,after confiscating all the drugs and weapons they might be carrying.We have enough people to search every suspicious vehicle and interdict a huge percentage of the drug traffic ,if only the government would do its Constitutional duty.
And while we're at it, we should be patrolling the Canadian border more,checking more ships and containers in ports, too.
Being a free nation does not automatically mean we need have no borders .
We didn't need Clinton's 100,000 more police as much as we needed 100.000 more Border Patrolmen and Immigration agents.
Flying UAV’s is anathema for newly minted Air Force pilots. Maybe they should use recently retired and qualified Air Force pilots with the appropriate payscale.
Or let non-pilots fly them. Guys like me that fly RC would love the chance to fly one.
“There will always be some excuse for not stopping the illegals.”
Yes, we must keep those votes pouring across our borders!!!
Don’t use drones, don’t build the fence (it’s too long a border), don’t send illegals back (it’s not possible with so many) don’t stop suspects (it might offend somebody) - don’t do anything for America. Signed, International Communism.
The first job of the President is to protect the people of the USA. None of our recent Presidents have done their first job properly when it comes to our borders.
Seems to me the US isn't to concerned about safety when they fly the drones into Pakistan. What are all the drone pilots doing when they muster out of the army? Seems to me there is a job waiting for these war heroes.
The last I heard there are millions of kids in arcades who can fly space ships. It shouldnt be too hard to recruit them and train them as student pilots for drones.
There is no minimum aeronautical knowledge or experience requirement for the issuance of a student pilot certificate other than the medical requirements for the class of medical certificate (see below) the student certificate is based upon. There are, however, minimum aeronautical knowledge and experience requirements for student pilots to solo, including:
Hold at least a current third class medical certificate (except for glider, balloon or sport pilot).
Be at least 16 years of age (14 for glider or balloon)
Read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
Demonstrate satisfactory aeronautical knowledge on a knowledge test, including knowledge of the following areas:
Airspace rules and procedures for the airport where the solo flight will be performed
Flight characteristics and operational limitations for the make and model of aircraft to be flown
Receive and log flight training for the maneuvers and procedures appropriate to the make and model of aircraft to be flown, including:
Taxiing or surface operations, including run-ups
Takeoffs and landings, including normal and cross-wind
Straight and level flight, and turns in both directions
Climbs and climbing turns
Airport traffic patterns, including entry and departure procedures
Collision avoidance, wind shear avoidance, and wake turbulence avoidance
Descents, with and without turns, using high and low drag configurations
Flight at various airspeeds from cruise to slow flight
Stall entries from various flight attitudes and power combinations with recovery initiated at the first indication of a stall, and recovery from a full stall
Emergency procedures and equipment malfunctions
Ground reference maneuvers
Approaches to a landing area with simulated engine malfunctions
Slips to a landing
Here’s another reason for no virtual fence.
As well as the risk to illegal border crossers, right?
The UAV program is interesting because the camera points down and is controlled by a joystick. Gamers could fly the plane but the controls use actual airplane data so a pilots knowledge is required. The UAV also has unusual characteristics like the control surfaces meaning different angles at different inclinations since the aircraft structure also flexes so it takes training at this particular job to do it right. (Early users of the system had unacceptable losses due to operator error and these babies are expensive.)
The main problem however is that in this airspace the pilots depend on their vision to avoid collisions. (See and be seen) These UAVs do not support this. When we flew on a Navy bombing range in south Texas, the Navy pilots stayed off the entire range because of their fear of flying into one of these low profile aircraft and ruining their whole day. (In a collision with a small private aircraft, who would be at fault?)
There was another program to use balloons to hoist cameras above the border, where did this go? And what is so wrong with a fence and some patrols? I know that the IR camera does a great job of tracking persons in the desert at night but seriously, these predators are overkill. BTW, Lockheed build a UAV that did not need pilot experience, but it was deemed too expensive and too easy to convert into a weapon (cruise missile) to be used.
” ...a shortage of remote pilots have slowed the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into security plans for the Southwest border, “
I’m taking bets on how long it takes them to hire illegal aliens to “do” the job.