Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Are These Texas Congressmen Supporting Drones?

Over fifty (50) members of the U.S. Congress have banded together to increase the use of drones ("unmanned aerial vehicles") - including seven (7) members from Texas. They are all members of the Unmanned Systems Caucus, also known as the Congressional drones caucus. One of the co-chairs of the caucus is Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas' 28th district. (Read about the members of the drones caucus from other states.)

Here are the Texas members of the Congressional drones caucus:

Michael McCaul

Michael McCaul represents Texas' 10th congressional district -- the northwestern portion of the Greater Houston region stretching to the Austin area.

Mike Conaway

Mike Conaway represents Texas' 11th congressional district -- the midwestern portion of the state of Texas.

Silvestre Reyes

Silvestre Reyes represents Texas' 16th congressional district -- El Paso and the surrounding area.

Pete Olson

Pete Olson represents Texas' 22nd congressional district -- covering a south-central portion of the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area.

Blake Farenthold

Blake Farenthold represents Texas' 27th congressional district -- the coastal bend of Texas' Gulf Coast consisting of Corpus Christi and Victoria up to Bastrop County near Austin and Wharton County near Houston.

Henry Cuellar

Henry Cuellar represents Texas' 28th congressional district -- a strip in deep south Texas starting south of San Antonio and ending at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gene Green

Gene Green represents Texas' 29th congressional district -- the eastern portion of the Greater Houston area.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Will Texas Skies Soon Be Full of Drones?

According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), Texas has seven (7) locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones] (p. 8 ff.).

The table below gives information on the types of drones that are proposed for basing at each location.

BASE Predator/Reaper type Shadow/Raven type Other
Fort Bliss MQ-1C RQ-11B, RQ-7B
Fort Hood MQ-1C, MQ-5 RQ-7B, RQ-11B, RQ--21B PUMA
Brownsville RQ-11B
Fort Worth RQ-11B
Gatesville Viking
Ellington see note

Note: Ellington has been designated as a Predator Operations Complex, with TFI-ALTER UAV hangar (Report - p. 14).

The report further discloses that the drones are operated from five (5) bases -- Brownsville (RQ-llB Raven), Camp Bowie (RQ-llB Raven), Camp Swift (RQ-llB Raven), Fort Bliss (RQ-7B Shadow), and Fort Hood (MQ-5 HUNTER, RQ-7B Shadow) -- under the status "Locations Requiring COAs [Certificate of Waiver or Authorization]". ("Locations where the Army currently conducts operations outside of Restricted Areas that require a COA from the FAA. In the majority of these locations, the purpose of the COA is to transition from the launch site to adjacent Restricted Areas. Additionally, the Raven can be operated using DoD-FAA agreed-to Class G airspace notification procedures for flights flown over Government-owned or -leased land." (DOD report, p. 20))

Are the skies over Texas big enough to hold all these drones?