Flying Drones in U.S. Airspace Not as Easy as It Looks

The military makes it look like a videogame. Pilots sit in front of a bank of computer monitors, press buttons and push joysticks to guide the drones.

If the military can do it so well in war zones, how hard can it be to fly unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace?

Apparently not as simple as it might appear, unmanned aviation experts say. Although drones are now more technologically advanced and, theoretically, safer than they’ve ever been to operate in congested airspace, more research and tests are needed before they should be allowed to populate the skies, these experts note.

A highly anticipated unmanned aviation boom hangs on future decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency faces a 2015 congressionally mandated deadline to lay out a plan for integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. James O. Poss says he is often asked why the government needs so much time and effort to test the safety of drones that the military has been flying for years. “Why don’t we just transfer those same rules to the national airspace?” Poss asks during a recent Mississippi State University webinar.

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