The Federal Aviation Administration and leading unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) trade organizations have scheduled a teleconference to announce a "UAS Safety Campaign," on December 22, the same day projected as the release date of the agency's long-delayed draft regulation on small drones.
The FAA, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Small UAV Coalition and the Academy of Model Aeronautics will participate on the call, according to a media advisory. "Just in time for the holidays, the UAS campaign will provide prospective users of the technology with the information they need to fly safely and responsibly," states the advisory. There was no mention of the eagerly awaited "small UAS" notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).
The FAA originally expected to release the NPRM for comment in late 2011, however, it became mired in the federal bureaucracy in part because of privacy concerns associated with aerial surveillance. The latest projected release date of the draft rule is December 22, according to a regularly updated Department of Transportation "report on significant rulemakings." FAA executives have said the rule will be issued by the end of 2014. But industry observers now doubt the rule will be released this year.
Should it be released, the NPRM will outline the conditions operators must follow to fly drones commercially. However, the draft regulation is expected to attract thousands of comments from the public that the FAA must consider, putting off the publication of a final rule to 2016 or beyond.
In a surprise move, Airbus Helicopters has terminated the AS365 N3e upgrade program for the Dauphin medium twin series.
"We'd rather focus on short delivery lead times and competitive prices for the AS365 N3+ and EC155 B1-the current Dauphin family-and the development of the X4," a spokesperson told AIN. A protracted program, the N3e was to be certified by year-end, an Airbus Helicopters official had said in January. Demonstration flights with prospective customers had begun. The medium twin was to use an upgraded rotor head and reinforced main gearbox, changes that would have reduced direct maintenance costs by 10 percent and helped handle the increased power, according to the company. New features in the Turbomeca Arriel 2N turboshaft were to yield a 750-pound increase in mtow at ISA+20 conditions.
Airbus is carrying on with the military version, the AS565 MBe Panther, the first delivery of which is planned for 2017.
Meanwhile, the X4 prototype achieved "power on" early this month. The milestone involved a number of systems but not the engines.
Speaking at at an investor forum in London, CEO Guillaume Faury also confirmed the Dauphin successor will be unveiled at Heli-Expo 2015 and fly in the same year.
Brazil's TAM Airlines plans to add between four and six new regional routes every year into the foreseeable future, regardless of whether or not the country's legislature approves any regulatory changes meant to encourage regional airline development, the airline announced Friday. It added that it has reached an advanced stage of negotiation with Embraer and other manufacturers on a planned firm order for 18 airplanes in the size category of Embraer's E2 E-Jets and options on another 10. TAM said it expected to conclude negotiations by the end of next year's first quarter.
The Brazilian government has proposed legislation to take effect next year called the Regional Aviation Development Program (PDAR), meant to subsidize regional service to airports that handle less than a million passengers a year. However, Brazilian lawmakers have yet to approve the measure and disagreements over the formula for determining the size of airplanes to benefit from the subsidies persist.
To TAM, however, developing airport infrastructure in small cities will prove more important than the subsidy model the government plans to regulate, noted TAM CEO Claudia Sender. "Regional aviation is where we started; it is in our corporate DNA," she said. "We serve cities in the so-called average-density markets and, therefore, we are already established in this segment...Given its vast size, regional aviation is vital to Brazil."
TAM cites fleet investments of $4.6 billion through 2018 as evidence of its willingness to help expand domestic aviation in Brazil. That investment, which covers 50 new aircraft, does not include the 18 airplanes on which it plans to decide by the end of the first quarter. Until those airplanes get delivered, it said, it would operate regional routes using leased equipment or airplanes already in its fleet. Its 144-seat Airbus A319s are its smallest airplanes.
TAM expects late next year to become the first airline in the Americas and the fourth in the world to take delivery of the Airbus A350. "We are also investing around US$183 million within the next two years in over 200 projects that will provide for new services and technologies for our customers, productivity and sustainability technologies, and infrastructure for our employees," said Sender. "This initiative reinforces our confidence in the country and our desire to advance even further."
The Federal Aviation Administration, whichhas come under fire in the U.S. for its slow-moving effort to regulate drones, now leads an international committee whose task is to develop recommended drone standards for the world community.
The Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Panel of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held its first meeting in late November in Montreal. Representatives of ICAO member states and international organizations elected Randy Willis, air traffic manager with the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, to serve as chairman, and Mike Gadd, manager of continued airworthiness with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, as vice chairman. Leslie Cary, ICAO's RPAS program manager and formerly an FAA air traffic controller and executive, is secretary.
At the first meeting, the panel established five working groups focused on requirements for unmanned aircraft airworthiness, command and control, detect-and-avoid systems, pilot licensing, operations and air traffic management system integration.
In the U.S., the FAA planned to release a proposed regulation governing the use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in 2011. Its parent agency, the Department of Transportation, now lists December 22 as the expected date of publication of the "small UAS" notice of proposed rulemaking, although even that date is in doubt. Meanwhile, an industry and government group assembled by standards organization RTCA-Special Committee 228-is working on standards that will facilitate flights of larger machines. Its goal is to produce standards for detect-and-avoid and command and control systems by July 2016.
The RPAS Panel replaces a lower-lower level study group ICAO formed in 2007, and represents the organization's increased emphasis on RPAS. ICAO, an entity of the United Nations with 191 member states, will also hold an RPAS Symposium from March 23 to 25 at its Montreal headquarters.
The RPAS Panel's task is to undertake specific studies and to then "develop provisions to facilitate the safe, secure and efficient integration of RPA into non-segregated airspace and aerodromes, while ensuring existing or improved levels of safety for manned aviation," according to ICAO.